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Family Ties: A Self Examination of Familial Influences that Bind Diversity Leadership and an Assignment that Looses It

Module by: Angela Webster-Smith. E-mail the author

Summary: Self knowledge serves as a conduit for locating one’s internal beliefs and values. It, therefore, offers a critical foundation on which to build a leadership platform. In order for leaders to make culturally responsible decisions, they must understand their key role in modeling and setting a tone that embraces the rich diversity of their school community. To this end, the call for well-examined, transformational leaders is strident. This paper offers an assignment that is designed to help professors of educational leadership better prepare students for diversity leadership by affording students the opportunity to examine familial influences on their beliefs and values. It is particularly beneficial for students who will serve in settings where academic distress is perceived to have a positive correlation with cultural and economic diversity.

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Note:

This module has been peer-reviewed, accepted, and sanctioned by the National Council of Professors of Educational Administration (NCPEA) as a scholarly contribution to the knowledge base in educational administration.

Introduction

Knowing oneself is critical to effective leadership (Blanchard, 2004; Bocchino, 2004; Cashman, 1997; Clemmer, 2000; Covey, 2004; Green 2001; Hall, 2004; Murphy, 1992; Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, 1992; Young, 1995). The emphasis on self knowledge stems from the hypothesis that many leadership capacities reside and are developed in the inner world of individuals. Self knowledge then serves as a conduit to locate one’s internal beliefs and values (Clemmer, 2000) and therefore offers a critical foundation on which to build a leadership platform.

Rationale

Twenty-first century schools are complex, turbulent organizations. They are faced with pressing issues such as academic distress and increased diversity. In the quest for high academic achievement of all learners, culturally responsible school leaders proactively and responsively frame, accommodate and embrace the rich diversity of the school community (Marx, 2006; Villegas, 1991; Huber-Warring & Warring, 2005). Hence, leaders who do not understand their influences on home-school synchronization and do not intentionally cultivate it, in essence, may be inviting some students into the fabric of the school while keeping others at arm’s length (Irvine, 1990, 1997, 2001, 2003).

To this end, the call for well-examined, transformational leaders is strident. This paper is designed to help professors of educational leadership better prepare students for diversity leadership by affording students an opportunity to examine familial influences on their beliefs and values. Readers will walk away with an exercise that helps students grapple with issues that contribute to what is accepted as truth about people. The following assignment should preferably be given in a foundations course offered early in the program. It will be particularly helpful for program graduates who will serve in schools where academic distress is perceived to have a positive correlation with cultural and economic diversity.

Family Ties Exercise

During the early weeks of the semester, students are requested to give reflective attention to the following familial cultural inventory posed by Kunjufu (2002):

  • Was name-calling allowed in my household when I was growing up?
  • Were jokes told at the expense of other groups of individuals?
  • Were other groups of people blamed for economic conditions?
  • How did my parents reference individuals who were unlike my family?
  • How were individuals unlike my family treated by my family?
  • Did my family interact with people unlike us and if so, were the interactions primarily employer/employee relationships?
  • Do I affiliate with others unlike myself outside of my professional circles?
  • Students are also requested to consider Riddle’s (1987) Evolution of Diversity to determine whether there are groups that they deem invisible, are not fond of, pity, only tolerate, actually accept or truly support, admire, celebrate, appreciate, nurture and value.

The objective of this exercise is to afford students an opportunity to reflect upon dispositions and attitudes that may be heretofore unexamined. The instructor encourages students to reach into their inner regions to determine if there are ingrained yet unchecked mental habits that may possibly hinder their ability to serve as 21st century school leaders. Students are requested to:

  • Record their personal responses to each question. However, students would only submit a reflection of the implications of unexamined beliefs in general and how they might hinder individuals in their efforts toward diversity leadership.
  • They would also be required to discuss ways in which childhood values have had a direct or indirect impact on their treatment of students.
  • Students would be requested to record concrete ways in which they would safeguard their hearts and administrations from stereotypical thinking, policy setting and rarely examined practices of school personnel.

