Generation X School Leaders as Agents of Care: Leader and Teacher Perspectives from Toronto, New York City and London
Global City Leaders: Expressions and Expectations of Care
2. Literature Review
the leader moving the follower beyond immediate self-interests through idealized influence (charisma), inspiration, intellectual stimulation, or individualized consideration. It elevates the follower’s level of maturity and ideals as well as concerns for achievement, self actualization, and the well-being of others, the organization, and society(, p. 11).
3. Our Overall GCL and School-Based Studies Research Strategy
3.1. Overall GCL Project
3.2. School-Based Studies: Data Sources and Collection Process
3.3. School-Based Studies: Data Analysis
3.4. School-Based Studies: Participating Leader and School Demographics
4.1. GenX Leaders Providing Support and Understanding
4.1.1. Leaders’ Perspectives on Support and Understanding
It’s my role to look out for what is best for kids but I also look out for my staff. I think that’s one thing that the majority of staff will be able to say unequivocally—that I will go to bat for them, that I will support them. So, is it my role to care about staff? Kids do come first but I do think that in order to make kids more successful you need a happy staff, or at least a staff that feels valued.
My teachers can’t be healthy, good, strong teachers every day for our children if they don’t have a work/life balance. [If] you don’t have a solid work/life balance then you’re not going to be able to give your all when you’re here. You’re not going to be able to give everything you have to the kids. You’re going to get burned out.
If [teachers] felt under pressure and monitored all the time, they wouldn’t want to be here and that wouldn’t get the best out of them. But that’s not [the message] I’m getting from the Ofsted framework, which is: “I should be monitoring them all the time and they should all be consistently doing ‘this’.” And I should have proof that I’ve monitored them three times every week or whatever it is.
4.1.2. Teachers’ Perspectives on Leaders’ Support and Understanding
Because he has his own life and his own children, I feel like he is considerate. I feel he is able to understand more because he has children. Even if he didn’t have children, I think he would understand, too, because that’s his personality. He’s very easygoing. He’s very nice.
A leader should definitely have empathy and understand where people are coming from. They need to be fair, and be across the board, if this is the policy it’s for everybody. There are no favorites. They need to understand that we have lives as well and that sometimes we need to take off to go to the doctor. Principals can be on you every day, for silly things that don’t have to do with teaching. Here it’s not like that, which is nice.
[Our leaders] get it. They know you’re busy. They know that school is not everything. They know that a happy YOU is a happy teacher. If I’m able to do the things that make me happy outside of school…that’s going to make me a better teacher inside of school. [Our leaders] recognize that.
Part of [the leader’s] job is to make sure that we have what we need. In [that] sense, that we have what we need to do [our job so] that not so much [work] is coming home with us so we CAN have a home life. [It is a leader’s job to support making sure] your work life is your work life and it doesn’t overlap or infringe on your personal life. If [the leader] has those resources, then [the leader] does have some responsibility for that.
4.2. GenX Leaders and Approachability
4.2.1. Leaders’ Perspectives on Approachability
Caring to me means not just doing whatever [teachers] want or giving them whatever they want, or being the ear to them whenever they want, but also sitting down with them and saying: “Because I care for you, and I want to change this reputation that you have at this school, what steps are we going to take to make that happen? Who can we bring in to support you?” [It is saying:] “I want you to be successful as a teacher and we’ve run into some obstacles. It’s in both of our best interests—and certainly for the kids’ best interests—for us to make some changes.” So “caring for” is not always being a shoulder to cry on.
It is funny that teachers have difficulty with [hard conversations] because they do it all the time with children. [They] have difficult conversations 100 times a day. When you have to have a difficult conversation with an adult, people feel sick, worry about it, people cry. It’s quite strange because they spend 10 times as much time worrying about it than if they just did it. I’m as guilty of it as everyone else. But I think raising your self-awareness about it is really important. It’s not something that’s solvable overnight. That’s the kind of thing that leads to people feeling fulfilled at work because they get feedback. People say “thank you.” People appreciate it. Otherwise, people just hide away and it’s quite difficult.
