Saturday 8 April 2017

Privilege and Labelling Leaders

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.

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