Students could submit the assignment through some form of electronic delivery. Class time would be invested in discussing the themes and patterns of student analyses and in thrashing out ways in which familial values and beliefs present themselves in contemporary classrooms, home-school relations, school-community relations, policies and practices.

Summary

As much as possible, the instructor would help students move from judgment to caring, from isolation to connection, and from indifference to understanding (Salzberg, 2005).

In this course, the instructor must cultivate a warm and nurturing learning community in order for students to participate with honestly and candor. When the instructor models a spirit of universality, students would have the advantage of learning from the instructor’s unifying, respectful language and behavior. This aspect of the exercise and course is imperative in that students tend to model the behavior of their instructors. In turn, school personnel and students are inclined to follow the lead of their administrators. These exercises are invaluable for affording students with reflective analyses and underpinnings of their leadership platform and practices.

References

Blanchard, K. (2004). What it takes to be a good leader. informIT, http://www.informit.com/articles.

Bocchino, J. (2004). A description of the relationships between leadership, self, and sensemaking: Emergent relationships viewed through a constructivist lens of social theory. Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences, 64 (7-A), 2441.

Cashman, K. (1997). Authentic leadership. Innovative Leader, 6, 11, 305.

Clemmer, J. (2000). Knowing thyself, CMA Management, 74, 5, 15.

Green, R. (2001). Practicing the art of leadership: A problem-based approach to implementing the ISSLC standards, Columbus, OH: Upper Saddle River.

Hall, D. (2004). Self-awareness identity and leader development. In Day, D., Zaccaro, S. & Halpin, S., Leader Development for Transforming Organizations: Growing Leaders for Tomorrow , pp(153-176). Mahway, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Huber-Warring, T. & Warring, D. (2005). Assessing culturally responsible pedagogy in student work: reflections, rubrics, and writing. Journal of Thought.

Irvine, J. (1990). Black Students and School Failure (pp. 87-114) New York: Greenwood Press.

Irvine, J. (1997). Critical Knowledge for Teachers of Diverse Learners. Washington, D. C.: AACTE.

Irvine, J. and Armento, B. (2001). (Eds).Culturally Responsive Teaching: Lesson Planning for Elementary and Middle Grades. Boston: McGraw Hill.

Irvine, J. (2003). Educating Teachers for a Diverse Society: Seeing with the Cultural Eye. New York: Teachers College Press.

Kunjufu, J. (2002). Black students-middle-class teachers. Chicago: African American Images.

Marx, G. (2006). Sixteen trends, their profound impact on our future: Implications for students, education, communities, countries and the whole of society. Alexandria, VA: Educational Research Service.

Murphy, J. (1992). The landscape of leadership preparation: reframing the education of school administrators. Newbury Park, California: Corwin Press, Inc.

Riddle, D. (1987). Adapted from Dr. Dorothy Riddle’s Scale of Homophobia for the Appreciation of Differences session, presented by J. Ann Hower, Marian Benkins & Sheari Crahen, ACPA/NASPA Celebration, Chicago.

Salzberg, S. (2005). The force of kindness: Change your life with love and compassion. Boulder, CO: Sounds True, Inc.

Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (1992). Leadership characteristics that facilitate school change, http://www.sedl.org/change/leadership.

Villegas, A. (1991). Culturally responsive pedagogy for the 1990s and beyond. (Trends and Issues Paper No. 6). Washington, DC: ERIC Clearinghouse on Teacher Education.

Young, J. (1995). Developing leadership from within: A descriptive study of the use of neurolinguistic programming practices in a course on leadership. Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences, 56 (1-A), 0080.

Author Bio

As a former founding principal of a multicultural parochial school, a multicultural independent school and as a consultant for public charter school design, this novice professor of educational leadership is contributing to her department, college and university and to the field of educational leadership and educational psychology by incorporating diversity leadership considerations that foster unifying and healthy academic environments. Her academic research explores social attitudes of leaders, recruitment and retention of minorities and hope-based schooling practices for all learners. She makes conference and other presentations on these topics as well.

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