The time is 9.30 on a Wednesday morning. I arrive at Janes classroom to arrange a time to talk with her about the high number of student complaints which students have made against her. I enter the classroom and notice that there are only 4 students in attendance, 4 out of a possible 15. Each of these students is positioned in front of a computer screen quietly typing away. Jane is sat at a computer desk at the front of the room, away from her students. The room is silent.
I approach Jane to discuss meeting with her. Before I can speak, Jane says to me, in a very loud voice, There was only one student outside the classroom when I arrived this morning. She continued If they continue to attend like this, I will refuse to teach them. One student leans over to his neighbour and whispers something in his ear, they both laugh. When Jane sees this, she becomes more animated and says See, see, this is what I have to put up with.Get on with your work! The students continue to whisper without the slightest acknowledgement of Jane or her words. Stop talking and get on with your work, says Jane in a loud high-pitched voice. Both students look up and return to their work. She continues to stare at the students. Suddenly one of the other students, John, calls my name and beckons me over. I say one minute and look over at Jane expecting her to respond to the students request. I am always having to explain the same things to him over and over again she remarks and after a long sigh continues He never listens when I explain things at the start of the lesson and always wants individual attention. I recognise the student to be one of the regular users of the Additional Learning Support room. He has mild learning difficulties which are the result of the serious head trauma he sustained during his early childhood. I will be over in a minute she says to the student After Ive spoken to Mike.
Janes behaviour in this classroom has been typified in the series of complaints which have been lodged against her. When these behaviours are measured against the emotional competence criteria outlined by Mayer and Salovey (1990) and Combs and Slaby's (1979) definition of social competence as reported by Merrell and Gimpel (1998) it is clear that Jane is seriously lacking in both of these areas. Mayer and Salovey's criteria of emotional competence is divided into five domains; knowing one's emotions, managing emotions, motivating oneself, recognising emotion in others and handling relationships. For example, the apparent lack of empathy for John and the difficulties his learning difference cause, shows that she is unable to recognise emotions in others. According to Goleman (1995), this empathic deficit leads to poor handling of relationships, a form of social incompetence. Social competence, as defined by Combs & Slaby (1979), is 'the ability to interact with others in a given context in specific ways that are socially acceptable and (are) personally or mutually beneficial.' Jane's inability to communicate effectively with the class as she attempts to maintain order could be due to her lack of social skills.
However, her cynical and callous reactions to the students could be indicative of a deeper issue. S
he could be rapidly approaching a burnout situation (Jennings & Greenberg, 2009). Evers et al (2004) propose that burnout is a state of depletion of ones emotional resources caused by an overextension of emotions. Characterised by tiredness and debilitation, burn out can give rise to feelings of cynicism (as mentioned earlier) and low self-efficacy (Chang, 2009) which probably accounts for Jane negative attitude and outbursts. They do not have the mental and affective resources to maintain and healthy and supportive learning environments and so resort to harsh measures to manage students in their classrooms (Jennings & Greenberg, 2009).