Why study dilemmas

One step forward, one step back today. The back step was finding that Word does not count text boxes in the bottom bar wordcount, so I am 8000 words over limit. The step forward was Dunedin Academic Press agreeing an extension on the submission date.  Some hard editing decisions to come, I’m afraid.  Every one of those extra 8000 words seems precious at this stage.

Here’s today extract from the Preface to the 2nd Edition, giving some of the rationale for the study of dilemmas.  It may not survive!

“Some school leaders may never experience dilemmas.  They may be nested in a comfortable community of learning, where values are shared and common understandings of meaning and purpose underpin daily practice.  Their wise leadership may, in fact, have contributed to the development of such an oasis of calm agreed educational purpose within the turbulent change of the twenty first century world.  Alternatively some school leaders may be ignorant of the dilemmas around them, insulated by their power from the morale sapping challenges faced by some of their staff or students, or conceiving of their role as being that of a limited, compliant middle manager, following instructions or advice from a higher authority.  However individual situations can change, previous ‘taken-for-granted’ conceptual foundations can be upset by new challenges, appeals to ‘higher authority’ may not be enough to generate the enthusiasm for learning they wish for their students and staff.  Whatever the current situation of individual school leaders, they may face dilemmas in the future; whatever the current situation, engagement with the issues raised in the analysis of dilemmas challenges thinking and requires learning.  Analysis of dilemmas offers a rich ‘bottom-up’ viewpoint on the experience of life in a school community.  Through the attempt to understand dilemmas, we understand better the strands and tensions of our lives together and our hopes and aspirations for the development of our young people;  we understand better the complex link between our disciplines of learning and their application in our daily lives, between emotion, cognition and valuation;  we understand better the flows of power and influence within our communities and the role of the school in developing our democratic ways of living;  we understand better what it is we value in our lives and what we value by our behaviour and the systems our behaviour supports.  Every school leader has something to gain from that attempt.

The very full study by Macbeath and his associates into problems in the ‘Recruitment and Retention’ of Scottish headteachers (Macbeath et al 2009, 2012) confirmed the findings of studies in other times and places:  that school leadership is hard demanding work; the vast majority of school leaders gain enormous professional satisfaction from a job, a vocation, which they see as a ‘privilege’.

A stressful, exhausting, incredibly rewarding job. (2012, p9).

The picture of school leadership painted in this book is every bit as challenging, frustrating, fulfilling and satisfying.  Despite, or perhaps, because of the dilemmas it throws up, it continues to be one of the most beguiling and exciting of professional careers.”


One thought on “Why study dilemmas

  1. Pingback: “Dilemmas” 2.0 heads off to the publisher | Danny Murphy's Blog

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