The purpose of this research is to achieve a deeper understanding of emotional support in principal–teacher relations. The study aims to shed light on the role of principals’ supportive communication strategies in providing emotional support to teachers, and on the proximal affective outcome of such support. The study used quantitative data obtained from 190 schoolteachers to explore the effect of principals’ emotional support on teachers’ emotional reframing through principals’ supportive communication strategies (empathic listening and empowering and normalizing messages). The analysis indicated an indirect effect of principals’ emotional support on teachers’ emotional reframing through principals’ supportive communication strategies. The results and their implications are discussed.
We approached teachers studying for an MA degree at three academic institutions at various locations in the center and periphery of Israel. The institutions provided their consent for the research to be conducted. We invited students in MA programs in educational sciences in a variety of fields (administration, counseling, special education) to participate. The survey was administered in a group setting, using paper and pencil, at the end of scheduled lectures. Only willing participants remained in the classrooms to complete the survey questionnaire. One hundred and ninety schoolteachers agreed to participate in the research (a 74% response rate): 82.6% were women; 57% worked in primary schools, and the rest in secondary schools. The teachers’ average age was 40.5 years, their average teaching experience was 13.42 years, and the average duration they worked under the principal they reported to about was 4.76 years. There were no significant differences in any of the variables of interest between the primary and secondary schoolteachers.
Principals’ emotional support is known to play an important role in promoting teachers’ well-being, yet the theory behind this phenomenon is lacking. Our research addresses this lacuna. The present work describes the range of communication strategies principals use to support teachers emotionally, and the proximal outcome of emotional reframing in these situations. The work also makes an important contribution to an emerging field of research, interpersonal emotion regulation, which only lately has begun to be theorized and explored (Zaki & Williams, 2013). Our findings that principals’ emotional support is associated with emotional reframing, an interpersonal form of reappraisal that earlier self-emotion regulation research has repeatedly considered to be most effective, merits further attention. Teachers’ adaptive function, mobilized by principals’ emotional support and resulting in emotional reframing, may have broad indirect effects on school success and students’ learning.