Caring is pedagogy: Foreign language teachers’ emotion labor in crisis

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10 Scopus citations


While the shift to remote teaching at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic was experienced across all sectors of higher education, university-level foreign language teachers were impacted in particular ways. Interpersonal communication, such as discussion of students’ daily lives and their feelings, is integral to language classroom discourse. The decreases in foreign language enrollments and threats to programs the in U.S. in recent decades have also connected emotion labor to other professional discourses of relevance to language educators, namely those related to recruitment and retention. What has been called “teaching-as-caring” is thus central to language teachers’ work (e.g., Miller & Gkonou, 2018 & 2021). The collective and aggregate crises of the COVID pandemic provide a complex context for studying questions of how professional imperatives to enact these forms of emotion labor are experienced by teachers of languages other than English. This interview-based study thus examines the experiences of university language instructors during the early months of the COVID-19 outbreak. The participants were 19 educators of various languages at institutions of higher education across the U.S. Semi-structured interviews were conducted and analyzed qualitatively. Findings reveal the salience of three interconnected feeling rules. The participants routinely enacted and navigated emotion labor as institutionalized and internalized expectations for maintaining personal contact with students, creating a sense of community, and regulating student feelings in ways that emerged from and extended beyond practices directly related to language teaching. The article concludes with implications for expanding the scope of research on emotion labor in language teaching and for the kinds of professional support offered to both pre- and in-service educators.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101100
JournalLinguistics and Education
StatePublished - Oct 2022


  • COVID-19
  • Caring as pedagogy
  • Emotion labor
  • Emotions
  • Feeling rules
  • Language teacher identity
  • Language teaching

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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