Think about the titles that are used in your current workplace to describe formal leadership roles.
What practices do such titles privilege and value?
Job labels help to support an understanding of role responsibility and provide clarity for the community (Gunter, 2004, p. 21). The higher your label, the more leadership responsibilities you are known to have. Formal leadership labels often provide a clear identity to a person in the role. Many of the more formal leadership labels are actually more managerial responsibilities associated with them. The labels of roles denote a sense of where a person lies within the school hierarchy. In my current setting, the hierarchy begins with the Head of School, the Head of Primary/Secondary, Assistant Heads, Division Coordinators, Year Level Coordinators, Teachers, Teaching Assistants. This seems like much quite a distance from the top to the bottom at times.
Which practices are marginalised or less valued by these titles?
Teaching Assistants are often seen as ‘less valued’ in the Asian context as there is a large ‘helper’ culture. I don’t believe this is seen by the teachers or even the school. However, students and parents can expect the TAs to ‘pick up after their child’ more.
Another area of labelling that has seen a change is our single subject teachers. Previously they were labelled as ‘specialist teachers’ in Primary. While they have expertise in one area compared to the homeroom teacher who does general subjects, the label of ‘specialist’ was having a negative connotation. Therefore the change to single subject allowed for a more specific label to accurately reflect their roles.
What sorts of identities are produced by these labels as ‘manager’, versus ‘leader’ versus ‘principal/head teacher/ director’ etcetera?
We don’t use the word ‘manager’ except in the business office suggesting a more business approach to the school’s resources and finances. ‘Leader’ suggests much more of an inspiring approach to change rather than a ‘manager’ as the person who implements clear tasks and paperwork.
The word Principal to me suggests the person with ultimate responsibility for the school. This person is responsible for outlining the school’s vision and finding effective ways of implementing positive change within the school. They also have a number of managerial tasks to do on a day-to-day basis. It can be hard to not get ‘bogged down’ with these tasks instead of being visible in the school at times which can affect the subordinates as followers.
At times labels may be oppressive to the person in how they want to be viewed within an orgnisation.
What are the political/economic/local conditions that may have led to these labels being adopted in preference to others?
The local community often reinforces these labels even more so than the educators within the systems. Parents and other community members have their own ideas of what these roles mean based on their experiences in their own workplace. The labels will likely continue to change to reflect the image and ideals the school wants to project to the community.
What are the ethical implications of these kinds of labels being adopted in preference to others?
There can be some tension between the idea of what your label is and what your role is.
In an international setting, culture plays a large role in the implications of labels (Gunter, 2004, p. 34). Each culture may have a different interpretation of the label. This can cause tension between schools and parent/ student communities. Culture may also reinforce hierarchies within the school.
Gunter, H. (2004). Labels and labelling in the field of educational leadership. Discourse: studies in the cultural politics of education, 25(1), 21-41.
Both articles are critical of the impact that some of these changes have had on education and training. Consider how market ideologies and notions of accountability, have impacted upon your workplaces and by implication, on the work of administrators and managers in these settings.
As an international school in Singapore, families have a number of schools to choose from when they arrive on the island. Thus, we need to market our school as a unique experience compared to other schools to attract clients. The school has even hired a marketing department this year in preparation of expanding the school and the need to attract more families to our school. It is evident that more time, energy and finances are being funnelled into the marketing department to enhance the image of the school and promote it in the international market (Apple, 2001, p. 187).
When I first arrived at the school, there was not a lot of accountability to parents in terms of standardised ways of assessments nor accountability of staff to leaders. This has been a huge improvement of our school over the last four years moving slightly towards the other end of the pendulum. With more reporting per year to parents, there has been an increase in teacher workload to ensure that parents continuous are getting feedback about their child.
The school has also increased accountability through internal and external assessments. Measures of Academic Progress (MAPs) testing is now done twice a year by all students year four and above to ensure that the school is compared using a standardised test to other international schools. The school has also increased the number of standardised internal assessments within the primary school to create more trackable data of student across the years.
The school is a profit school and therefore has many key aspects of a business approach to education compared to a government-funded school. One of the things that can be hard is the need to measure all key performance indicators. Our school’s key performance indicators are directly linked to our staff work plans and appraisals even when at times, some of the KPIs we do not have control over.
As I begin to prepare myself to transfer to the Australian school systems in August, I will be interested to see how the different market ideologies and notions of accountability differ in the Australian setting.
Apple, M. W. (2001). ‘Markets, standards, teaching and teacher education.’
Note your observations in your blog about Bolman & Deal.
This has been probably the most valuable of all readings so far. Two separate educators from other international schools happened to bring up this reading and engage in conversation about the article at a conference I was at this past week suggesting that it is extremely relevant and widely referred to by educators.
The article begins with an overview of leadership to distinguish Leadership from management where leaders are focusing their energies on the purpose (mission/vision/values of the organisation) and management is much more about getting things done from planning to effective implementation (Bolman & Deal, 2008, p. 343). They continue to suggest leadership is not a solo act but rather it requires followers who support the idea of the leader.
A high-interest area of the article was the idea of gender and leadership with the ceiling effect for women in leadership. Unfortunately, I feel I am becoming more aware of the differences as I try to navigate a move in countries and seek more leadership opportunities. It is interesting how my current organisation and prospective schools feel as I begin to transition. This is also an area of interest as a group of international educators met in Hong Kong last month at the 21st Century Learning Conference with a session to discuss our ideas of #lead our initiative of supporting, discussing and sharing ideas about gender equality in education and leadership. I encourage anyone interested to please reach out or find us on Twitter or join our Facebook group as we begin to develop this idea.
