Stories of school principals'lived experiences in the context of school categorization.
Dube, Praisewell Nonhlanhla.
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This study explores school principals’ lived experiences in the context of school categorization, in the South African context. Through the lives of four principals, this study has enhanced my understanding of the principals’ work; the challenges they face; as well as perspectives adopted to negotiate these everyday situations. This study has employed the qualitative approach within the interpretivist paradigm. Narrative inquiry was chosen for the methodology. To generate data I employed unstructured oral interviews, art-based methods (collage inquiry), artefact retrieval and photo-voice. My data sources were personal stories, collage, artefacts and photos presented by Rojavu, Thabisile, Naledi and Jeff. Poetic inquiry and the ‘dilemmatic spaces’ conceptual framework were engaged to identify the principals’ challenges from the reconstructed stories of the four participants. To analyse how principals negotiate challenges they encounter in their everyday practice, I employed collage portraiture and the transformational leadership theoretical model. Through the lives of four participants I came to the nuanced understanding of the principals’ experiences. I have come to understand that the principals’ lives in their everyday practice are complex; that their work is challenging intellectually, psychologically, emotionally and professionally; that they face numerous tensions and anxieties while negotiating everyday situations and the choices they make are informed by particular beliefs and priorities. I learned that on daily basis principals negotiate dilemmas that are posed by material and structural forces that are always at play. They work with learners that are immensely affected by rife poverty rates. They manage schools that are under-resourced due to insufficient funding. They are subjected to unfavourable conditions of work, such that they experience their jobs as being horrific. To negotiate challenges of everyday practice, principals draw on innovative and alternate partnerships and alliances to create and support a conducive teaching and learning schooling environment for learners and teachers; and engage in a range of practices to assist them maintain well-functioning schools. Principals leading schools that are adversely affected by inappropriate categorization, enact decisions that are informed by particular personal attributes (motivation, sacrifice, care), to assist them to go beyond their professional responsibility. Principals’ daily work is value-driven and they negotiate their everyday challenges by embracing personally meaningful – spiritual, social, political, philosophical and professional values. These personal and social dimensions of being a school principal are significant in understanding how principals negotiate the challenges of everyday professional practice.