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    HOLDING BACK THE TEARS! An autoethnographic study of the struggles of a hospital teacher in balancing emotions, care and empathy

    Shore, Teresa (2019) HOLDING BACK THE TEARS! An autoethnographic study of the struggles of a hospital teacher in balancing emotions, care and empathy. Masters thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.

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    The purpose of this action research self-study was to address the challenging tensions I experienced as I embarked on a new stage of my career as a teacher in a hospital school setting. My overarching aim was to use the insights gleaned to become a more effective hospital teacher. Autoethnography as a methodology, revealed that my tensions were concerned with three integrated areas: emotions, my ontological value of care, and empathy. Upon discovering this, I refined the overarching question for the study to; as a hospital teacher, how can I balance tensions of teaching and caring for students in an emotionally challenging environment? The rationale behind this research approach stemmed from ethical considerations and the professional and personal challenges I encountered, following the move from mainstream teaching to hospital teaching. My practices, beliefs and values were questioned by the experiences I faced in this unusual educational setting. A qualitative research design was chosen and autoethnography was selected as a methodology as a natural consequent to the aims of the study. To achieve these aims, it required an introspective research design, which valued ‘self’ as the researched. It also acknowledges vulnerabilities and emotions as valuable personal data. Significantly, students and parents were considered an extremely vulnerable cohort in this particular educational context. Therefore, I made the ethically informed decision to exclude this cohort from my research. Autoethnography facilitates their absence without damaging the richness and value of the study. As mentioned, autoethnography relies on personal data, of which the following were utilised in this study: personal memory, archived data, reflections, reflective writing, journal, metaphor, photographs, and poetry. Validity and rigour were established by the ‘outsider’ perspective gained from relevant literature, my critical friend, my supervisor and interviews with four teacher participants. This study found that emotional challenges are the greatest challenges faced in the educational setting of the hospital school. Personal responsibility is required to identify and enhance emotional intelligence competencies, specifically my self-awareness, selfregulation and empathy. The latter has a tripartite classification, with emotional well-being being negatively affected by the practice of emotional empathy, as opposed to a more favourable form—compassionate empathy. My own supressed grief and the fight to hold back my emotions was unearthed during my writing. The hospital context brought to the surface supressed grief and emotionality, my empathy for others, and my desire to care. Finally, I determined that my value of care was grounded in characteristics of empathy and maternal traits. Reflection on data retrieved from the ‘outsider’ resulted in my reconceptualization of care as multi-dimensional, and categorised under students, practice and self. I can conclude from this study that I need to engage with self-care. This will involve enhancing my emotional intelligence competencies. Additionally, I need to practice emotional labour at work and deal with the emotional experiences appropriately and timely, in the correct environment. Lastly, my identity as a hospital teacher has been enhanced. The confident mainstream teacher that I once was is beginning to re-emerge in this new and challenging setting. This is due to my renewed self-awareness of my emotionality, my understanding of empathy, and reconceptualization of my core value, care. I now go about my work with a newfound sense of confidence and pride. The cumulative learning gained from this study is life enhancing and life changing. I am now a hospital teacher who can articulate clearly and enact in my practice what it means to balance education and care.

    Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
    Keywords: holding; back; tears; autoethnographic study; struggles; hospital teacher; balancing; emotions; care; empathy; Froebel; Department of Primary and Early Childhood Education;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Social Sciences > Froebel Department of Primary and Early Childhood Education
    Item ID: 13696
    Depositing User: IR eTheses
    Date Deposited: 30 Nov 2020 16:48
      Use Licence: This item is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike Licence (CC BY-NC-SA). Details of this licence are available here

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