The Teacher Leader in Early Childhood Education
This article explores the importance of relational leadership in the context of early childhood education, emphasising the creation of strong relationships and a positive team culture. Insights are provided by a team leader who showcases relational leadership practices and discusses their implementation. The leader underscores the significance of trust, respect, and transparency in fostering mutually reciprocal relationships with team members, enabling collaborative decision-making and shared goals. The concept of relational leadership is discussed, highlighting its focus on understanding interpersonal relationships and its active involvement in the leadership process, rather than an authoritative figure acting as the main catalyst (Clarke, 2018). The characteristics of a relational leader, including self-awareness, trust and empathy as essential factors in cultivating and reinforcing team relationships are analysed (Coleman, 2018; Nicholson & Kurucz, 2019; Potter, 2020). Ultimately, the article serves as an important reminder that leadership revolves around establishing meaningful connections and fostering teamwork.
Investigating and reflecting on leadership skills is a crucial area to focus on for Associate Teachers. Not only are leadership skills important for Associate Teachers’ own professional development, but their knowledge, attitudes and leadership abilities also assist student teachers in developing their own leadership skills. The development of leadership has significant implications for the education sector as a whole, as it fosters both professional growth in this area and enhances the theoretical foundations of leadership. Associate Teacher Support Lecturers Maddie Hendrie and Amy Thynne, share insights and experience regarding the role of mentorship in fostering teacher leadership.
As the importance for emotional wellbeing in early childhood teaching is increasing, navigating ways to extend and promote positive teacher wellness becomes an occurring, current issue that teachers as leaders can benefit from more awareness of. Teachers in early childhood environments ideally would thrive in leadership opportunities provided, once they are established in their teaching. Moreover, current research and initiatives suggest that if teachers have a good sense of awareness of their own wellbeing, leadership capabilities will improve (Education Council, 2018; Mahfouz et al., 2021). This article intends for teachers as leaders to understand the importance of emotionally safe environments and how addressing their own as well as other teachers’ emotional wellbeing will develop their ability to professionally grow in their leadership. Further to this, the article examines three dispositions; contribution, resilience and connection, that teachers can implement and reflect on as leaders in order to become advocates for creating emotionally safe environments.
An increased focus on shared leadership in the ECE sector has challenged traditional models of leadership, and emphasised the impact that a collective, cohesive team can have on job satisfaction, sustained teacher motivation and positive learning outcomes for children. The concept of agency in leadership highlights the shift in view from leadership as a person or individual action, to that of a collaborative effort. A key attribute that contributes to a teacher’s ability to exhibit leadership qualities, and a positional leader’s success in building a cohesive team, is efficacy. Bandura’s theory of self-efficacy has been utilised to build, measure and evaluate teachers’ beliefs in their ability to achieve positive outcomes for children. The presence of collective efficacy is linked to teaching teams that demonstrate high student success, and, importantly, overcome barriers to learning such as poverty or lack of parental involvement.
All early childhood teachers are expected to contribute to the assessment of children’s learning, yet the enactment and understandings surrounding assessment are complex. Underpinned by sociocultural perspectives, the New Zealand early childhood curriculum Te Whāriki (Ministry of Education, 2017) espouses the importance of learning supported through contextual knowledge and relational teaching. The process of assessment is therefore highly collaborative, drawing on the expertise of multiple participants to inform a meaningful curriculum for children. In this article, I explore teachers’ leadership of assessment in early childhood education through the lens of everyday collective leadership (Cooper, 2022), drawing on examples of my experiences and continued learning as an infant and toddler teacher, practicing assessment as a part of my daily work.
How we view a situation influences the actions that we take and ultimately the outcome that occurs. When faced with new situations where we do not know what to do, often we do more of what we have always done, informed by what we know (Bolman & Deal, 2017). Through a range of theories, including critical theory and transformative learning theory this article is a call to early childhood education leaders to critically reflect on the ‘what and why’ of leadership actions and the decision to lead from a culturally responsive perspective.
