Colley, Helen (2004) Learning to labour with feeling: class, gender and emotion in childcare education and training. In: Institute for Policy Studies in Education Seminar, 10th November 2004, London, UK. (Unpublished)

There is debate among early years experts about the appropriate degree of emotional engagement between nursery nurses and the children in their care. Through research into the learning cultures of further education (in the ESRC Teaching and Learning Research Programme), I consider here how prospective nursery nurses first learn to deploy emotion in their work. Few researchers have investigated the learning of feelings for caring occupations, and this article presents a detailed case study, based on both quantitative and qualitative data, of a group of childcare students throughout their two-year course. In analysing its official, unwritten, and hidden curricula, and the social practices of learning it entails, I draw on feminist readings of Marx and Bourdieu to reveal how gendered and class-fractional positionings combine with vocational education and training to construct imperatives about ‘correct’ emotions in childcare. I compare theorisations of emotional capital and emotional labour, and suggest we need social rather than individualised understanding of how feelings are put to work. I conclude that emotional labour carries costs for the nursery nurse, not because children consume her emotional resources, but because her emotional labour power is controlled and exploited for profit by employers.

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