Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name



Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

Gina L. DeBlase


This qualitative research study explored the ways in which sociocultural and professional emotional geographies contribute to female high school English teachers’ perceptions of the work of teaching, as well as how they shape their professional identities. Data collection methods over a 12-week period included a researcher reflective journal, survey, focus group interviews, and individual interviews.

The study sought to understand how female high school English teachers understand the work of teaching and considered their perceptions through lenses of gender and socioeconomic class of both the teacher and the teacher’s school of employments. To this end, the findings represented both a broad view of all initial participants (n=37), which allowed analysis according to both gender and socioeconomic class, as well as a more nuanced view based on three case studies, where each teacher represented a working class, middle class, or affluent class school.

The findings that emerged from this study provide specific insight into how high school English teachers understand the work of teaching. Teachers’ sociocultural and professional geographies are informed by the relationships in which they engage in the course of conducting their work. Teachers across the three schools placed a high value on the importance of relationship building, but the basis for their relationships is also informed by proximities of closeness and distance. Similarly, teachers’ professional identities were constructed according to their understanding of these relationships, but not exclusively. They were also affected by the teacher’s own sense of personal interest in their subject matter, as well as a personal sense of agency that their work ultimately supported the greater social good.