"I'm a teacher, not a babysitter": Workers' strategies for managing identity-related denials of dignity in the early childhood workplace

Jennifer L. Nelson, Amanda E. Lewis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In this paper we build upon previous research that examines how workers in devalued occupations transform structural conditions that threaten their dignity into resources with which to protect themselves. Through indepth interviews and fieldwork with early childhood educators (ECE), we examine the work experiences of teachers in four distinct work contexts: daycare centers and within elementary schools, each in either the public or private sector. We find that these different school organizational contexts shape what kinds of identity challenges early childhood teachers experience. Different organizational contexts not only subject teachers to different threats to their work-related identity but also have different potential identity resources embedded within them that teachers can use on their own behalf. Thus, while all the early childhood educators in our sample struggle with being employed within a devalued occupation, the identity strategies they have developed to protect their self-worth vary across employment contexts. We show that the strategies these interactive service workers use to solve identity-related problems of dignity at work involve the creative conversion of constraints they face at work into resources that help them achieve valued work identities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)37-71
Number of pages35
JournalResearch in the Sociology of Work
Volume29
DOIs
StatePublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Dignity at work
  • Organization and work studies
  • Work identity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

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