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Titlepersonal, professional, and cultural influences on the career
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Laura C. Slater

A thesis in conformity with the requirements
for the degree of Doctor of PhiIosophy

Department of Theory and Policy Studies in Education
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the

University of Toronto

O Copyright by Laura C. Slater, 200 1

Page 2

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position in an organization for autism, she continued to work in special education within

the schooi district. From this position her next chaIIenge was to assume a leadership

position in education outside of special education, and the principalship thus appealed to

her. Peter found hirnself on "cmise controi" f i e r teaching for 18 years. Searching for a

new challenge, he first applied for a secondary teaching position before recognizing that

the role of principal would provide this challenge. Kathleen is unique in expressing that

her choice to puma administration was partly due to money. She went into teaching

f i e r raising her children in order to ensure her own security d e r her marriage failed.

Once there, she realized that she liked being a leader and rnoved into a special education

administrator's job. At this point going into the principalship became her next step.

Nancy, too, sees herseif as having been a leader ail along. She has held vanous lead

teacher and committee Chair positions and provided inservice for other teachers. She felt

she had done al1 she could in this regard as a teacher and that she could do even more as a

principal. Franche chose to wait until her children were older (in their teens) before

pursuing the position. She talks of having tried everything different that she wanted to do

- various grade levels and subject areas as well as lead teacher positions - and that being

a principai was the next thing to do.

Interestingiy, several pnncipais (Elizabeth, John, KathIeen, Nancy, and Cameron)

note that they feIt they couid do a betterjob than other principals they had observed.

This was not the primary reason for choosing to go into administration; however, it was

an important consideration for these individuais. Each felt that they had something more

to offer in the roIe than some of the others who were aIready there. This added to their

persona! motivation to seek a principalship.

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It is evident at this point that, again, people found interna1 psychologicaIly-based

reasons for pursuing administrative positions. Addressing the broader sphere of

education and wanting to influence more people and outcornes than is possible as a

classroom teacher were motivators for severai individuals. m e r s continuously sought

new challenges, moving through various positions and leadership roles until the next

challenge was the principalship. Their personal sense of continuously learning and

expanding in their field were important. Underiying this for most was the desire to be

able to have an impact on others for the sake of positive results within a school. Related

to this is the fact that almost every principal felt confident that they could do the job upon

entering the position, suggesting that they felt ready to meet the challenges and visions

they held.

A few interesting points can be made with respect to the views of men and

women. The idea that men were expected to go into administration, because they were

men, was expressed by Mike, Daniel, and Bob. Similady, women were not actually

fiequently placed in administrative roles in the past (men dominated these positions), as

noted by Gloria, Elizabeth, Kathleen, and Nancy. Even this distinction - men felt they

were expected to go into the role while wornen felt underrepresented in the role - sheds

light on the ways men and wornen see gender difkrences in relation to administrative

positions. Gloria, Elizabeth, and Kathleen also felt somewhat motivated to pursue the

position because they believed they were women who could succeed as principals.

Gloria and Elizabeth even entertained the idea of going hrther and becorning

superintendents, earning their qua1ification.s for this position (although neither ultirnately

pursued the supenntendency). AII of these seven principals who raised gender

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How long have you been a principal? Administrator?

Tell me how you came to be a principal.

Further questionhg will build on this and will include questions like:

Thinking back, why were you interested in becoming a principal?

When in your w e e r did you make the decision to pwsue the role?

Who was infiuential in supporting your decisionlaiding in making your decision to
become a principal?

How was your family in supporting your choice?

If you were to reflect on your childhood and growing up years, do you think that your
upbringing was at ail influentid in you ultimately becoming a principal?

Was becoming a principal consistent with your philosophy of education?

What beliefs did ?nu have about the pnncipafship prior to pursuing the role?

How do you think you came to believe these things about the role?

Were there any significant events that contnbuted to your wanting to be a principal?

What steps did you take to prepare for the role?

How confident were you in yourself that you would be successfbl as a principal?

Was there anyone helping you along the way?

What kind of preparation did your district provide for you? (formal, informai)

How would you explain the role of the principal? 1s this consistent with what you
beiieved about the role before you pursued it?

From where in the school district do you receive messages about the expectations for you
as principal?

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Were there my organizations that were influential in your decisions? (Federations,
Board of Education, Ministry of Education, College of Tachers, Ontario Principals

Are any of these organizations important to you now in your daiIy functioning as a

What kinds of expectations do you feel your community has for you as the principal of
the school?

How have the recent government initiatives affected your role as principal?

What are the aspects of beiag a principal that brhg you the most satisfaction?

What are the aspects of being a principal that concern you the rnost?

How has your role as principal changed over tirne?

Having had the experience you have, if you were to do it ail over again, would you d l
choose to becorne a principal? Whyfwhy not?

What advice do you have for aspiring principals?

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