26 SES 01 B, Educational Leadership In The Context Of Migration, Social Justice And Vulnerable Populations
In earlier research, we studied teachers who had worked for many years (between 12 and 39) with children of migrant (or migratory) farm workers in the United States. In particular, we sought to understand what motivated them to continue working with migrant children during the summer when most other teachers were on holiday. Initially, we wanted to understand how they viewed and talked about their work with migrant children. We found that the teachers’ discourse about their work showed that they viewed their work as “love labor” rather than a technical or audit enterprise (Lynch et al., 2009; Lynch & Lyons, 2009; Noddings, 2006). We found that the work of the migrant teachers far surpassed what is usually expected in teaching. They truly cared about and for the migrant children and their families and often extended far beyond the school setting and the school day. The teachers we interviewed helped the families build “querencia,” a term coined by Fisher (2008) to describe culturally appropriate spaces where the families “belonged.” In other words, the teachers worked with children and their families to feel as if they belonged in their new communities where they found themselves, even if only temporarily (Gouwens, 2001; Henderson, 2009; Henderson & Gouwens, 2013, 2017, 2018).
Subsequent to these studies, we began to think about the leadership of the migrant education programs in which the teachers we interviewed worked. Because the beliefs and practices of the teachers we interviewed seemed to extend beyond the individual teachers to their colleagues and programs, we wondered about the perspectives of the administrators and leaders of the migrant education program.
Based on the work of Paolo Freire (1990, 1998), Shields (2010) proposes educational leadership that is based on critical theory and transformational in nature. Transformative leadership, Shields argues, is built on the premise that
it is not simply the task of the educational leader to ensure that all students succeed in tasks associated with learning the formal curriculum and demonstrating that learning … it is the essential work of the educational leader to create learning contexts or communities in which social, political, and cultural capital is enhanced in such a way as to provide equity of opportunity for students. (p. 572)
Because the teachers we studied not only helped the children to make academic gains, but also focused on caring and on helping the children and families “belong,” and because the teacher worked collaboratively with others in their schools and programs, we wondered if the work of these teacher/leaders of their programs could be considered transformative. To this end, we returned to data that had already been collected and examined the data in light of new research questions:
- How do these teacher/leaders in the migrant education program talk about their leadership and the teachers, children, and families the program serves?
- What keeps these leaders working in the migrant education program?
- What can be learned about leadership that supports teachers working in the migrant education program and assists them in helping families to “fit” into their respective communities?
Questions of leadership, especially in relation to the schooling of migrant populations, is an important one for European countries as well as countries outside Europe. As Hayes et al. (2017) explained, current educational leaders have to grapple with “difficult choices and multiple agendas … day to day” (p. 71). In trying to be transformative, they juggle “demands for performativity” (p. 84), changes to educational environments, policy and practice, and expectations for risk management. In presenting explanations of transformative leadership, we hope to offer some examples of how leaders deal with dilemmas in their practice.
The small study was located in the US states of Illinois and Wisconsin. The research participants were teachers who had worked with migrant children and their families for a long time. Migrant education in the US caters for the children of agricultural workers, including farmworkers. Six teachers were interviewed. Although the number of research participants was small, this was to be expected because the main criterion for defining potential participants was ‘long term’ engagement with migrant education. The research participants had between 12 and 39 years of experience with migrant children and families. Because the migrant workers work in rural areas, the teachers too mostly lived and worked in rural areas. The researchers travelled to these areas to conduct the interviews. Semi-structured interviews (Barbour & Schostak, 2005) were conducted with the teachers. The interviews generally took between one and two hours. Because semi-structured interviews allow researchers to extend the interview question protocol and ask follow-up questions appropriate to each interview, the teachers were able to tell their individual stories about working with migrant children. According to Brown (2006), these stories provide insight into the interviewees’ actions, critical to making sense of the leadership beliefs they articulate and, thus, their praxis. As a result, a rich and extensive body of data was collected. Following transcription of the interviews, our initial analysis of the data focused on the theme of belonging to a new place (see Henderson & Gouwens, 2018). For this presentation, however, we will return to that data to consider the teachers’ leadership and whether that leadership is transformative. We use the work of Shields (2010) and the seven elements of transformative leadership that she had identified in the literature. These are: 1. a combination of both critique and promise; 2. attempts to effect both deep and equitable changes; 3. deconstruction and reconstruction of the knowledge frameworks that generate inequity; 4. acknowledgment of power and privilege; 5. emphasis on both individual achievement and the public good; 6. a focus on liberation, democracy, equity, and justice; and 7. evidence of moral courage and activism. These seven elements provided us with a framework for re-analysing the interview data. We also consider dilemmas faced by the leaders and what they tell us about leadership (Hayes et al., 2017). To represent the data, we use Maxwell’s (2004) process of putting the stories in the data together as one would a jigsaw puzzle.
