The Role of An Ethic of Care in Instructional Leadership and the Development of Teacher-Student Relationships: A Case Study of an Urban Middle School
McDonald, Brenda R.
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Federal, state, and district mandates in the current era of accountability have narrowed middle school improvement efforts to a singular focus on academic excellence at the expense of student relationships and developmentally appropriate practices. This case study of ten middle school teachers serving an urban, underserved population draws from scholarship that strives for a reform framework employing an ethic of care. Data were collected to describe student perspectives about how teachers connect and build relationships, how teachers perceive they build student relationships and connections, and the role school administrators play in hindering or promoting the development of student-teacher relationships. The study documents the importance of the school leader in authorizing and supporting the development of student-teacher relationships. The study identified two manifestations of care in classroom teachers. One is an external motivation to support academic growth to raise achievement scores. The second is an internal motivation to support students in personal growth and development, including academic achievement. This study's findings identify the need for a broader definition of instructional leadership to include an ethic of care, and a focus on student- relationships and student-connections as essential to improving student achievement.