Minds and hearts : exploring the teacher's role as a leader of pupils in a class.
This study is concerned with the particular role of the teacher as a leader of pupils in a class, a legislated requirement for teachers in South Africa since 1996. Literature and research have focussed attention regarding leadership in education on the principal, school governing body and school management team, and more recently distributed leadership in schools. This study, in contrast, seeks to concentrate on the leadership of teachers as they teach classes of pupils. A review of the current leadership literature applicable, in my view, to the practice of leadership in schools, provided the opportunity for the development of a theoretical framing for the study around the categories of leaders knowing, doing, being and relating. Teachers from eight Section 21 (state-aided, previously advantaged and currently well-resourced) schools in the greater Ethekweni region of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa were selected for the study. They were observed in their teaching and interviewed to interrogate their understanding and performance as leaders, and to establish how and why leadership occurred or did not occur. Sampling for the four teachers who were observed in their teaching was purposive to establish levels of understanding, and enactment of leadership amongst advantaged teachers teaching in well resourced schools. These teachers were recommended for selection for this study by their principals, as teachers who had previously – in the opinion of the principals, evidenced leadership in their teaching. Forty three other teachers were interviewed in focus groups and film stimulus focus groups to view, consider and comment on teacher leadership behaviours in selected feature films – providing a vehicle for identifying how leadership occurs in teachers’ classes and what it is that teachers understand about leadership. Insights into the reason for teachers exercising leadership in a class were gained from consideration of the character and the competence of teachers, the circumstances under which leadership occurs and the nature of ‘called’ leaders with a sense of identity. The occurrences that caused the teachers to lead without any apparent training for leadership are examined in the light of the fact that these were selected teachers from well resourced schools who had all enjoyed growing and educational advantage. Their learning about leadership had been a largely unconscious occurrence in their lives. They did not know that they knew about leadership in teaching. The study firstly provides explanation of the phenomenon of leadership occurrence and understanding by teachers, who deny training in leadership and are not even aware of policy dictating that role for teachers insight and secondly, a new understanding of the relevant nature of the leadership practised by the teachers observed, and finally presents argument on the symbiotic nature of teaching and leading. This develops the thesis of the study; when teachers teach, they lead – to teach is to lead. It is recognised that the majority of teachers in South Africa will not have enjoyed the advantaged developmental experiences of the fortunate teachers in this study. Using the insights gained from this study, development of leadership in all teachers becomes a possibility.