This study identifies emotional labor demands and coping strategies for special education teachers at two locations of a special education school. Emotional labor requires one to suppress or reduce feelings in order to meet the expectation of their job (Hochschild 2012 [1983]), and is made up of both job-focused and employee-focused emotional labor. Normalization, the institutionalized process of making the ordinary seem ordinary (Ashforth and Kreiner 2002), and routinization, a process by which abnormal procedures are rendered normal or mundane in the workplace (Chambliss 1996) are two major mechanisms for regulating emotional expression in the workplace that are applied in this case. The most significant emotional labor demands required of special education teachers in this research setting are addressing student behaviors and the expectation to remain neutral. Both institutionalized coping strategies and informal coping strategies contribute to teachers’ mechanisms for regulating their emotional expression in the workplace. Institutionalized strategies are taught through the organization’s training process and include “taking a minute” and calling for staff assistance. Informal coping strategies include making light of the situation and venting with other staff members. Both formal and informal strategies fit into aspects of normalization and routinization processes established in previous literature. These findings provide new information about emotional labor in this specific research area, and provide helpful information about challenges that teachers face that may contribute to staffing issues. Staffing shortages and retention are a major challenge facing this, and similar, schools, and this research helps identify areas for organizational growth to combat this issue in a feasible way.

Type of Work

Thesis - Limited Access

Department or Program



Hamilton College


Bachelor of Arts

Date of Graduation


Faculty Advisor

Matthew Grace

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.