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Teachers in Primary and Secondary Schools Use Similar Yet Distinct Emotional Tactics in Discipline

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The emotional landscape of teaching is complex, especially when navigating the challenges of student discipline. Teachers’ ability to regulate their emotions significantly influences both their well-being and their students’ learning experiences. A recent qualitative study conducted in Israel offers a novel perspective on this topic, examining the differences and similarities in emotion regulation strategies between primary and secondary school teachers. The findings were published in the journal Teaching and Teacher Education.

The research involved in-depth interviews with 24 Israeli teachers, equally divided between primary and secondary schools. The study’s objective was to understand how teachers at different educational levels manage their emotions in the face of discipline issues. The findings reveal a nuanced understanding of teachers’ emotional coping mechanisms, contributing significantly to the existing literature on emotion regulation in education.

Interestingly, the study found several commonalities in emotion regulation strategies across the two education levels. Both primary and secondary school teachers often employed strategies like enlightened reflection, suppression of experience, faking, genuine expression of emotions, distraction, and seeking social-emotional support. These strategies highlight the universal aspects of emotional challenges teachers face, regardless of the age group they teach.

Despite these commonalities, the study identified distinct approaches in emotion regulation between primary and secondary school teachers. Primary teachers more frequently use strategies like situation modification and reappraisal of emotional stimuli. These strategies often involve altering the environment or reframing the emotional context of a situation, indicating a more proactive approach to managing discipline-related emotions.

In contrast, secondary school teachers leaned more towards strategies like masking, self-talk, and rumination. These strategies suggest a more internalised process of dealing with emotions, reflecting the complexities and nuances of teaching older students.

The study’s findings have significant implications for educational practice and policy. They suggest the need for tailored emotional support and professional development programs for teachers at different educational levels. Such programs could focus on specific emotion regulation strategies relevant to the unique challenges faced by primary and secondary school teachers.

The research underscores the importance of providing psychological support and training to teachers, enabling them to effectively manage their emotions in the classroom. This is crucial not only for the teachers’ well-being but also for creating a positive and conducive learning environment for students.

The study on teachers’ emotion regulation strategies in coping with discipline issues offers critical insights into the emotional demands of teaching at different educational levels. It highlights the need for nuanced understanding and support for teachers’ emotional challenges, paving the way for more effective educational practices and policies.

While teachers across primary and secondary schools share common emotional challenges, their strategies for managing these emotions vary. Recognising and supporting these varied needs can lead to more effective teaching and positive educational outcomes.

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