Notes on Tickle, L (1991) 'New teachers and the emotions of learning teaching'. Cambridge Journal of Education, 0305764X, Nov91, Vol. 21, Issue 3 [ecopy so no page numbers)]

Dave Harris
Teacher emotions and their connections with stress and burnout are now seen as a serious professional and economic problem.The usual response  of alleviating immediate trauma is inadequate - -emotions are central to teaching. Teacher education should focus on them as well as on the usual competences,knowledge and skills. Personal qualities have also been seen as crucial but have been crudely operationalized as requirements for candidates such as "personal and intellectual qualities suitable for teaching, and their physical and mental fitness to teach" (DES, 1989, para. 7.1). Emotions have been ignored, and should be the focus of teacher education as well,.

Five new teachers were recruited as a research group and they discussed their experiences during one year.They decided the topics although they knew the point of the project was to tap their experiences as new teachers, especially to consider the role of reflective practice, and do action research. Transcripts were kept.

They recognized the notion of reflection in- and on- actions, and adopted a problem-solving stance.They showed qualities of ‘confidence, perceptiveness, energy, insight, commitment, perseverance, will, the capacity to analyze situations, and so on’. They saw decision-making as ‘mental gymnastics’, a confrontation with ‘situational anarchy’.They monitored and reflected, worried about doing the right thing.They experienced emotions consequent on being novices having to go through it and gain experience.

‘The experiences of the emotions were as volatile and unpredictable as the experiences of gaining, using and reviewing technical and clinical competences’. Conventional literature talks about reality shock and surviving, but there was more complexity. They experienced ‘Excitement and elation as well as anxiety and anger, satisfaction and success as well as fear of failure’ and ‘Feelings fluctuated erratically; contrasting ones sometimes co-existed; at times they were controllable and controlled; at other times they seemed unstable and explosive’.

Emotions did affect competences. Managing emotions became a central topic, and that became a turning point. Early anxieties were eventually coped with and this produced satisfaction as adequacy of reponses became apparent, but ‘emotions were experienced as an agglomeration which was sometimes difficult to unscramble….[with]… many high points of excitement, satisfaction and pleasure, attested to by extensive data.  Experience  was ‘conditioned as much by emotional responses to events as by the `technical' and `clinical' skills and qualities per se’ as one critical incident indicated [a naughty pupil was challenged for being late and in the process fainted - -she had to have medical treatment. The teacher stayed calm but felt guilty afterwards about being too harsh]

Students developed a perception of themselves and their performance.Some had learned to relax and be less irritable. These were individualistic  but also ‘common’ and there was common sympathy, which shows the importance of a support group.They confided they had all had ups and downs and could share their experiences [lots of transcribed data]

All this is clearly part of ‘mapping’ learning, handling lots of experiences and dealing with unexpected emotional responses Having experience helped these teachers analyse not just their comeptences but their ‘emotional “self”’. Their reflections formed a ‘de facto’ curriculum in emotional learning to accompany the official one on competences.

As experience developed and people survived, they noted occasional bad patches.They were expecting more of themselves at this stage and got emotional if their new competence was still inadequate. Emotional highs were also possible. Responses stabilized, including emotinal ones, and management became more self-conscious. This led to more risk-taking with teaching strategies – but this also led to new emotional upheavals

Managing emotions is another dimension compared to the official emphasis on surviving and coping with bouts of suffering as a rite of passage. What is required is a more dynamic notion of the self, based on symbolic interactionism (for Nias). The emotions need more study. Peter’s work [on the stages of emotional development in adult students -- dogmatism, uncertainty, relativism, then justified commitments]  might be useful. We need a curriculum for the emotions rather than letting students self-construct one which might be ‘ad hoc’ {this would also define a humanistic profession for Tickle], to build on earlier work stressing the need for teachers to become ‘self-actualising’, displaying ‘confidence, intellect, imagination and will, to improve problematic aspects of the task of teaching.’. It should be based on Stenhouse-type action research, and Schon – reflection, improved understanding of emotions, although a clear input at the start would have helped.

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