Critical Literacy Through Administrative Eyes

Critical Literacy Through Administrative Eyes

Amanda Mann (Walters Public Schools, USA)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8082-9.ch009
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This chapter speaks to the way educational leaders, specifically site principals, can support and guide teachers to implement critical literacy strategies into their classrooms. While literacy specifically relates to texts, it can also be identified as discourse as well. However, finding ways for administrators to encourage teachers to allow students the opportunity to develop the ability to express their critical analysis through conversations and presentations as well as through writing can be a challenge. Nonetheless, preparing students for critical literacy and critical discourse is an essential skill in the 21st century and beyond.
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Craig Groeschel (2018) encourages leaders to be the type of leader people love to follow. He said a leader people love to follow will love and care about others. This leader must love people because people never forget how you made them feel. Groeschel states leaders need to use four words: “I notice” and “you matter”. Good employees do not leave organizations; they leave bad leaders. Groeschel shared he appreciates way more than he thinks he should, and then he doubles it. He started Gold Star Friday! He goes around and fist bumps people who are at work Friday after they could have gone home. He shared how one woman was in the restroom when he went through her department, and she ran out to the parking lot to find Groeschel to get her Gold Star fist bump. It mattered that he noticed and appreciated the people working hard to make his organization better. He encourages leaders to be a “you” centered leader. Tell your people “I’m glad YOU are here”. “YOU matter”. If educational leaders are “you” centered, then teachers may make a shift to be “student” centered in their classrooms or more “student” centered if they already allow student voice and choice in the classroom. Feeling appreciated and confident in their leader’s value of them, teachers might be willing to allow students to voice their own responses about literature - even when it deviates from the norm. As leaders pour into teachers an empowering spirit, the goal is that teachers will pour into their students the desire to challenge the status quo and feel empowered to search, critically question, and share oppositional views in a safe environment within the classroom.

Fullan (2014) makes a strong case that principals are no longer managers of their site building and its bureaucracy, but they are to be the lead learners at their school site. In his paper The Change Leader, Fullan (2002) states “learning in context has the greatest potential payoff because it is more specific, situational, and social (it develops shared and collective knowledge and commitments)” (para. 21). As a school leader, one must enhance a teacher’s pedagogy through their own personal experiences (Bennis & Nanus, 1997). As humans, we relate to each other through our previous experiences. As an administrator connects relationally with teachers, their mutual collaboration increases pedagogical knowledge and skill for all involved: teacher, student, and administrator (Hall, Johnson, Wysocki, & Kepner, 2008). One way for educational leaders to connect and lead their teaching staff is to engage in critical literacy and critical conversations.



Dr. Fenstermacher (2000) wrote a speech he presented to superintendents in Michigan during a summer institute. He shares with these educational leaders how our government has required those in education to achieve ideals which are impossible instead of allowing ideals to guide goals which are attainable. He shares “there is a difference between what we can do and what we ought to hope for. Between what is real and within the realm of possibility, on the one hand, and what is ideal and impossible, on the other” (p. 1). The impossible should guide to the possible. Fenstermacher continues:

What’s wrong with being held accountable for having all children leave school ready to succeed? The same thing that’s wrong with being held accountable for getting to the North Star. We cannot accomplish either one with the means at our disposal. A young adult’s success after school depends on far more than what happens to that person in school. (p.2)

Key Terms in this Chapter

Modeling: Is a way of leading by example.

Foucault: Is an author who wrote about power and how words convey power.

Freire: Is an author who actively worked to help those who are oppressed break from their oppression.

Dissent: Is the action of disagreeing or acting in an oppositional way.

Fullan: Is a contemporary educational leader who writes and speak about how to lead in education today.

Critical Literacy: Is the act of digging deep to identify truths within a text that may be hidden by layers of context. It is also a way to examine texts to identify aspects that are expressed as truths, but upon further inspection are often the way society has accepted instead of challenging the status quo and deciding if the “thing” is good for society or not.

Power Structures: Are the way a school and classroom are structured in regard to authority and permission. Does the principal have all the power? Does the teacher? Is there shared leadership? Do students have a voice in how learning happens in their classroom?

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