This article is based on my master’s research project (Knight, 2022) which looked at the support that newly graduated teachers receive in enacting Te Tiriti o Waitangi (TTOW) principle of participation. Semi-structured interviews with newly graduated teachers revealed that gaps in existing mentoring programmes may not be limited to mentoring around TTOW, but may in fact reflect gaps in all aspects of the mentoring programme. This lack of clearly structured mentoring programmes for many new graduates will be my focus here. Based on the literature and findings of my master’s research, I will argue that in order for teachers to be both retained in the sector and effectively grown as professionals, effective mentoring must be considered and prioritised. Of additional interest is teachers’ emotional wellbeing. The article is framed in the ‘pūrākau’ lens, developed by Wirihana (2012). Due to limited availability of existing research on beginning teachers’ experiences in the Aotearoa New Zealand early childhood education (ECE) context, a number of articles relating to beginning teachers’ experiences come from international and /or compulsory-sector contexts. This may reflect a need for further research into this topic in the Aotearoa New Zealand ECE context.
Research highlights that power relations are embedded into all social interactions of individuals and groups (Burr, 2015; Christie, 2014). Those in positions of power exert influence within dominant discourses with their status and position which then proceed to confirm these discourses. Understanding the complexities of power and the part power plays in mentoring relationships is important for lecturers mentoring student teachers in Initial Teacher Education (ITE) in Aotearoa New Zealand. My research investigates the impacts power has on the student and lecturer mentoring relationship in ITE in early childhood education (ECE) in Aotearoa New Zealand. Using interviews as data collection I was able to explore the reflections of what lecturers in ITE in ECE in Aotearoa think and say about power when mentoring student teachers. The ideas considered are gathered from the research I completed towards a master’s degree that studied power relations in the student teacher and lecturer mentoring relationship (Polley, 2022). The research provides valuable insights into the discourses of power and how discursive practices within institutions such as ITE could create negative perceptions of power. Embracing Kaupapa Māori could transform the future of mentoring relationships by reducing power imbalances. Considering a communities of practice model can decrease the traditional hierarchical approaches of power that are reinforced in ITE.
There is an ongoing debate about whether leadership is an innate trait; something children are born with or if it is something that can be learned. Think about the times you observe children taking charge, being the first to contribute to an experience or emphatically voicing their interests or needs. Are the children showing leadership dispositions? Te Whāriki’s vision of the child as “competent and confident learners and communicators, healthy in mind, body and spirit, secure in their sense of belonging and in the knowledge that they make a valued contribution to society” (Ministry of Education, 2017, p.6) celebrates the child’s mana, their agency, their identity and in doing so, acknowledges that the child is indeed a leader or has the potential to be one.
It is well documented that the quality of leadership can have a direct influence on the quality of provision within the education sector (Douglas, 2019). Professional and Ethical Consideration for Early Childhood Leaders aims to be a resource to leaders in the complex early childhood sector. The title acknowledges that the role of the early childhood teacher requires multifaceted leadership abilities, with teachers often leading in pedagogical, administrative and management roles. Drawing on the knowledge and research of international early childhood professionals, each chapter explores a specific area of leadership within the early childhood context.
Stamopoulos and Barblett open the discussion outlining the difficulties in finding a singular, encompassing definition for leadership in an ECE (Early Childhood Education) context. Working towards a mutual understanding, they suggest the role of the leader is to "lead the learning of others, share power, and mentor and model ethical relationships and leadership" (p. xix). The authors emphasise the notion of "collective responsibility" (p. xix) and with it the need for collaboration with colleagues, highlighting the benefits of leading from within the team. The authors discuss the idea of "power with" rather than "power over" relationships in leadership (p. xx), which aligns with the current trend of shared/distributed leadership in Aotearoa New Zealand divided into three parts.