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Transformative Leadership Primer


Carolyn M. Shields

Transformative Leadership: A Primer both delivers a complete and engaging overview of transformative leadership and also clearly distinguishes it from other popular approaches to leadership. Hence, this will be the text of choice for many graduate courses in educational leadership. Carolyn M. Shields shows how the tenets of transformative leadership interact with one another, and how they provide a lens for leadership that offers an excellent, inclusive, equitable, and socially just education for all students. Using anecdotes and narratives drawn from empirical research, as well as current data, Dr. Shields establishes how transformative leadership comprises a comprehensive approach to leadership in highly diverse contexts, and how it can empower students who are traditionally marginalized due to race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity, home language, or religion. Accepting a mandate for educational change, reconstructing knowledge frameworks, and redistributing power in more equitable ways are starting points for transformative leaders. Changing the structures, cultures, curricula, and pedagogies of the school to be more democratic and emancipatory; acknowledging our interconnectedness and interdependence with global neighbors; and accepting responsibility for promoting both public and private good are processes that implement the transformation. Taken together, these changes cannot be accomplished without considerable collaboration, conversation, and moral courage. No leader wanting to promote excellence and equity for all should be without this primer that offers a new way of thinking about all aspects of schooling, from facilities and fiscal issues to academic programs and school policy. Transformative leadership offers a promising and robust theory of change for all situations and contexts.
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4. Transforming Action


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At night school, Sophie found a teacher who inspired and encouraged her, who made learning fun. The students laughed and learned together. Sophie progressed so well that one day her instructor suggested she should think about going on to university and becoming a teacher. Sophie was amazed. Was her teacher joking? How could she, a failure, a student too dim-witted and thickheaded to pass math, ever succeed at university and become a teacher?

But the instructor persisted, helping Sophie to understand that it was exactly her struggles, and her success, that would give her the understanding and empathy to become an outstanding teacher. And ultimately, Sophie, like Gabriel, began to deconstruct the messages she had been given throughout her schooling experiences, and to understand that she had internalized the same deficit messages she had been given repeatedly. She acquired her GED. She went on to university. And she is now a teacher! As she makes a ← 105 | 106 → difference every day for her students, her constant plea is to “believe in all students.”


Test day is tomorrow. As the students arrive at school, they are greeted with smiles, high fives, and a few hugs by Principal John Law. Denise says excitedly, “This is our Who Is Your Neighbor Day, isn’t it?” Katie chimes in, “I can hardly wait to Skype again with our partner class in India!” Robert adds, “I want to go back to that book, Wake Up World! I...

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