Leadership and Faculty Development
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Date Reviewed: June 23, 2017
Former dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Jerome Murphy writes as a seasoned educator about how to best care for yourself as a teacher in the midst of daily stress. This book applies to the stress of academia as well as ministry. It is a book I would recommend to students preparing to teach and to serve in ministerial vocations. Murphy highlights the source of stress that afflicts educators: our own responses to stress. When difficult situations arise, we tend to respond in one of three self-defeating ways: ruminating on the negative, rebuking ourselves, or resisting our emotions. Murphy draws from the literature on mindfulness to point out the health benefits of becoming aware of our emotions in the moment and accepting our shortcomings.
As an alternative to the cycles of rumination, rebuke, and resistance, Murphy offers a list of instructions that help educators focus on their own values, summarized by the acronym “MY DANCE.” Each letter represents a phrase discussed in the following chapters. “Minding your values” advocates understanding our own life goals and naming our best version of ourselves. Knowing who we want to be helps us evaluate whether our actions are in line with our values. The next chapter, “Yield to now,” captures the importance of in-the-moment mindfulness, trying to stay present to ourselves and others, and includes exercises for practicing mindfulness. “Disentangle from upsets” also highlights the role of mindfulness in preventing us from being consumed by our stress. The chapter titled “Allow unease” instructs readers to attend to the discomfort of negative feelings. “Nourish yourself” emphasizes intentional self-care and practices of gratitude, while “Cherish self-compassion” takes self-care to a deeper level. The last element of the acronym is “Express Feelings Wisely.”
In each of these chapters, Murphy brings in personal anecdotes from years of administration and leading workshops for teachers and school principals. He intersperses these lessons with some of his own personal struggles, such as his wife’s diagnosis with Alzheimer’s disease. In these glimpses of personal sharing, the reader gets a sense of how these practices of self-care have been imperative for someone who has transitioned from being a dean of a Harvard graduate school to a full-time caregiver for his wife of nearly fifty years as she slowly loses her ability to recognize him.
This book draws our attention to the humanity of all educators: we are not simply vessels of information or mediums of higher learning. Each person has his or her own struggles in living daily life, on top of the demands of our teaching vocations. Attending lovingly to our limitations and caring for ourselves in the midst of these struggles is crucial if we are to be effective as teachers and healthy individuals. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn how to better care for themselves in the midst of life’s demands.
Date Reviewed: November 30, -0001
Graduate schools produce a good number of well-educated women who then go on to become successful professors, published authors, and administrators in institutions of higher learning. Women in academe are expected to do it all, do it well, and have well-balanced lives outside the work place. Graduate schools do not prepare women for the numerous challenges they encounter in the various facets of academic life. This book identifies challenges and issues related to women’s lives in academe and suggests practical and studied tactics to help women thrive in the academic world and in their own lives.
Rena Seltzer has extensive experience as an academic coach and has gathered a compelling amount of data and first-hand experiences from women professors. She acknowledges that surviving in academia is not easy, especially for women and under-represented minorities. Oftentimes, women feel isolated and are not aware that some of the challenges they face are not uniquely their own. By identifying such challenges, Rena Seltzer achieves the goal of bringing awareness to these common experiences. In addition to identifying these challenges at the different stages of academic life, the book offers a deeper analysis of the issues and obstacles of academic life as well as provides practical advice on how to overcome them.
In ten chapters, Seltzer addresses the following topics: How to have more time; Establishing a productive writing practice; Teaching; Work-life balance; Networking and social support; Tenure, promotion, and the academic job market; Authority, voice, and influence; Negotiation; Life after tenure; and Leadership.
The book includes numerous practical tactics, from how to phrase effective emails to how to say no to attractive projects and roles that would overtax an already crowded schedule. This ability to say “no” when appropriate leads to a more productive and balanced life, thereby reducing stress. Each chapter offers a variety of further sources the reader may wish to investigate. The author’s style is engaging and friendly, and her voice comes through as wise and reassuring. Chapters can conveniently be read independently, as fits the reader’s interest.
While the book addresses topics shared by most women across academic disciplines, it can be particularly useful for faculty who teach religious studies or theology since these fields rely heavily on self-reflection and self-giving. The balance between such theologically and pastorally motivated attitudes and the demands of academic and non-academic life is especially challenging.
Anecdotally, all female academics I have shared this book with have expressed great interest in it and admitted they would like or need to read it. One said, “I wish this book was around when I started out!” The book is recommended to all women in academia but also to any faculty at any stage in her or his career who is experiencing some of the same challenges.
