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The Emotional Roller Coaster of an After School Program

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The Emotional Roller Coaster of an After School Program

Everyone goes through this particular stage in life. The “stubborn stage” as my parents

will call it. It is a period when a child believes that the world revolves around them and all

attention is theirs. During this stage, a child’s emotion is at its peak in uncontrollability and so in

one hour, a child’s feelings can fluctuate between love, anger, joy and sadness. Also, there are

several scenarios of children who will throw a tantrum while at the supermarket, thereby forcing

their parents to comply in order to avoid public embarrassment. Once my parents noticed that I

had commenced my stubborn stage, I received many hour long lectures as they taught me how to

manage my emotions, respond appropriately to situations, and follow certain cultural scripts

during my interaction with others (Brym and Lie 2015: 77). Years later, I was hired to be one of

the after school program leaders. It was now up to me to manage several children that had

embarked on their stubborn stage. Hence, in this essay, I will speak on my life experience of

being paid to engage in emotional management through the eyes of a conflict theorist.

To be an effective summer camp leader requires certain characteristics. One of such

characteristics is to be able to manage one’s emotions as well as the emotions of others. In other

words, a person must know how to cope with misbehaviour, temper, disrespect and irrational

demands, while also having the capability to foster learning (Brym and Lie 2015: 77). Thus, to

be an effective summer camp leader, one must know how to perform “emotional labour”.

According to the textbook, emotional labour is when someone is paid to “carefully manage their

own emotions while trying to keep their clientele happy and orderly” (Brym and Lie 2015: 77).

Examples of careers that perform emotional labour as part of their work are teachers, customer

service, programmers and summer camp leaders. People in these positions are paid to carry out

“emotional management”, “the act of obeying ‘feeling rules’ and responding appropriately to

situations” (Brym and Lie 2015: 77). So, in the spring of 2016, I was hired by a non-profit

organization to be a camp leader for a four month after school program. I was meant to manage a

group of minors between the ages of 9 to 12 since I met the key job requirement, the capability to

perform emotional labour.

Upon first glance, an after school program seemed like cakewalk because I assumed that

I just had to prepare exciting activities for the kids. Due to this presumed knowledge, I thought

that it was not highly required of me to perform emotional labour and things will go smoothly.

However, I eventually realized that the program was meant to be more educational than

entertaining. Therefore, it was challenging to keep the kids engaged since they were more or less

having another lecture session after school. Due to this, I experienced a great deal of “role strain”

(Brym and Lie 2015: 76) because I had to foster a learning experience while also being exciting.

Although the program was a minute walk away from the children’s middle school, many

problems arose when several of them will purposely come late or skip the program entirely

without the permission of their parents. Also, I had to deal with youngsters who will routinely

chatter a lot during the program, talk back to other leaders, act as class clowns and be

disrespectful (Brym and Lie 2015: 77). Several participants will intentionally break all “norms”,

“a generally accepted way of doing things” (Brym and Lie 2015: 76), in order to gain all

attention to themselves. Hence, I was required to perform a emotional labour much morey than I

expected in order to enable a smooth program and give each child a memorable experience.

Conflict theory is the leading theoretical perspective that fits this life experience because



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