I was reading a news article from The Teaching Professor Blog by Maryellen Weimer who decided to research the emotional aspect of teaching because, despite the fact that teaching is often considered to be based in intellectual content, she believes strongly that “you cannot power a teaching career on intellect alone.” I found her article particularly interesting because, not only does she note that “emotions are an ever-present part of teaching,” but she also talks specifically about the emotional aspects of first-time teaching. She notes that, for most of the first time teachers that participated in her study, there was a rollercoaster ride of emotions. When something went well, there was elation, but when something went poorly, there were feelings of misery. Based on my experiences students teaching this year, I can understand how this is possible. The week we were there I remember distinct moments where I was so happy that things were going well and then the next day, there would moments that went so poorly I had to ask myself what I was doing there. This is one of the reasons that new teachers need support and proper teacher induction and mentorship programs. In order to help new teacher deal with feelings of fear, anxiety, and frustration, we need to know that, not only is it okay to make mistakes, but that every teacher started out experiencing the same difficulties.
The second part of the reading that I found so interesting was one of the major factors that has been found to shift a teacher’s emotional state. According to a study done by Keith Trigwell in Australia, whether or not a teacher is focusing more on the students or himself/herself is plays a large role in the teacher’s emotions. The study found that teachers who expressed more pride and less frustration in their work were more focused on the experiences and learning of their students whereas teachers who experienced more anxiety and frustration were more teacher-focused and concerned with the act of transmitting knowledge. I think it is extremely important to know, as someone at the very first stages of a career in teaching, that the best thing I can do, both for my students and for myself, is to make sure that my focus is on them. Of course this does not mean that we throw out the notions of self-reflective practices. Instead, we have to avoid allowing our teaching to become all about our actions and feelings about a lesson, so that we can keep our focus on students.
If anyone would like to read the article, here is the link: http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-professor-blog/emotions-fuel-teaching/