I am a teacher. At various stages of my career I have found myself asking, what does that mean? Sometimes I feel like I am something more like a parent, social worker, or nurse. Sometimes I feel like I am a statistician, politician or auditor. Most of the time I feel like a negotiator — often conflicted.
I have also asked myself, as a teacher whom do I serve? De Marzio describes teaching as a service but it is not just a service to the students that I teach, it is also a service to their parents, to employers and the community. Each of these stakeholders may have varying expectations of teachers; for example, Thomas & Montomery (cited in Sutton, Mudrey-Camino & Knight) note that the greatest desire from students is for their teachers to not yell. Other research suggests that the top expectations of teachers from Victorians are to teach literacy, numeracy, how to get along with others and develop employment skills (Mulford & Grady 2001). Students’ priorities and community priorities might not be in alignment. Teaching governing bodies have another take on what is expected of a teacher, often minimising the humanity of the teacher in preference of a list of professional ‘doings’.
So how do teachers manage this tension? To find the answers I conducted a doctoral research project where I explored how a group of six secondary teachers managed the emotional work of teaching. We worked together over eighteen months and developed a process of support while sharing stories of our day-to-day work that was emotionally evocative.
Previously I completed a Bachelor of Primary and Secondary Education and went on to study a Postgraduate Diploma in Child and Adolescent Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy. I had maintained teaching and counselling roles in diverse educational settings; including government schools, private schools, international schools and alternative education settings. In each setting the tension was present and added a layer of complexity to my work that was not well understood.
I decided to open a public dialogue about the emotional aspects of teaching and had an article published in The Conversation. This blog is an extension of that article. The purpose is not to ‘problem solve’ by suggesting what is right or what is wrong but to discuss what is felt and what that means for people living a specific experience.
Each month I will post a story that captures the experience of a particular teacher and by exploring the emotion of the story an understanding of the underlying influences might be gained. My doctoral research has led me to understand how important it is for teachers to share their stories with each other because teaching can be isolating. By sharing our stories a professional solidarity might evolve that can support teachers at every stage of experience. I have taught for seventeen years and I am still enriched by the stories I hear.
If you would like to contribute a story follow the email link expressing your interest and I will reply with the details of the process. Contributors will not be identified on the blog post and will not be required to write up the story. The intention is that the contributors will experience first hand the process of teacher support I have developed in my research and then they can perhaps share that experience with other teachers to hopefully spread teacher goodwill and wellness!
I also make a pledge that the stories will be no longer than 700 words because let’s face it — teachers are often time-poor. So click ‘follow’ in the menu sidebar if you would like a short story emailed to you once a month that might add meaning to your work.
Mulford, B & Grady, N 2001, ‘Perceptions of Victorians and Tasmanians of Australian government (state) schools’, Leading and Managing, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 93-108.