Teacher leadership, power, and the gendered space of teaching: intersections and discourses

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Rita J. Rathbone (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/
Carl Lashley

Abstract: Relying on critical feminist understandings of power, this study explores how the gendered expectations and intersectional identity of women teachers impacts their negotiation of power in the practice of teacher leadership and social justice advocacy. This study takes a critical stance towards the existing body of literature and challenges the current feminized and patriarchal understanding of teacher leadership. Using a collaborative autoethnographic approach, a group of practicing teacher leaders examined their lived experiences as teacher leaders. The participants reported experiencing gendered expectations in their teaching contexts of support/nurturing, passivity, collaboration, normative gender expression, and all-encompassing teacher identity. Practicing teacher leadership in this gendered environment was a balancing act that required the ability to be a “chameleon.” The complexity of teaching and intricate nature of connections and networks allowed teachers to pick and choose a variety of strategies and resources with which to negotiate power. The study finds that much of the work of teacher leadership involved negotiating the interpersonal and cultural domains of power in order to develop coalitions of diverse stakeholders to resist the oppressive forces found in the structural and disciplinary domains. The teachers reported often having to “play against” negative assumptions of their ability to be leaders based on race and gender. The study concludes that the scholarly understanding of the practice of teacher leadership must be redefined to include the social justice focus of much of its practice, the intricacy of teachers’ networks, an understanding of power as multidirectional and multidimensional, the nuance of gendered norms found in teaching, and the unresolved paradoxes that teacher leaders face every day.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2015
Educational leadership, Gender, Social justice, Teacher identity, Teacher leadership
Educational leadership
Teacher participation in administration
Women teachers
Identity (Psychology)
Sexism in education
Feminism and education
Education $x Social aspects
Social justice

Email this document to