In the arena : a multiple case study understanding the stories of female educators who have experienced shame while working in Texas public schools.


Shame is a complex emotion that people experience in the workplace when they encounter social-community expectations. The field of education is a workplace full of expectations that are unique when compared to other working environments. As a result, these social-community expectations often leave teachers feeling stressed and burned out. While teaching is a rewarding job, many female teachers also experience shame due to the unique and challenging social–community expectations of their job and work environment. This study explored how female teachers experienced shame, including feelings of fear, blame, and disconnection, at work.

I designed and conducted a qualitative multiple case study informed by the shame resilience theory. In this study, six female teachers from Texas public schools shared their stories and unique perspectives through three forms of data collection. Data collection took place over a two-month timeframe and began with one open-ended questionnaire that consisted of four prompts. Upon completion of the questionnaire, participants engaged in one semi-structured interview. Each interview lasted between 30-45 minutes in length and had 10 questions. Following their interview, participants completed six journal entries, each consisting of five open-ended questions.

The three study findings revealed how female teachers experience shame, including feelings of fear, blame, and disconnection, in the workplace. The first finding demonstrated how female teachers experienced shame from the expectations and roles of women that society placed on them. A second finding described the unique pressures female teachers felt in the workplace that led them to experience shame. The third finding from the study demonstrated how school administrators and other female colleagues were the source of the shame experiences participants experienced at work. This study provides evidence of shame triggers unique to female teachers working in the field of education. Additionally, the results of this study challenge school leaders to engage in conversations about shame to bring awareness of shame and emotions in the workplace.