I don’t believe there is one best way to be a good leader as I have had a few inspirational leaders that have led, motivated and inspired staff in very different ways. I know that I find certain aspects of the way leaders lead better for my style of learning and following but this may not be ‘better’ for everyone. I do believe the idea of leadership being somewhat situational. While leaders are more likely to have one approach to rely on most of the time, a good leader should be able to adapt to the needs of the situation and those involved to best support all participants.
The idea of the 4 frames of leadership are as follows:
1. Structural Frame (Bolman & Deal, 2008, p. 356)
This type of leadership frame focused heavily on implementation with an effective leader designing approach choices for planning for implementation whereas an ineffective leader would be much more bureaucratic in their approach. Unfortunately, the structural framework often does not allow for anticipating resistance to change and misreading cues.
2. Human Resource Frame (Bolman & Deal, 2008, p. 361)
Human resources frame focuses on the leader as a facilitator for change, a change agent. They have a very open approach as they support, coach and empower their followers through strong communication. There is a clear sense of people being put first through a partnership of all working towards goals.
3. Political Frame (Bolman & Deal, 2008, p. 364)
The political frame approach is much more about being real with clarity. These types of leaders think about the different stakeholders and what their power and interests are and work towards building valuable relationships. Power is used to persuade, negotiate and coerce.
4. Symbolic Frame (Bolman & Deal, 2008, p. 366)
The symbolic frame approaches leadership through leading by example and looking for symbols to highlight a need for change. There is a clear vision with the focus on reaching the values level of the subordinates as they approach concerns with a bidirectional approach to leadership.
Bolman, L. G., & Deal, T. E. (2008). Reframing Leadership. In Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice and Leadership (4th ed., pp. 341-372). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Typically, Professional Codes of Conduct applying to educators are developed by educators through their professional association – such as a college of teachers or teacher’s association – and prescribe minimum standards of professional conduct for members. Analyse the Code of Conduct for Educators which is operational within your professional setting in relation to the characteristics noted above.
For the purpose of this, I will use the Ontario College of Teachers which is where my teaching certification was initially registered. The following are the ethical standards for the teaching profession that are used to inspire teachers to be reflective and guide their ethical decision making and actions (OCT, 2017).
It is important that educators have a genuine care for students wellbeing and should be vested in the interest of making decisions with this in mind.
Educators should be respectful of others and treat others as they wish to be treated. This is part of the consequentialist ethical theory using the golden rule.
The school community needs to be able to trust you to be an upstanding citizen and honest educator. School leadership needs to be able to believe that you will do your job to the best of your abilities. Trust is built on relationships and therefore teachers should work to construct positive relationships with other stakeholders in the community.
While all decisions do not need to always be agreed upon and you may not be friends with everyone in your educational environment, I believe integrity is key to being a good educator. Students and teachers need to be confident in their ability to count on you to do what’s right and uphold social justice. This can cause tension as the interpretation of ‘what is right’ may vary in different contexts and belief systems.
Ontario College of Teachers. (2007). Ethical Standards.Retrieved from: http://www.oct.ca/public/professional-standards/ethical-standards
How relevant is the trait theory to your workplace?
When I was reading this article, it made me think of the IB Learner Profile and transdisciplinary skills to some degree. The learner profile attributes are ten qualities as teachers we try to instil in our students to help them be successful beyond our school. It is difficult to measure these attributes (How do you measuring caring vs very caring vs exceptionally caring objectively?).
In the workplace, qualities are used as identifiers in appraisals and are outlined in job descriptions. Again though, it can be difficult to objectively measure and provide evidence for any of these qualities except for observations, anecdotes and perhaps comparisons between people. Often a person with certain characteristics is encouraged to apply for certain jobs. However, while the person may have certain qualities, they still have to use them effectively in the given context to hold any value for the organisation. It is also important to remember that with subjectivity can come different perspectives. A strong driven leader may also be seen as too pushy with their agendas.
Strengths of Trait Theory of Leadership
Weaknesses of Trait Theory of Leadership
Does your nation or province have a framework which lists the capabilities or competencies of educational leadership?
Working in an international private school in Singapore, I am not aware of a framework of capabilities or competencies of educational leadership. It has been interesting to read about the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) in others’ blogs.
Watkins, P. (1986). The trait approach. In A critical review of leadership concepts and research: The implications for educational administration (pp. 11-13, 21-25, 28),
While I believe that non-white male leaders are becoming more prevalent, there is still a lack of equality. As a female in the international teaching setting in Asia, it is very rare to find female heads of school or even female Heads of Secondary/Primary. In my current organisation, our senior leadership team consists of 5 administrators (head of schools, head of secondary, head of primary, head of student services and director of education technology). Of those five, only the head of student services is female.
It is also challenging in Asian countries with the stereotypes of our parent community expecting a male to be the dominant leaders in the schools. I have been in many meetings where a parent from an Asian country continuously looks to my male counterpart to answer, even when I have already provided him with the answer. There is definitely a need to break down gender stereotypes and support equality.
As a female aspiring to be in leadership, it is difficult to find female leaders and mentors to look up. It can be frustrating with education being a profession with a higher percentage of female educators, and yet, so few females reach the top of the leadership chain. I’ve recently received a copy of Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and am looking forward to hearing her perspective on this topic.