Teachers’ identities as writers: teacher, support staff and pupils’ accounts of the role of emotion in the writing classroom

Year: 2019

Author: Baker, Sally, Cremin, Teresa

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Although there is a growing body of research that attends to the teaching of writing, we argue that the emotional experiences of teaching and learning to write are an underexplored dimension of three established and interlinked bodies of work: teachers’ identities as writers, the ‘emotional labour’ of teaching and teaching writing. Working from Shapiro’s (2010) assertion that ‘emotional identity is fundamental to our understanding of professional identity and the interactions it may generate or preclude’ (p.616), this presentation offers an empirical account of the emotional work that is an integral part of teaching writing.

In our ethnographic study of teachers-as-writers in the primary classroom, we foundthat whilst institutional and interpersonal factors influenced the writer-teacher/ teacher-writer identity positions adopted in the classroom, intrapersonal factors were also significant. Moreover, the teacher-participants’ relationships with their unfolding compositions and their emotional engagement/disengagement with their writing were highly salient in influencing their situated sense of self as writers in this context, and this contributed to the emotional struggle experienced by the teachers as they sought to adopt the dual identity positions of teacher and writer.

In this presentation, we offer analysis of one teacher — Jeff — and his emotional engagement as a ‘spontaneous’ writer in front of 33 pupils in a primary teaching classroom. Our analysis of his emotional positioning shows that, if teachers choose to position themselves as fellow ‘authentic’ writers, they submit themselves to the emotional risks involved in public composition (which need to be recognised and supported). However, despite the risks of performing such vulnerability, teachers who engage in spontaneous composition can also work towards building communities of writers that are attentive to the social and affective nature of writing and being a write.