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Reflective School Leadership for Multicultural Settings

Mar 17, 2017 by

School Leadership

    A leader is no longer someone who tells subordinates what to do as in giving orders and demands. There is a whole new different world conception of an effective leader. School leaders need to listen more than ever before. Listen to their students, staff and parents.  Leadership is no longer a top down approach. Leaders are those who have the potential to transform a situation by persuading people to change their behavior and to cooperate with others.

In multicultural education, leadership needs to be about persuading people how they can do more to create a more inclusive schools. It is about convincing members of minorities that they can achieve more and members of the majority that they must do more to make their school a more equitable environment.

One of the ways that a leader can foster change and help to close the achievement gap is if they are able to communicate with others. It is only by communicating with others that a leader can help people to change and this can really help with any equity issues in a school environment. A true leader is a great communicator and can reach out to people from different backgrounds to persuade them to change and make a school a better and fairer place. In a multicultural environment, they will be able to communicate across cultures.

You and Your School

What must a leader communicate? It is very important that a leader communicate the importance of equality. A true leader in a multicultural setting needs to communicate with their staff about all the relevant laws and policies on equality. There is now a whole host of policies that aim to deal with the equity issues in American schools. These can be very difficult to understand and to follow. It is the duty of every leader in a multicultural setting that they communicate these policies to their staff and their subordinates. The mark of a great communicator can convey information in ways that can be easily understood. They need to inform their staff in ways that they understand policies and methods and that they are then able to implement them in their classroom or their everyday interactions with children. A real leader will not only inform but they will also inspire. When they are communicating the importance of equality or strategies that have been devised to close the ‘achievement gap’. They need to motivate teachers and other staff members to act in ways that promote equality. A leader in a multicultural setting must know how to motivate people so that they will behave in way that allow the disadvantaged and marginalized a chance to fully participate in the school.

A good way of communicating can be to hold discussion on how to achieve more equality among staff members. This can be done on a weekly basis right after school on Mondays or Friday mornings, depending on the school or district. This could be more effective than simply lecturing teachers on equality.  It is very important that a leader engages with his or her teachers and persuade them of the need to challenge themselves and their biases. There is a need for teacher to overcome their own biases so that all children feel equal in a class. A leader will communicate the need for self-awareness among teachers. It is also important that a leader communicates to teachers that the present situation in a classroom is a result of invisible forces, such as historical and social forces and that they need to understand these if they are better able to teach members of minorities. Simply by communicating these ideas in a friendly way can help teachers to change and be more culturally sensitive.

Communicating with Students

A school needs the cooperation of the students to ensure that it is as equitable as possible. Children need to understand from an early age to treat others with respect and not to think in terms of stereotypes.  A leader in a multicultural school will communicate to children the importance of equality. The curriculum can be used to convey to children the importance of equality and fairness. A leader can use the curriculum to further the goal of equality.

One way to ensure equity is by informing students about equality in formal ways. Principals can hold meetings with students.  Administrators can discuss issues that are preventing many students from fully participating in the life of the school. A principal needs to communicate to children that the school is a community and that all who attend the school are members of that community.

They will need to be able to develop their cross-cultural communication skills, by having a heightened awareness of the different cultures of their students. This can be communicated in assemblies and via websites. A leader can informally communicate with children the importance of equality. They can engage with students who have been marginalized and seek to understand their needs. A leader in a multicultural school can serve as an example of how to act towards those who have been traditionally felt excluded from the school and alienated from the learning environment.

Open Door Policy

A leader who is effective is always ready to change and to learn. Every situation is dynamic and ever-changing. That is why it is important to keep communication channels open. No member of staff or students should feel that if they have a complaint or an issue arises that they do not have anyone to turn to. Many school leaders are good listeners. They are accessible to their teachers and all stakeholders. They are easy to contact and talk to. This is a good way of understanding issues of equality. If people can raise issues, then equity issues can be identified early on and managed in a fair way. Many leaders are approachable and this is often key to the way that they can persuade people to change.  One approach would be the ‘open-door approach’. This is where a leader is ready to hear any teacher and student about their problems. This can help to make the learning environment more inclusive. But it makes it difficult to do work such as answering emails and completing required reports, during the school day. If people believe that they can communicate with school leaders, then they will feel that they belong and this can help students and teachers to perform better. Furthermore, an ‘open-door’ policy will help a school leader to better comprehend their school and be aware of any equity issues as soon as they arise.

Keywords: Achievement Gap, Leaders, communication, equity issues, reflection, self-awareness, intracultural communication

Comment Below On: How can a school leader communicate in ways that encourage equality in educational settings?

References

Collard J. (2007). Constructing theory for leadership in intercultural contexts. Journal of Educational Administration, 45, 740-755. Retrieved from http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/09578230710829919

Du-Babcock B. (2005). Communication behaviors in intra- and inter-cultural decision-making meetings. Journal of Asian-Pacific Communication, 29, 147-170 retrieved from http://books.google.ie/books?hl=en&lr=&id=G-ugBy8M8uYC&oi=fnd&pg=PA147&ots=udUGrWNbLI&sig=WvPhlyw2j8Xb—gvXck5WRwjUc&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false

Fullan, Michael. (2017). The Principal. CA: Jossey-Bass. Retrieved from: http://michaelfullan.ca/books/the-principal/

Geisler, Jill. (April 30, 2010). What Great Bosses Know about Top-Down Management. Retrieved from: http://www.poynter.org/2010/what-great-bosses-know-about-top-down-management/102387/

National School Boards Association (NSBA).  (January, 2016). Educational Equity Issues. Center for Public Education Research Brief. Retrieved from: http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/educationalequity

Rosen, J., et. al. (2004). A new approach to developing cross-cultural communication skills. Med Teach.  26(2):126-32. DOI: 10.1080/01421590310001653946 Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15203521

Soo, Jeevan. (2012) Multicultural Leadership Starts from Within. Harvard Business Review Retrieve from Business Harvard Review (3), 1-7. Retrieved from  http://hbr.org/2012/01/multicultural-leadership-starts-fr

U.S. Department of Education. (2017). Equity of Opportunity. Retrieved from: http://www.ed.gov/equity

Zembylas, Michalinos and Sotiroula, I (2010) Leadership styles and multicultural education approaches: an exploration of their relationship. International Journal of Leadership in Education 5 (8), 163–183. Retrieved from http://tgrajales.net/Leadershipandmulticulture.pdf

 

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