Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

An Autoethnography of Culturally Relevant Leadership as Moral Practice: Lived Experiences through a Scholar-Practitioner Lens

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

An Autoethnography of Culturally Relevant Leadership as Moral Practice: Lived Experiences through a Scholar-Practitioner Lens

Article excerpt

We had the experience but missed the meaning, / And approach to the meaning restores the experience / In a different form. . . . (Eliot, 1943, stanza II, lines 4547)

Fundamentally, this inquiry is merely an attempt to "understand the beauteous forms of things human" (Greenfield, 1984, p. 145). Methodologically, I desire to "approach the meaning" of my past practices in order to "restore the experience / In a different form." Drawing directly from Bochner (2012), this autoethnographic inquiry frames research texts as acts of meaning. As Bochner probed,

If we experience our lives as stories, then why not represent them as stories? Why shouldn't social scientists represent life as temporally unfolding narratives and researchers as a vital part of the action? Shouldn't there be a closer connection between our research texts and the lives they represent? (p. 157)

In line with this questioning, my inquiry offers a narrative that is intended to present "emotional, dialogic, and collaborative truths" to the reader (p. 161). As such, this narrative alternates between vignettes of the researcher's underlying first-person lived experiences and a reflective approach to inquiry that attempts to understand two distinct events.

The events presented here are first-person lived experiences from my days as a scholarpractitioner educational leader-first, as a bilingual classroom teacher, and second as an elementary school principal-told using a reflexive, narrative (auto)ethnographic frame. The data for these personal lived experiences were collected from journaling made while a classroom teacher and an elementary school principal and scholarly reflections on the pedagogical events. These entries were analyzed and retold "using hindsight" in a critical autobiographical manner, as a socially-conscious act (Ellis, Adams, & Bochner, 2011). As Ellis et al. have noted, "As a method, autoethnography combines characteristics of autobiography and ethnography. When writing an autobiography, an author retroactively and selectively writes about past experiences" (para. 5). In addition to being a socially-conscious act, the autoethnographic approach employed here attempted thoroughness through "epiphanies that stem from, or are made possible by, being part of a culture and/or by possessing a particular cultural identity" (para. 8).

As an educator identifying with the dominant culture, this approach strongly resonated with me. The reflexive and revelatory voice is mostly absent from the literature on culturally relevant practice and leadership. The autobiographical lived experiences and the pedagogical lived experiences of the students were matters of not only two distinct cultural experiences, but together form a singular cultural experience-a shared experience-within the educative space where we had our collective experience. For this reason, I acknowledge, as Ellis et al. (2011) stated, a need to engage in "telling" and "showing" to give "readers some distance from the events described so that they might think about the events in a more abstract way" (para. 11).

The intentional examination of these lived experiences along with the moral analyses of the inquiry form an act of meaning in that it examines questions of the value, or axiological nature, of scholarly informed and culturally relevant practice. In doing so, the goal is to present this valuing as an act of making meaning in the autoethnographic sense through the presentation of two lived experiences-one as a teacher in a bilingual classroom, the other as a principal of a school with multicultural programs. I examine each of these lived experiences through an axiological lens, questioning and reflecting on my own values of cultural relevance.

By doing so through a reflexive autoethnographic approach, I attempt to provide a unique look into the ethical/moral work of a practitioner as it relates to the value of culturally relevant pedagogy and leadership. …

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