Teachers' Emotions: The Influence of Classroom Disruptions on Teachers' Perceptions of Themselves and of Their Students



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Background: Examples of distinct phenomena that plague education are: too many teachers experience burnout and leave the classroom, and disciplinary interventions disrupt the educational journey of too many students. Nowhere is this more problematic than in our nation’s most deserving, under-resourced schools. This study investigated the relationship between teachers’ emotional exhaustion, one of Maslach’s dimensions of burnout (2001), and classroom disruptions. Situated within the context of under-resourced secondary schools, this project explored teachers’ emotional reactions to classroom disruptions. Purpose: This study investigated the discussed background by asking the following question: what emotions do teachers experience in response to disruptive situations in their classrooms, and how do these emotions influence their perceptions of their professional identities and of their students? The intent of this study was not to place blame on students for “misbehavior” or for their teachers’ emotions; rather, it is through this question that this line of inquiry sought to understand the richness of their emotional experiences, illuminating spaces for support and development, and therefore allowing teachers the freedom to create safe, nurturing spaces for students. Methods: This qualitative study utilized case study (Yin, 2003). Six participants were selected through purposeful sampling (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011); all participants taught at an under-resourced secondary school in an urban setting. They received an email inviting them to participate in the study. They then engaged in two 30-45 minute semi-structured interview sessions via Zoom due to precautions from the COVID-19 pandemic. Interviews were transcribed and sent back to the participants for member-checking after each session, as well as a verbal member-check during the second interview session. Data triangulation was achieved through a five-question open-ended survey sent via email. Findings: This case study resulted in six emergent themes, all relating to similarities in types of emotions elicited: Frustration, Moments Resulting in Negative Emotions, Moments Resulting in Positive Emotions, Emotional Work-Life Balance, Job-Related Stressors, and Disciplinary Interventions. Participants’ perceptions of themselves and of their students were influenced by the disruptive situations they discussed. Perceptions of the students were less directly influenced by the event than teachers’ perceptions of themselves. Conclusion: This research recommends the dedication of future studies to the intersection of teachers’ emotional exhaustion and classroom disruptions. The emotions experienced by the participants, while sharing several common points, are ultimately the result of a highly individualized combination of personal and professional context, as well as timing. The results suggest an increased focus on emotional wellness and support for novice teachers as a pathway for the reduction of disciplinary interventions and a more peaceful classroom environment for both teachers and students.



emotion, burnout, emotional fatigue