Recently, a friend passed me a copy of a book written by Connelly and Clandinin way back in 1999 – she thought I might be interested in some of the ideas.
I found it fascinating that something written so long ago (nearly 20 years is a long time in academia in disciplines characterised by rapid change) was saying much the same things I have been saying in some of my recent work.
Basically, they argue that when teachers transfer into management roles, their professional identities change.
The authors locate school leaders in a conduit where they look up to more senior management (the department for example) and look down on the landscape consisting of teachers and students.
In their research, they found that these educational leaders had to make a choice: they had to either conform to the demands coming down the conduit to them or they had to resist.
Sadly, despite the work reported by these authors nearly 20 years ago, it does not appear we have learned anything...
Many did not feel they had the power to resist so felt constrained to conform, even when they were required to act in ways contrary to what they had previously (when they were teachers) seen as inappropriate.
In this sense they become rather like grey ghosts whose role became to reinforce the institutional narrative.
Those who were most diligent in enacting the requirements coming down the conduit were rewarded; these are the managers who get promoted.
Those who chose to resist, who chose to stand firm on the values and practices that had made them successful teachers, were most likely to be overlooked for promotion, demoted, or ultimately leave the management role (sometimes to return to teaching but sometimes to leave the sector altogether).
There was an expectation from teachers that those colleagues moving from “the floor” into management roles had to stand up. They had to be accountable for their decisions and were expected to stand firm in support of the things teachers themselves valued.
When managers succumbed to the demands coming down the conduit there was a sense of betrayal that considerably damaged the credibility of the managers.
At the same time, there was a sense that, despite the rhetoric about the need for systemic change, the only changes that would be approved were those that matched the current institutional narrative.
Culture of respect
This means that “there is no place on the schooling landscape for genuine alternatives” (p175) because prevailing ideology defined what could be considered and leaders operating in the conduit were only able to think within the boundaries of the conduit.
This leads to the conclusion that change can only happen when people who think differently to each other are able to get together and genuinely communicate.
This means teachers and managers working together where they operate as equals and their different perspectives are not identified as opportunities to shape the other into seeing the world in the same way, but as opportunities to explore how different ways of seeing things might be built upon to create something that neither could have developed alone.
This is what I call a culture of respect, where each acknowledges they see the world in a different way (and don’t necessarily want to see the world the way someone else does) but demonstrate in their interactions that working together does not require people to think alike; rather that differences are genuinely valued and used as a way of building something together.
Sadly, despite the work reported by these authors nearly 20 years ago, it does not appear we have learned anything and are still following the same patterns. I wonder if we can create a culture of respect anytime soon?
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