4.2.2. Teachers’ Perspectives on Approachability
The administration here, to their credit, is very personable. I can go have a conversation and be quite frank and honest with them if I’m having a difficult time with something, or I have an idea, or I want to have a learning opportunity. All three of them are fantastic; they’re willing to offer insight, they’re willing to provide opportunities, so that’s really nice.
I had a particularly bad experience at a parents’ evening and I was quite upset about it. The deputy head, who was my mentor at the time, actually texted me afterwards and said “I hope you’re okay. We can talk about it. Don’t worry. It’s not a reflection on you.” That was really nice as well because you felt like actually someone did really care.
4.3. GenX Leaders’ Understanding and Knowledge of Teachers’ Personal Lives (Teachers Only)
It’s not like I expect the principal to know everything that’s going on in my life. But I think he or she should be visible [and] should be interacting with the teachers and the students, so that they know more about what’s going on in your classroom and maybe a little bit about what’s going on in your life.
[Leaders] have to get to know your staff. You have to get to know them on a personal level. I think that’s really, really important because the school CANNOT run from the office down. In order to facilitate that, [leaders] need to know what’s going on in their famil[ies]...drop by their office[s] [and] swing by their classroom[s]. If they’re going through personal issues, [teachers] need to know you’re there to talk with. All those little things pay off in dividends later, not only for the staff but for the students in the building.
I think some principals are very good at getting to know their staff, and able to make that personal connection, and I think that that goes a long way with people. Feeling that they are cared about, that the principal takes an interest in me and what my life is about. I think also that caring about people sometimes means tough love as well.
4.4. GenX Leaders’ Modeling of Balance between Work and Life: Serving as Appropriate Role Models (Teachers Only)
Seeing that [leaders] don’t work ridiculous hours makes you think: “actually it’s okay to go home early occasionally or some days.” It’s not looked down on if you leave at 4. I know at some schools, some people think: “Well why are you leaving, it’s not okay.” I try once a week to leave around 4 o’clock. I [can] actually do something productive that evening and not be tired. I’ve seen that they don’t work crazy hours. It’s reassuring.
The senior leadership team—they’re here at 8; they leave [at] 5, 5.30, maybe 6. They lead by example. My mentor will make sure that I’m not working too much at my weekends just by asking: “I hope you’re not doing too much? We don’t want you to be doing that much. If you’re not managing to do all your work in the given time then we need to think about how we can achieve that.”
I get the impression that [our] leadership seemed to have nailed it in terms of work/life balance. They always leave in great time, clearly cause they’re organized and they’re on top of everything. Maybe they’re taking work home with them—I don’t know. But it’s a very nice attitude they have towards telling all of us that we should leave, too. We’re all working hard. They’re [saying]: “You really should go home, you shouldn’t be here, go, go, go.” You’re encouraged not to be here after work. But because of the kind of teachers who we are, I suppose we want to stay and get everything done, so we’re usually kicked out. There’s a group of us teachers who get kicked out of school every day [at] quarter [to] six when the cleaners lock up. We’re not work[ing] so hard that we have no life. They’ve got that side of it right.
5. Discussion and Conclusions
5.1. GenX Leadership: Mediating the Influence of City-Based Structures and Systems
5.2. Future Research and Policy Implications
Conflicts of Interest
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Edge, K.; Descours, K.; Frayman, K. Generation X School Leaders as Agents of Care: Leader and Teacher Perspectives from Toronto, New York City and London. Societies 2016, 6, 8. https://doi.org/10.3390/soc6020008
Edge K, Descours K, Frayman K. Generation X School Leaders as Agents of Care: Leader and Teacher Perspectives from Toronto, New York City and London. Societies. 2016; 6(2):8. https://doi.org/10.3390/soc6020008Chicago/Turabian Style
Edge, Karen, Katherine Descours, and Keren Frayman. 2016. "Generation X School Leaders as Agents of Care: Leader and Teacher Perspectives from Toronto, New York City and London" Societies 6, no. 2: 8. https://doi.org/10.3390/soc6020008