Emotional experiences: teacher interactions with parents in New South Wales primary schools
Teachers’ work has been affected by the increased engagement of parents in school settings. Parental engagement in school settings is encouraged as an important factor in student learning, however there is limited research on the effect of parental engagement on the emotional experiences of teachers, particularly within middle and high socioeconomic areas. A greater understanding of teachers’ emotional experiences in their interactions with parents, and how these emotional responses are constructed within contextualised school settings is needed. This thesis explored the emotions that teachers experienced in their day-to-day interactions with parents. This research adopted feminist and poststructuralist scholarship and an interactionist approach to the study of classroom teachers’ emotion through examining the convergence between the intrapersonal, the interpersonal and the socio-political culture. Four classroom teachers from four Sydney public primary school settings participated in this multi-case study. The data sources included classroom teachers' completion of an ‘emotional diary’ and in-depth interviews over a 6-month period. In addition, sources were collected from each of the four school settings including school newsletters, school websites, and policy documents. Using small story analysis and documentary sources analysis, findings revealed that teachers’ emotional experiences are shaped by the social and cultural construction of 'emotional rules' within each school setting. When parents did not comply with these emotional rules, teachers tended to experience ‘negative’ emotions. Teachers consistently reported experiencing ‘negative’ emotions with very few ‘positive’ emotional experiences in the 6 month period. Emotions were managed by engaging in significant emotional labour by seeking supportive collegial relationships and through recalling past interactions with the parent to assist in navigating current emotional experiences. These findings are discussed in relation to the private, relational and political synchronous nature of emotion in school contexts. The findings suggest that school policy and procedures contribute to contexts for interactions with parents that significantly increase teachers’ experiences of negative emotions. Greater recognition of the emotional work of teachers is required in teacher professional development and in educational policy development in relation to parent interactions within school contexts.