Teacher Relationships in an Australian High School Staffroom: Reconceptualising the significance of teacher relationships during non-contact time in a high school staffroom
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This study concerns teacher relationships in a high school staffroom in suburban Australia. It emphasises the emotional dimensions of collegiality as expressed and experienced by a professional staff group who occupy a single staffroom during their non-contact [that is, their non-teaching] times of the working day. The study seeks to identify and describe elements; physical, social, cultural, spiritual and micro-political that affects the emotional milieu of the staffroom. This focus is important because the role of staffroom relationships in the professional and personal well-being of a high school teacher is largely missing from the research literature. A qualitative research paradigm is used to investigate how participants felt about the emotional quality of collegial affiliations in the staffroom. The design of the study is social constructionist and participants talk about the relationships that they have with their colleagues and how they interact with the space that they as a staff group occupy. A case study methodology is adopted as the data originate from a single high school. Seventeen staff volunteers participated in two informal interviews conducted over approximately six months. The researcher was employed at the school during the time of data collection and had a personal and professional relationship with the participants. The ramifications of these relationships are acknowledged and discussed in the study. Analysis of the transcribed interview data uses an interpretive paradigm so that each participant has a voice concerning how they negotiate relationships in the staffroom setting provided for them. The two dominant themes that emerge from this study are that of the influence of space and the role of relationships, both collegial [lateral] and hierarchical, on staffroom relationships. Participants reveal a strong sense of purpose for the staffroom in their daily lives. There are multiple perspectives, both positive and negative, that highlight the importance of the staffroom space and the adult interaction contained within it. The size and design of the staffroom materialised as an important contributor to the emotional quality of daily life for these teachers. The size, configuration and equipping of the staffroom influenced the emotional understandings and interactions that take place between colleagues. Staffroom relationships are regarded positively and there are several interlocking factors, such as friendliness, trust and the use of emotional labour, that affect the quality of the relationships that are formed and maintained there. Although not resident in the staffroom, managers have a noticeable impact on how staff members feel about themselves and their colleagues; the influence of managers has a noticeable impact on staffroom collegiality. The objective of the study is to promote a change in the way the non-contact component of a high school teacher’s working life is comprehended and appreciated. Such an understanding is sought for the teachers themselves and for those who do not occupy a high school staffroom but whose decisions affect how a staffroom operates. The study draws on literature concerning teacher emotion in schools and builds on the recent research reports that show unequivocally that how teachers feel about the relationships that they have with their peers and managers influences their sense of individual fulfilment and professional efficacy. This study is important because research on the role of staffroom relationships on the professional and personal well-being of a high school teacher is largely missing from the research literature.
Thesis (Professional Doctorate)
Doctor of Education (EdD)
School Educ & Professional St
The author owns the copyright in this thesis, unless stated otherwise.
Australian high schools