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Running head: LEADERSHIP REFLECTION PAPER

Leadership Reflection Paper:


Using Transactional Teacher Leadership to Enact Literacy Change for Adolescent Males
Elizabeth C. Welch
University of South Carolina

LEADERSHIP REFLECTION PAPER


Problem Statement
The identified Problem of Practice for the present research is in the area of English
language arts (ELA) at Deerfield Middle School (DMS) (pseudonym) in the South School
District (SSD) (pseudonym), a suburban school district located in the South. SSDs current ELA
curriculum does not meet the academic needs of adolescent males as well as it does adolescent
females as evidenced by the participant-researchers observations and district-level standardized
test score data. Preliminary investigation by the participant-researcher reveals that the SSDs
curriculum lacks informational texts relevant to the lived-world experiences of adolescent males.
Preliminary investigation also reveals that many teachers feel unprepared to utilize strategies that
are culturally relevant for adolescent males in general education ELA classrooms at DMS.
Statement of Purpose
Student choice in literacy practices has the potential to meet the demands of relevance
that experts in the field of masculinity and literacy insist boys need for academic achievement
(Wilhelm & Smith, 2004). The primary purpose of this action research is to determine the effect
of student choice of informational reading materials on the engagement necessary to practice
analytical reading skills. A secondary purpose is to develop an Action Plan with other middlelevel ELA teachers that will increase the utility and effectiveness of the ELA classroom for this
local and particular group of male students.
Research Question
To explore the potential for increased engagement through student-chosen texts, the
following research question will guide this study: How does student text choice affect academic
performance for middle-level boys?

LEADERSHIP REFLECTION PAPER


Leadership Philosophy
The environment in which educators operate is a complex and often chaotic one. A
traditional management-style approach to leadership is not relevant for schools today because
stakeholders in educational environments need leaders who navigate a multitude of
contradictions and agendas (Brubaker, 2004; Valle, 2001). My leadership philosophy is in line
with Valle who suggests that todays leaders must focus on providing those they lead with coping
strategies to build a culture with a core competence which values and excels at adaptation (p.
115). Without leadership that demonstrates the ability to cope in chaos, the future of public
education is in question.
In addition to cultivating coping strategies in chaos, the educational leader must also
promote teacher autonomy. While traditional school leadership values control and efficiency,
transformational leadership empowers teachers to make decisions that meet the needs of their
individual classrooms. This kind of transformational leadership is necessary for the health of the
profession as a lack of teacher autonomy is cited as one of the chief reasons that teachers, both
veteran and new, leave the profession. Pearson and Moomaw (2005) explain that a teachers
sense of personal autonomy is directly linked to his or her stress, professionalism, and job
satisfaction; therefore, leaders must reject the notion of leadership as management in favor of a
leadership style that relinquishes control to the individuals who are best able to make decisions
based on the needs of students in the classroom.
My leadership philosophy, founded upon the importance of teacher empowerment and
individual autonomy, highly values teacher leadership in the context of learning communities as
suggested by Brubaker (2004). The complex reality of todays schools requires a flattening of
hierarchical structures as principals and superintendents are incapable of involving themselves in

LEADERSHIP REFLECTION PAPER


every aspect of a schools daily business. Broin (2015) asserts that when a leader is focused on
empowering members of an organization to lead in their own capacity, he or she builds a future
for the organization and invests in quality talent interested in innovation and growth. Cody
(2013) defines this collaborative leadership as a way in which the leadership potential of all
members of an organization is maximized and individuals are invited to contribute their strengths
not forced to meet the agendas established by others.
Unfortunately, due to the common pressures principals and teachers face under
accountability initiatives, the agendas of others are regularly imposed upon teachers; therefore,
educational leadership at every hierarchical level should seek to streamline those agendas in an
effort to guide those they lead through contradicting and overwhelming circumstances.
Sergiovanni (2007) explains the competing agendas as part of a game that must be played by all
school stakeholders; ultimately, these competing forces lead to great division in schools.
Students suffer the most loss. I agree with Sergiovanni who maintains that a commitment to
civic virtue (p. 297) must replace the politics of division that run rampant in the education
profession. The only player with the potential to heal these divisions is the creative curriculum
leader whose selfless goal of supporting quality classroom instruction empowers teachers who
best know how to diagnose the individual needs of students.
Curriculum Leader Role
Brubaker (2004) describes a creative curriculum leader as one who uses his or her
strengths to expose and maximize the strengths of others. As a teacher leader in my school, I
have been designated a leadership role in the English department and within the new teacher
mentor program; however, it is not those official leadership roles which allow me the most
influence among faculty and students. My most important role as a curriculum leader is found

