Out of control: A teacher's account

Abstract

This paper draws on data collected from my recent exploration of how teachers become competent in the area of relationships. In an interview, a student teacher, Kristin, voiced the challenges she faced: ‘I think it is easy enough to get the knowledge the student needs. The problem is, in a way, when people are involved’. This paper presents an encounter between Kristin and a student after Kristin had started to work as a teacher. It shows the difficulty of being professional when ‘people are involved’, that is, when emotions are at work.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Fineman and Gabriel (2000) juxtapose psychoanalytic and social constructionist approaches in the study of emotions in organisations. Vince (2001) and Antonacopoulou and Gabriel (2001) also offer rich overviews of this literature.

  2. 2.

    I spent 326 hours over 99 days in fieldwork. I interviewed 12 individual teachers at one school (some of them several times, eight women and four men) and eight individual teachers at the other school (some of them several times, seven women and one man). I also held four focus groups, two at each school.

  3. 3.

    I can describe the total process of analysis in several stages: (1) Fieldwork (conversations and observation, the field notes and interviews transcribed); (2) coding of transcribed material (NVivo – qualitative research software) and putting together in different ‘stories’ to give me new perspectives and challenge my experience from the fieldwork; (3) analysis of Kristin's and Solveig's narratives gave clues that I tested against other raw material (including all the teachers’ accounts); and (4) psychoanalytic interpretations of established clues for understanding the conditions that undermine or support teachers in their efforts to learn from experience.

  4. 4.

    I have translated the Norwegian into English.

  5. 5.

    The concept of Basic Assumptions has much in common with Jaques's (1955) notion of social defence systems. Menzies-Lyth (1959) used that term in her classical paper. ‘Social defence’ occurs when a group of people unconsciously collude to protect themselves against anxiety and tension at their workplace, often at the expense of carrying out their real task.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by a 12-month (2008/2009) Canadian government Postdoctoral Research Fellowship (a programme in Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Canada) at McGill University, Montreal, Canada.

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Ramvi, E. Out of control: A teacher's account. Psychoanal Cult Soc 15, 328–345 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1057/pcs.2009.7

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Keywords

  • learning from experience
  • emotional work
  • feeling rules
  • teachers
  • relationship work