The Challenges and Resilience of Educational Leaders: A Comparative Study of Rural Educational Leaders P-20 from Texas, USA and Ontario, Canada

Year: 2016

Author: Maxwell, Gerri, Spring, Janet, Ruiz, Alberto

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This study investigates the rural social justice challenges faced by educational leaders P-20 in two different rural areas of North America: from Texas, USA, and Ontario, Canada. The lack of attention to rural social justice and rural education internationally has been noted (Cuervo, 2009; Tikly & Barrett, 2009). Furthermore, Furman (2012) proffered that “to date, the literature offers few specifics about the actual practice of social justice leadership in K-12 schools and the capacities needed by school leaders to engage in this practice” (p. 192). Maxwell, Locke, and Scheurich (2014) responded to Furman’s (2012) call and Cuervo’s (2009) appeal for further investigation through an exploratory study resulting in a profile of resilience relative to rural educational leaders. Maxwell, et al., (2014) contended that rural superintendents and principals must adopt “resilience” (p. 483) and advocate for “rural social justice” (p. 482). Building on that study, this comparative qualitative study sheds light on similarities and differences that occur across borders in rural contexts. The contexts, practices, and positive and negative aspects faced by rural school leaders P-20 in their praxes from two different areas of North America are explored yielding physical, social, educational, economic, fiscal, and personal contexts from a rural social justice perspective. Clandinin and Connelly (2000) and Beattie (2010), affirm that investigating lived experiences of educators uncovers personal, professional, and scholarly knowledge to inform praxes and interrogate pertinent issues facing educators in their rural educational ‘places.’ Gruenewald (2003) states that ‘sense of place’ foregrounds a narrative of local and regional politics attuned to particularities of where people live” and teach “connected to global development trends that impact local places” (p. 3). As rural educational leaders struggle to cope with issues, these parallel other problems faced by their counterparts in other localized places across the globe. ‘Sense of place’ and more specifically, a “critical pedagogy of place” (Gruenewald, 2003) framework provides the lens to deconstruct the issues faced in leadership practices that are specific to the place in which they occur. To aid in the topics to be considered, collection of data, and the organization of themes, Connelly and Clandinin’s (2006) “three commonplaces … temporality, sociality, and place” (p. 479) of narrative inquiry will be considered. Themes that align as well as build on the resilience profile (Maxwell, et al., 2014) will be shared.