If you are like me, you may find yourself struggling with the same teaching issues each term, sometimes swept up by excitement, other times by frustration. You may, for instance, excitedly track down a writing colleague to discuss the dilemma of balancing the teaching of meaning and form. Or, you may experience dread, feelings of protectiveness, or exasperation as you read a student's paper that you know contains swaths of cut-and-pasted text. Such emotional responses to teaching seem quite urgent in the moment but often do not get the analysis they deserve because of the pressures of daily responsibilities. I am left wondering, what is lost when such emotions remain under-analyzed? Sarah Benesch’s latest book, Emotions and English Language Teaching: Exploring Teachers’ Emotion Labor, helps me realize that a very lot is lost. Providing an empirically based theoretical framework for understanding teachers’ emotions, Benesch makes a major contribution to the growing literature on emotions in the field of applied linguistics. Benesch elaborates the notion of emotion labor and argues that such labor is central to our work as teachers. In making this move, she rejects the notion that teachers’ emotions should be experienced privately or bracketed when it comes to their professional lives and honors the full work that we do. Analyzing data from 13 interviews and 2 questionnaires from English language teachers at City University of New York, Benesch provides discursive analyses of the ways in which emotion is experienced in particular situations. Her work offers important insights for classroom teachers involved in reflective practice, a significant theoretical contribution for English Language Teaching (ELT) and other scholars, and an excellent introduction to the field of ELT for teachers-in-training. After the introduction, in which Benesch discusses how her experiences as an ELT professional led to the current research, Chapters 2 and 3 provide the theoretical underpinnings of the study. Chapter 2 gives an overview of biological, cognitive, and poststructural approaches to the study of emotion, and Chapter 3 provides a literature review of the concept of emotion labor. These two chapters create an argument for the poststructural, critical approach that Benesch takes throughout the book. In this approach, emotions, like subjectivity itself, are seen as discursively constructed. Rather than residing solely within individuals and subject to the management of the individual when they are deemed to be inappropriate, Benesch see emotions as constructed in the immediate context of the classroom and institution, and in relation to broader social structures such as racism or literacy narratives that involve unequal power relationships. The term feeling rules is introduced to describe the expectations for appropriate feelings inherent in institutional policies and discourses of teaching. Emotion labor, then, involves the conflict between one’s feelings and these expected feelings and the negotiation of that conflict. Benesch sees an opportunity for transformation in teachers’ experiences of emotions. That is, emotions may signal contradictions between institutional policies, teaching philosophies, and person commitments. Experiencing emotions opens up opportunities for teachers to analyze such contradictions and transform policies that do not serve ELT teachers and students. In Chapters 4 through 7, Benesch focuses the analysis on four ‘sticky’ teaching situations, situations to which emotions tend to adhere. Each of these chapters begins with its own literature review and then goes on to present original data. In Chapter 4, Benesch investigates high-stakes literacy testing, finding that some teachers felt a conflict between teaching to the test to help open gates for their students and teaching in ways that they considered more meaningful. She presents a discourse analysis of the ways in which the teachers thought and spoke about testing. The analysis identifies five discourses, each of which has different emotions associated with it. The conflict of emotions associated with these discourses is seen as leading to emotion labor. Overall, Benesch concludes that ‘emotion labor … seems to hinge primarily on a single issue: the unrealistic expectation that [ELT teachers] should assume the entire burden of preparing open-admissions students linguistically for their future courses, regardless of those students’ socioeconomic status, educational background, and literacy training’ (p. 78). In Chapter 5, Benesch discusses responding to students’ writing and presents a range of issues that lead to emotion labor, from the pressure teachers experience finding enough time to comment on students’ papers, to the lack of compensation for such work, and to the lack of office space part-time teachers are given to do such work. She also discusses teachers’ uncertainty about what types of comments to give, resistance to the construction of English as a Second Language (ESL) as a service course, and emotional responses to perceptions of how hard students worked on written assignments. In Chapter 