Urban teacher leaders' perceptions of professional purpose and school culture through metaphors: a case study of one Midwestern high school





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The concept of teacher leadership remains largely unexplored. In recent years it has been subject of research and discussion in the context of urban schools reform and effective school leadership. This qualitative case study was designed for the purpose to provide deeper insight into teacher leaders' perceptions of professional purpose and school culture through the language of metaphors. Engaged in school reform efforts, one high school was selected for this study. Factors contributing to the framing of this project include personal interest in urban schools' reform work, metaphorical language of leadership, as well as involvement in a teacher leadership role and professional learning communities (PLCs). The literature review included analysis of concepts on teacher leadership, metaphorical language, organizational change, and appreciative inquiry. Teacher leaders and administrative leaders participated in this study. Individual interviews, focus group interview, and document analysis revealed several metaphorical themes of professional purpose and school culture. Deeply engaged in school reform efforts, the research setting was characterized as having a strong teacher leadership component, a comprehensive professional learning model, and a culture based on collaboration and focus on student learning. Current and aspired metaphors of teacher leaders' professional purpose were based on the belief that "what we do matters" and "we are builders, designers, and creators of relationships and success." With respect to school culture, most dominant current metaphorical themes included: "we are a school culture focused on professional learning" and "we are a school culture of collaboration and integration;" the aspired metaphors described a school culture as "becoming more innovative" and resembling a "global village." Implications from this study include the value of teacher leadership, appreciative inquiry, and metaphorical framing in guiding the organizational change efforts in making high need urban schools a great success.

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