LEADERSHIP REFLECTION PAPER


in the daily interactions I have with colleagues and students when I am able to create conditions
whereby others become their own leaders (Brubaker, 2004, p. 81).
My problem of practice finds adolescent males underachieving in the area of literacy, and
my action research plan seeks to determine how a teacher can empower male students to take
ownership of their literacy learning. At the same time, my role as a curriculum leader seeks to
empower teachers to become more keenly aware of students individual strengths and
weaknesses by building learning communities substantiated by safe relationships. Reichert and
Hawley (2013) emphasize the role of relationships in the learning process for male students and
claim that males are highly sensitive to the demeanor of the teacher in the classroom. Males are
more likely to engage with teachers who share a common interest with them, and, most
importantly, tolerate a measure of opposition (p. 51). These teachers are flexible and
accommodate individuality and unpredictability. On the other hand, when teachers engage in
self-management techniques which attempt to control chaos they tend to reserve their attention
for compliant students and minimize efforts to empower students ownership of learning. The
position in which my problem of practice places me mirrors my role as a curriculum leader as I
am a teacher leader working with adults who crave strategies for coping with the chaos of the
classroom and a great deal of personal autonomy. These needs are no different than the needs
expressed by the male students with which my research is concerned. Both roles find me helping
others maximize their potential to take ownership of the obstacles they face.
Brubaker (2004) discusses in detail the many contradictions teachers face in schools
today. My problem of practice is a result of one of those contradictions as teachers are under
increased pressure to increase reading test scores while also ensuring students college and career
readiness. At the same time, students are more distracted by media and technology making it

LEADERSHIP REFLECTION PAPER


increasingly difficult for teachers to engage students with relevant materials and activities
(Taneja, Fiore, & Fischer, 2015). As both the leader of my classroom and a curriculum leader in
my school, I am charged with using my skills of self-discipline, structure, and calmness in spite
of chaos to not only ensure my students obtain the literacy skills necessary to navigate their lives
but also to support my colleagues in identifying their own strengths to navigate the many
contradictions facing the teaching profession. Dewey (1938) maintains that for leaning to truly
take place, the learner must undergo genuine, relevant experience with the concept to be learned.
As a curriculum leader who is also a teacher leader, my chief role is to provide rich experience
for my students while also modeling the process through which experience can be cultivated for
students so that my colleagues are supported in their instruction as well.
Role in the Reflection Process
Seifert and Seifert (1999) remind that teachers are often resistant to change their practices
because they have been so regularly inundated with initiatives that make promises teachers never
see come to fruition. Often, the changes teachers are asked to implement are handed down from
high-level administrationnot demonstrated by peers who have already proven their positive
potential. Seifert and Seifert assert that pedagogic change is most likely to occur when teachers
share a common vision, collectively identify an educational issue and then translate [that vision]
into classroom practice (p. 7). Priestly (2011) argues that a complex triangulation of culture,
social structure, and teacher agency determine how teachers embrace pedagogic change. Priestly
explains that even when one teacher believes in a new way of doing something and is charged
with bringing colleagues on board, he or she is limited by the ways in which the school social
order and attitude control the potential for change.

LEADERSHIP REFLECTION PAPER


My problem of practice situates me in the context of the English language arts classroom
where contradictions between test scores and engagement abound. Teachers and administrators at
my school voice concerns about literacy performance and crave change but remain conflicted
about how to deal with the growing literacy problem demonstrated by seventh and eighth grade
males. My reputation as a teacher leader at my school includes a history of straightforward
honesty and a dedication to reaching students who are most disenfranchised by the school system
which will allow me to implement my research process and action plan as I attempt to satisfy an
increasing literacy crisis in my school.
While I have seen Priestlys (2011) factors at play when changes are suggested, my action
research is first focused on my own classroom, but once I reflect upon my results, my role as a
curriculum leader will allow me to share and model specific strategies for engaging males in
literacy practice. My action plan is in line with Seifert and Seifert (1999) who maintain that
teacher leadership is the key to true pedagogic change. When a teacher leader intentionally seeks
a solution to a shared problem, questions what could be done differently, and seeks the
possibility for improvement, he or she is much more likely to glean the support of colleagues
who are willing to find solutions to problems in their own classrooms.
As a creative curriculum leader who seeks to maximize the leadership potential of others,
I will share my research results through my role as a teacher leader. As I seek to determine how
to increase the literacy performance of the often disinterested male students in my classroom, I
will utilize my skills of self-discipline, efficiency, and calm in chaos to support my colleagues as
they cope with the reality of contradictions related to literacy improvement. My research interest
and the plan for sharing findings are both built upon Brubakers (2004) belief that the most
effective curriculum leader is one who helps others identify and use their talents (p. 71).

LEADERSHIP REFLECTION PAPER


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