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Exploring teachers’ emotions: narratives of teachers teaching learners with disabilities in an independent preparatory school.

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Schools in South Africa have included learners with disabilities since the introduction of the Constitution in 1996. This has been a slow process and although policies around inclusive education were legislated, they have not been fully or effectively implemented or even understood. As a result, there is a large gap between policy and reality which has caused a knock-on effect for learners and teachers. Teachers are set up for failure as they are placed in classrooms where they are expected to accommodate learners with disabilities, despite having little training and experience. As a private school teacher in this position, I have felt frustrated, alienated and disempowered as I have attempted to navigate my way around appropriate teaching pedagogies and self-regulation tools, while balancing the desire to be a competent and effective teacher. This study therefore aimed to explore the emotional experiences of teachers who teach learners with disabilities in an environment like mine (an independent school), to gain a deeper understanding of the nuances and surrounding influences behind their emotions. In this qualitative narrative study, I take on the role of researcher-participant along with four colleagues from the same independent preparatory school. I used semi-structured interviews and journal writing as participatory data collection tools, allowing me to gather the participants' narratives over a month. It was through these narratives that I was able to delve more deeply into the types and range of emotions experienced. Additionally, I draw attention to the impact emotions have on shaping and influencing teachers' teaching pedagogies as well as their abilities to navigate their emotions. I used Zembylas' genealogies of emotion and Hochschild's concept of emotional labour to analyse my data. Findings revealed that teachers experience fluctuating emotions, including both positive and negative emotions, in a short space of time. These fluctuations influenced their teaching practices and their relationships with fellow staff and students. Factors found to contribute to their emotions were the process of constructing and reconstructing identities, their social interaction with learners and parents, and school structures such as time demands and disruptions in the school day. The teachers navigated their emotions by drawing on self-preservation techniques, personal support networks and adaptations to their pedagogical practices.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.