Reflective Leadership for Multicultural Education

Mar 5, 2017 by

Educational leaders increased understanding of reflexivity ensures increased educational outcomes for students.

Educational leadership is different than school management it is about inspiring and helping all stakeholders to achieve their aspirations and goals.  It is fundamental in all aspects of life and especially in the area of multicultural education. To be a good leader one must identify problems.  Multicultural leadership begins from within.  Often the hardest part of being a multicultural leader is having to determine what needs to change. Reflection is very important for any leader and as it is within multicultural education. Today, many children are being left behind because of their ethnicity or race. It will require leadership to address this and above all it will involve taking a hard look at what is happening concerning equity in our schools. To change and make our schools more equitable, a leader in education must look at the school and reflect upon their commitments and actions. A leader needs to look honestly at what s/he sees and then to actually be prepared to accept weaknesses and above all be ready to act to remedy these shortcomings to ensure that all students have equal access to a good education. The reason why this is so critical is that this can help close the achievement gap.

Our Schools and You

School leaders, are very familiar with their schools and think that they know the school better than anyone else. You may be mistaken that you are aware of everything and while you may think everything is fine there could be issues about equality. A leader is prepared to look at things from other perspectives and this can help a leader to understand any issues in the school setting. As a leader in a multicultural setting you may need to see things from the perspective of your students and their parents. You can do this by considering the social setting and determining what kind of relationship your school has with its community and all of the stakeholders associated with the school and the district. It may be a good idea to reflect on the area in which students live and consider how they live outside school hours and any challenges they may face.

It may be worthwhile to consider what historical forces have shaped their lives and how they have shaped their identity and do they continue to pose problems for them. How have these invisible forces impacted them and how this gives them a clear disadvantage. A true leader will try and discover how his or her students feel about themselves and others, do they see themselves as privileged or marginalized. This can help a leader to see if there are any ‘equity issues’ that are not being addressed. It is important to remember that even apparently minor things can prevent a school from becoming a place where all students are equal. As a leader, one should be self-effacing and be prepared to see things in ways that may make you feel uncomfortable.  You may come to consider the achievement gap in a new way. It may no longer be the students fault but inherent weaknesses and issues in the school.

Reflections

To help one become a better leader in a multicultural education setting there is a need to be constantly reflecting on the school, its student population and assessment outcomes. There are always ways that school principals can help students to have a better chance in education and eventually life.

First principals need to reflect on how this environment outside the school is impacting students’ education. A deeper comprehension of what effects is this having on the student and how are they impacting on the students’ abilities to receive a good education.  Principals need to be able to understand how these ‘invisible’ forces are denying students equality of opportunity in the classroom.

Second, school leaders need to try and to establish what are the equity issues in the school and in the county or state. You may need to be highly critical of your school environment and even your own efforts.

Third, it is important to see how the curriculum is impacting students and if the teaching methods are suitable for members of minorities. There needs to be reflection on issues such as test scores. Is it always the students fault if they have poor grades or are other factors at play? It is not acceptable to simply believe that one is doing all s/he can on issues of equity. Only by engaging in constant 360-degree reflection can the current education system deal with issues that deny many students equality of opportunity. In Australia, reflection is linked to their professional standards for principals.

Self-Awareness

To become an effective leader, it is not enough learning what is not working in the environment and in the school. One must be prepared to see how one is impacting the school environment and perpetuating problems and reinforcing inequalities. A leader will not be afraid to deal with how they are unintentionally failing their students. It is important that a leader is aware of who they are and especially their cultural influences.

Self-Awareness involves asking important questions:

What are my values and what is my worldview, is something that needs to be asked?

The influence of certain values and beliefs is an important factor on how a leader can deal with challenges in their school. It is critical that educational leaders recognize that there may be a significant gap between principals’ values and worldview and those of the students that they serve. This needs to be explored to see if the school leader is acting in a fair way and respecting his or her students’ values and beliefs. It is very important that a leader be aware of how his students culture impacts upon him and affects his decision-making.

The reflections of the leader are not enough by themselves. They must develop a strategy as to how to address the issues that they have discovered. They can collaborate with their colleagues about how to deal with problems such as the achievement gap. School leaders can build productive school-community partnerships. That can lead to a school culture of collaboration. Granted this takes time to nurture, but it is for the long term benefits of the students. They can use tools and methodologies that can help them to resolve the problems that they identified during their reflections. This is a mark of a true leader, they can ask the hard questions and to act upon them and develop appropriate strategies to deal with issues relating to equity.

Keywords: Achievement Gap, Leaders, K12, environment, Multicultural, culture, equity issues, reflection, self-awareness

Comment Below on: What effort, if any, has your school or district taken to encourage reflection on equity in a Multicultural schooling?

References

Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. (2016). 360° Reflection Tool: 15 attributes of high performing principals and school leaders.  Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. Retrieved from: http://www.aitsl.edu.au/australian-professional-standard-for-principals/360-reflection-tool

Baldoni, John. (2009). Humility as a Leadership Trait. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from: http://hbr.org/2009/09/humility-as-a-leadership-trait

Gardiner, Mary and Enmout (2001) Administrator Preparation for Multicultural Leadership: Inside Four Nationally Accredited Programs. Journal for the Scholar-Practitioner Leader. 2 (3), 25-43. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ796128.pdf

Kail, Eric. (March 9, 2012). Leadership character: The role of reflection Washington Post. Retrieved  from:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/guest-insights/post/leadership-character-the-role-of-reflection/2011/04/04/gIQAdJOr1R_blog.html?utm_term=.39ca594e4858

Megaliter, Anna. (2016). How Family Background Influences Student Achievement. Education Next. Retrieved from: http://educationnext.org/how-family-background-influences-student-achievement/

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

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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