"Who am I supposed to let down?" The caring work and emotional labor of vocational teachers working with potential drop-out students

Lena Lippke

Research output: Contribution to conference without publisher/journalPaper without publisher/journalResearchpeer-review


Because of high drop-out rates among the students entering vocational education in Denmark retention of students has become pivotal to the Danish educational policy. Thus vocational educational training colleges have been asked to work on implementing different kinds of retention initiatives and amongst others most colleges have established extended basic courses aimed at students with personal, social and/or academic difficulties. A lot of those students are young people, whom, due to their experiences in primary and secondary school, see themselves and are seen by others as being demotivated and having failed at learning. This paper derives from a field study based upon participating observations at a vocational educational training college offering extended basic courses and interviews with teachers teaching at those courses. The teachers argue for the importance of being good at “seeing” and sensing their students. In the interviews the teachers often use the word “care” and describe emotional dilemmas as an everyday experience working with the students. However the emotional aspect of vocational educational teachers´ work is largely under examined. Inspired by the emotional turn within social sciences I will present a preliminary analysis of the notion of care as socially situated within the vocational educational system. As a part of the analysis I will conceptualize how teachers try to manage both their own emotions and the emotional well-being of the students. Based upon the work of Hochschild (1983, 2003) I will show how emotional labor is a central component of vocational educational teachers´ work and discuss the implications of an institutionalization and professionalization of human care.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2011
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Event7th International Conference on Researching Work and Learning - Shanghai, China
Duration: 4 Dec 20117 Dec 2011
Conference number: 7th


Conference7th International Conference on Researching Work and Learning

Cite this