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Leadership: Learning, Teaching, and Practice

reviewed by Carrie Sampson & Emerald Ochonogor - July 10, 2017

coverTitle: Leadership: Learning, Teaching, and Practice
Author(s): Autumn Tooms Cyprès
Publisher: Information Age Publishing, Charlotte
ISBN: 9781681237121, Pages: 139, Year: 2016
Search for book at Amazon.com

Leadership: Learning, Teaching, and Practice is an easy, non-technical book that will likely inspire, inform, and challenge both current and aspiring academic faculty of educational leadership programs as well as K-12 school/district leaders. The book’s editor, Autumn Tooms Cyprès, included 12 authors ranging from practitioners, non-tenure track faculty, and tenure-track faculty, whom explore educational leadership from a wide array of perspectives. These authors often take a reflective approach in exploring their own journeys through doctoral programs, career changes, and as educators and scholars in educational leadership programs. As indicated in the title, the book is organized into three sections centered on the “reflexive trinity of leadership” (p. 5):  learning, teaching, and practice.

Part One on “Learning” consists of four chapters that examine the authors’ experiences and perspectives navigating a career as faculty in educational leadership programs, particularly from the standpoint of those transitioning from being school/district leaders. The book’s editor, Cyprès, begins this section by sharing an engaging story of her relationship with an imperative mentor who supported her journey. In this journey, Cyprès shares how she came to realize that her challenges as a new faculty member were common, and she encourages individuals to find success by focusing on their personal goals in the midst of a multitude of demands as educational leaders. Cyprès’ introductory chapter frames the personal perspective of the text, setting the tone for the remainder of the book. She also introduces each subsequent chapter and how it aligns with the purpose of the book.

Thomas H. Beatty, in Chapter Two, examines his shift from being a K-12 school leader to a non-tenure track assistant professor. He reveals that “Starting over once one has been at the top can be a challenging and humbling experience” (p. 19). Discussing the ups and downs of academic-life, Beatty highlights several differences for individuals considering making a career shift into the academy, including job security, financial compensation, flexibility, stress, and respect. Then, in analyzing the triad mission of higher education—teaching, scholarship and service—Beatty speaks to the intricacies of navigating them simultaneously by providing some concrete strategies for success. Similarly, in Chapter Three, Elizabeth Chase eloquently discusses her transition from being a K-12 teacher and administrator to her current career as faculty member at a university.  However, unlike Beatty, Chase is in a tenure-track position with expectations to research and publish. Realizing that she’s now “‘paid to think’” (p. 30), Chase examines her transition through three elements: “productivity, autonomy, and inexperience” (p. 26), and closes this chapter with specific recommendations for those considering a tenure-track position. In Part One’s final chapter, Noelle Witherspoon Arnold and Autumn Tooms Cyprès provide a succinct but descriptive breakdown of faculty roles, positions, and expectations at a range of institution types. Through personal experiences and scenarios, the authors share useful strategies, including developing an action plan for addressing the politics of attaining tenure, and thus being successful in the multidimensional role required among tenure-track faculty.

Part Two, “Teaching,” begins with Elizabeth Murakami and Frank Hernandez’s discussion of principal preparation programs. After providing an informative description of principal preparation programs and the shifting standards both nationally and statewide, they focus on the gap between program standards in Texas and students’ desires and needs when enrolled in these programs. These authors provide an ideal mix of research, theory, and anecdotal accounts to make a compelling argument for those developing standards and principal preparation programs to think beyond management skills and knowledge.  Instead, they call on programs “to infuse the social responsibility of leading schools as a part of a larger society” (p. 66). The authors of Chapter Six, Lisa M. Abrams and Tameshia V. Grimes, assert that traditional research methods courses are often irrelevant and unrealistic for school and district leaders to use toward meeting practitioner-oriented goals. Instead, these authors recommend PEER action research for faculty teaching research methods courses as a means to mitigate this disconnect and to provide more useful tools to school/district leaders. Brenda Cowlbeck wraps up the “Teaching” section by focusing on the differences, tensions, and the potential for cooperation between tenured and non-tenured track faculty.  Cowlbeck situates this autoethnographic chapter in literature largely focused on organizational theories and studies within higher education settings, concluding with the need for open discussion and equity amongst both types of faculty.

Part Three, “Practice,” consists of three chapters, including the conclusion chapter. A district leader in Ohio, Charles Smialek, opens this section by discussing “the strengths and weaknesses of [his] leadership preparation program” (p. 109). He presents a dichotomy of the heart and the fist as necessary components to leadership in any context. Describing these leadership components, Smialek also identifies the ways his doctoral program both informed and failed to inform his training as a practitioner. This chapter would be useful for students and faculty associated with doctoral programs, as both must consider how to make such learning and teaching opportunities most valuable. In Chapter Nine, John Tharp explores the struggles administrators experience when working under the supervision of local school boards. Focused mainly on one incident involving a well-experienced superintendent who was fired by a school board, Tharp asserts that, oftentimes, school board members’ lack of critical thinking skills and educational experiences result in poor decisions, hence the dilemma of embracing democracy in education. Perhaps a bit challenging and even idealistic, Tharp suggests that both administrators and university programs could work to train and prepare board members in ways that would benefit many school districts while maintaining democracy.  Barbara Driver sums up the book in the final chapter, pointing to differences between what is idealist, realistic, and the difficult decisions educational leaders face daily.

As numerous educators consider the “next steps” in their careers, whether that be graduate school, administration, and/or teaching in education programs at a university or college, this book details what these future, and perhaps idealized, plans might look like in reality. More importantly, Cyprès and other authors included in this text, force their readers to think about the multiple paths towards being a successful leader in the vast field of contemporary education.  

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: July 10, 2017
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22088, Date Accessed: 1/22/2022 2:51:59 AM

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About the Author
  • Carrie Sampson
    Arizona State University
    E-mail Author
    CARRIE SAMPSON, Ph.D., is an assistant professor at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University.
  • Emerald Ochonogor
    Arizona State University
    E-mail Author
    Emerald Ochonogor is a doctoral student in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at the Arizona State University. Her research interests include education policy, special education, and emotional disabilities. She has worked as a college access counselor and she currently teaches students with special needs in the Osborn School District located in Phoenix, Arizona.
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