Emotional Dissonance And Teacher Burnout

Teachers are emotional people. That’s not surprising given that we are dealing with emotion all day.

But this means putting on an act and pretending to be someone else some of the time. As Yin (2015) notes

Teachers regulate their emotions by genuinely expressing their feelings in teaching, along with surface acting and deep acting.

We often have to display emotions that aren’t truly our own to reach educational goals and to establish and maintain a positive climate. We have to display a range of emotions that do not dovetail our felt emotions and this results in emotional dissonance. This can be especially the case for teachers of special education.

It’s hard work having to suppress emotions and this emotional labour can be a significant predictor of burnout because it’s an effort to act and it can promote a feeling of being false and a lack of authenticity. Burnout leads to emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation, and (lowered) personal accomplishment.

Although we might be told “just be yourself” in the classroom, that’s hard to achieve and for many it doesn’t come naturally.

IBurnout is one of the crucial components influencing teacher attrition but classroom management self-efficacy (CMSE) is a protective factor against this.

In their research, Aloe et al (2013) found that teachers with higher levels of CMSE are less likely to experience the feelings of burnout. Self-efficacy refers to the confidence teachers have in individually or collectively shaping their own professional behaviours.

Teachers who have positive classroom management experiences and student interaction tend to have greater self-efficacy in their teaching.

But how do we get there? Teachers need far more training in how to manage their own emotions and how to act during the day to preserve their sanity. Acting workshops aren’t part of teacher training yet should be integral. Tteachers who possess social-emotional competencies are less likely to experience burnout.

The ultimate goal is to support teachers’ sense-making and professional agency.

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