6, Benesch takes up the issue of plagiarism. While the plagiarism policy implied that teachers should feel indignant about plagiarism, teachers resisted this feeling rule, tending toward empathy for the students. In addition, teachers did emotion labor around a number of issues, including how to proceed when they suspected that plagiarism had occurred; how to handle feelings of anger when students denied that they had plagiarized (cf., Mott-Smith 2013); the fact that the plagiarism policy did not support meaningful teaching; whether their comments might offend students; and uncertainty as to the causes of plagiarism. In Chapter 7, Benesch explores issues surrounding attendance and absenteeism, finding emotion labor in the conflicts between institutional expectations for record-keeping (which had high-stakes consequences for the students), the teachers’ own views about attendance, and the reality of the students’ lives. She also found conflicts within the institutional attendance norms, which were sometimes flexible and sometimes strict. The literature review of this chapter makes a particularly strong contribution, drawing together a number of literatures, including classroom management, social and emotional learning, teachers’ bodies, and the theory and materiality of absence. Chapters 4 through 7 each provide a good discussion of how emotion labor shaped teacher actions. For example, in the chapter on attendance, we learn that some teachers ignored the attendance policy, others substituted their own policies, and some worried about not being strict enough. However, a precise description of teacher emotions is not always present. Because some of the reported data do not contain emotion words, I found myself wondering about the precise data analysis process used to identify emotions. A second issue was that the chapters were uneven in terms of explicitly naming workplace feeling rules. Overall, these issues made me only want to know more, more about teachers’ emotional experiences. I would like to see much more research conducted on emotion labor and feelings rules in ELT. In addition, this study leads naturally to other avenues of research into emotion. One such avenue might be the investigation of teachers’ attitudes toward and judgments about their own feelings. A second avenue is theorizing the pressure that students seem to put on teachers; for example, how does the pressure teachers feel from students’ desire for corrective feedback differ from a feeling rule, given that it is imposed from below rather than above? A third avenue could build theory around teachers’ bodies by addressing the question of which teachers might lose authority when discussing emotion labor with their students. In the final chapter, Benesch provides some teaching ideas for the ELT classroom. In addition to these, I think the book is a valuable resource for teacher training programs. In Chapters 2 and 3, the discussion of emotion provides a lens through which the conceptual differences between structuralism and poststructuralism become clear. Then, Chapters 4 through 7 crystallize some of the important, concrete questions that teachers will confront, providing opportunities for exploration. One might assign projects such as these: Discuss emotions related to teaching in small groups. Consider: Do you try to manage your emotions? Do you use them to build relationships with students? Choose one of the four ‘sticky’ situations described by Benesch and explore it further, either by augmenting her literature review or through your own process of reflective practice. Choose a different ‘sticky’ situation that you have experienced. Identify the emotions you have experienced and analyze them using the concepts of feeling rules and emotion labor. In a short essay, consider whether it is possible to experience a conflict (such as whether to focus margin comments on form or meaning) in an intellectual way rather than an emotional one. In a short essay, consider how ELT teachers might use experiences of conflict to promote professional growth or the growth of the field. This book, Benesch’s second one on emotion in ELT, is a very welcome addition to the field. Blending the emotional with an informed critical analysis, it is a model of qualitative research that captures the complexity of teaching. Connecting emotion labor to its discursive construction in unequal power relations in the workplace and society is particularly relevant in a field that has so many female professionals. Creating a space for teachers’ emotions is an important way for teacher scholars to use their power to influence an increasingly business-driven model of education. Reference Mott-Smith J. A. 2013 . ‘Viewing student behavior through the lenses of culture and globalization: Two narratives from a US college writing class ; Teaching in Higher Education 18 : 249 – 59 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS © Oxford University 2018 This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)
Applied Linguistics – Oxford University Press
Published: Mar 23, 2018
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