Date Reviewed: December 1, 2015
National and global cultural constructs are changing faster than ever, oftentimes faster than those who educate can keep apace of. The challenge presented in this volume is clearly stated in Haynes’s introduction: Education leaders “must accept responsibility for accessing and mobilizing all available resources to support students’ total development and for demonstrating that they are making a significant and measurable positive difference in turning present educational trends around” (viii). A popular mantra of leadership theory as first proposed by James McGregor Burns, John Maxwell, and Max De Pree, and later repopularized by Jim Collins, Malcolm Gladwell, Chip and Dan Heath, and Michael Hyatt, is that leaders are responsible for creating organizational culture. Therefore it is imperative that educators, both those who are currently in leadership positions (discipline chairs, principals, superintendents, school board representatives, and so forth) and those who aspire to leadership positions, take seriously this challenge of creating a culture for effective learning by demonstrating that they are effective leaders and worthy of being followed.
Following the challenge-laden Introduction, the volume is divided into three sections, with each section focusing on a different aspect of educational leader development. Each section opens with a short introduction from one of the editors. The first section (chapters 1 to 4) focuses on “core knowledge” elements for teachers and educational leaders, such as public policy (chapter 1), Knowles’ theory of self-directed andragogy (chapter 2), Goleman’s theory of emotional intelligence (chapter 3), and education as social justice (chapter 4). The second section (chapters 5 to 9) focuses on professional development for educational leaders, such as developing an ecological framework for the educational setting (chapter 5), leading educational reform (chapter 6 and 8), developing a global perspective on education (chapter 7), and seeking continuing education once on the field (chapter 9). The final section (chapters 10 to 14) suggests strategies for improving the learning experience, such as utilizing applied research (chapter 10) and program evaluation (chapter 11), developing a multicultural approach to learning (chapter 12), and implementing balanced curriculum (chapter 13) and technology (chapter 14) into the teaching model.
This volume would be most applicable to a course in educational leadership development. It certainly draws from the wealth of the experience provided by the contributors. It is most appropriate for elementary and secondary educators and educational leaders (and those who instruct in that field). However it does have value for those who teach in other disciplines at the undergraduate or graduate level. I found the chapters on policy and balanced curriculum to be most helpful. There are a couple of concerns that should be noted: First, while it is subtle, there is a tinge of socialist rhetoric used throughout the volume. It is most prominent in chapter 4 where the co-authors equate social justice with socialist reform. Second, there is a sense of almost blind acceptance, despite the growing amount of evidence-based literature to the contrary, of Common Core standards throughout the book. Both of these concerns go hand-in-hand and should be considered by the prospective reader.
An academic dean friend of mine once asked in frustration, "Why is this work so hard?!" I'm not sure I know the answer to that question. Some jobs are just more challenging due to the complexity of the work and the span of responsibility. But, here are eleven inviolable scientific ...
Date Reviewed: February 26, 2015
The authors chose a catchy title, but it is difficult to find the “tools” for a dean’s toolkit in the book. The book This work consists of common sense advice with scenarios and short case studies that illustrate situations, dilemmas, and challenges commonly faced by deans in seven key areas, which make up the chapter divisions: managing self, leading peers, leading and managing supervisees, leading faculty, leading departments, managing students (and their parents), and managing up.
The common sense advice may be helpful to novice deans lacking administrative experience, but will be of little value to seasoned deans, associate deans, and department chairs. For example, the first chapter, on “managing ourselves,” consists of simple, generalized, pragmatic advice on: office management (“You will need to make decisions on what you will delegate, which tasks and responsibilities belong to whom, and when associate deans or senior staff may represent you” ); scheduling (“Your staff must also understand that because of the responsibility of the dean’s position, you may be out of the office frequently” ); wardrobe (“An appropriate office appearance and staff wardrobe signals respect for the dean’s office and its functions” ); and how to handle phone calls, visitors, mail, and filing.
In the scenarios and case studies the authors do well in presenting present difficult situations faced by deans. The examples range from relatively mild procedural and administrative issues to dysfunctional personal and contextual (cultural and systemic) issues. For novice deans, or those considering this job, these will provide a sobering reality check to any romantic notions. However, there is no central or systematic framework that can help a dean discern how to approach the challenges of the office. In other words, there is no discernable theory of practice for the work of the dean, aside from a strong advocacy for collaborative (“shared”) leadership, a concept for which the authors rely on Pearce and Conger’s Shared Leadership: Reframing the Hows and Whys of Leadership (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2002).
It is uncertain whether one consistent thread in the scenarios and case studies is a product of the scope of the authors’ experience, that of the subjects of their studies, or a reflection on the culture of higher education. That thread is the manner in which solutions for many of the difficult scenarios and cases are found. Many, if not most, of the difficulties are resolved by transferring under-functioning or acting-out faculty and staff to other departments, accommodating underperformers by offering incentives (reduced teaching loads, early retirement options), wishfully waiting out a troubling situation, triangulating provosts and department chairs, or allowing agency to the willful or weak in the system (an invasive human resource department, persons unable to do their work, and so forth). The authors are correct that “In the academic environment, deans provide the delicate but crucial backbone of university decision making” (66), but that requires the practice of courage in leadership in greater measure than most of the scenarios illustrate.