Happy, Stressed, and Angry: A National Study of Teachers’ Emotions and Their Management

In: Emotions: History, Culture, Society
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  • 1 Senior Lecturer, University of Wollongong, Australia
  • | 2 Associate Professor and Principal Research Fellow, Faculty of Education at the Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia
  • | 3 Professor of Literacies and Digital Change, Institute for Learning Sciences and Teacher Education, Australian Catholic University, Brisbane, Australia
  • | 4 Lecturer in Sociology, University of Wollongong, Australia
  • | 5 Senior Lecturer in Sociology, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

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The teaching profession offers meaningful, stimulating work that accords with teachers’ sense of professional pride and identity, but is also synonymous with high levels of stress, conflict (and associated emotions such as anger and shame) and ultimately, attrition. The degree to which teachers within a national population ‘up-manage’ the former or ‘down-manage’ the latter emotions is unknown. This study utilises new data from the Australian Survey of Emotions and Emotion Management (SEEM) to examine emotions and emotion management among teachers, and workers in comparable service roles, such as health care and customer service, in contemporary Australian society. It finds that teachers exhibit great natural happiness, but also experience and hide (through surface-acting) high levels of stress. Teachers also experience high levels of anger compared to other professions, though they usually manage this successfully through deep acting strategies. These findings imply that teachers are generally happy and professionally committed to (and proud of) their work, but at the cost of managing significant levels of stress and conflict. We discuss the implications for teacher professional development, initial teacher education and policy, and the need to investigate anger/shame dynamics and management in future research into pedagogy.