The interview data show that the migrant education leaders are committed, not only to the learning of the migrant children the program serves, but also to creating the social, political, and cultural communities that Shields (2010) argues characterize transformative leaders. In providing leadership in migrant education and supporting migrant teachers, the leaders demonstrated their commitment to migrant children, to their own work as “love labor,” and to the efforts they have made and those of the teachers with whom they work in helping the children and their families experience a sense of belonging and inclusion. Although the data analysis has not yet been finalized, we have found preliminary evidence of some of the elements of transformative leadership in each of the interviews with the teachers/leaders. We have also found that these leaders use the frames of equity and social justice as they critique their own work and identify and address the dilemmas they encounter in their work with migrant children and their families. By (re)presenting the data in the form of stories developed through Maxwell’s (2004) process, we will present stories that serve as powerful examples of the praxis of transformative leadership. While we recognize that the rural contexts from which we collected the data are not necessarily the same or even similar to rural contexts in other locations, the examples provide a means for thinking about the ways that teachers/leaders might develop the dual goals of schooling: individual achievement as well as societal accomplishments in terms of democratic citizenship and participation.
Barbour, R. S., & Schostak, J. (2005). Interviewing and focus groups. In B. Somekh & C. Lewin (Eds.), Research methods in the social sciences (pp. 41–48). London: Sage. Brown, K. M. (2006). Leadership for social justice and equity: Evaluating a transformative framework and andragogy. Educational Administration Quarterly, 42(5), 700–745. Freire, P. (1986). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum. Freire, P. (1998). Pedagogy of freedom: Ethics, democracy, and civic courage. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. Fisher, K. G. (2008). Reclaiming Querencia: The quest for culturally appropriate, environmentally sustainable economic development in northern New Mexico. Natural Resources Journal, 48(2). Retrieved from http://digitalrepository.unm.edu/nrj/vol48/iss2/10/ Gouwens, J. A. (2001). Migrant education: A reference handbook. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. Hayes, D., Hattam, R., Comber, B., Kerkham, L., Lupton, R., & Thomson, P. (2017). Literacy, leading and learning: Beyond pedagogies of poverty. New York: Routledge. Henderson, R. (2009). Itinerant farm workers’ children in Australia: Learning from the experiences of one family. In P. A. Danaher, M. Kenny, & J. Remy Leder (Eds.), Traveller, nomadic and migrant education (pp. 47–58). New York: Routledge. Henderson, R., & Gouwens, J. A. (2013). Mobile farmworker families using cocoon communities to negotiate multiple lifeworlds. In M. Korpela & F. Dervin (Eds.), Cocoon communities: Togetherness in the 21st century (pp. 105–121). Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge University Press. Henderson, R., & Gouwens, J. A. (2017). Migrant mothers becoming active agents in a United States Midwestern context: Building strengths by breaking down the outside-inside barrier. Australian and International Journal of Rural Education, 27(2), 136–148. Henderson, R., & Gouwens, J. A. (2018). Building Querencia: Teachers helping families find a space and place in ‘new’ communities. Paper presented at the European Conference on Educational Research, Bolzano, Italy. Lynch, K., Baker, J., Lyons, M., with Feeley, M., Hanlon, N., O'Brien, M., Walsh, J., Cantillon, S. (2009). Affective equality: Love, care and injustice. Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan. Lynch, K., & Lyons, M. (2009). Love laboring: Nurturing rationalities and relational identities. In K. Lynch, J. Baker, & M. Lyons (Eds.), Affective equality: Love, care and injustice. Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan. Maxwell, J. A. (2004). Qualitative research design: An interactive approach (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Noddings, N. (2006). The challenge to care in schools: An alternative approach to education (2nd ed.). New York: Teachers College Press. Shields, C. M. (2010). Transformative leadership: Working for equity in diverse contexts. Education Administration Quarterly, 46(4), 558–589.
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