Teacher perceptions of the role of a primary school principal in supporting their well-being: Learning from a South African public school in challenging conditions
Collett, Karen Suzette
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This study is an investigation into teacher perceptions of the role of a primary school principal in supporting their well-being: learning from a South African public school in challenging conditions. As a grounded theory study using a classical grounded theory approach it proposes a substantiated theory based on the synthesis of findings from a single case study of a school. This grounded theory proposes that teacher well-being is a dynamic, fluctuating and holistic state of LOVING, BEING, HAVING and MEANING1 in a teacher’s personal and professional life, as a result of being part of a school community and broader system, and the SUPPORT2 it provides to enhance the physical, social and cultural environment and working conditions of teachers. In order of significance of responses, teacher well-being is related to: Caring and Supportive Relationships (LOVING) A State of Being (BEING) Environmental and Working Conditions (HAVING) Meaning (MEANING) LOVING and BEING influence the ability of teachers to access a level of HAVING and MEANING. Key factors supporting and constraining the well-being of teachers in a school in challenging conditions are personal, professional, organisational and systemic. Teachers identify organisational and systemic factors as having a greater negative influence on their well-being than personal and inter-personal factors. In this working class school greater job demands and limited job resources negatively influence teacher well-being. The key role of the principal (as defined by the teachers and reported in this study) in supporting the well-being of teachers requires a focus on personal, professional, organisational and systemic strategies to enhance support. These include a wide range of skills, attributes and abilities which include a democratic and contingent leadership style; a respectful, trustworthy and courageous personal 1 As defined in chapter five. 2 As defined and reported on in chapter seven. University of the Western Cape Karen Collett Page iv character; the ability to provide teachers with both personal and professional support; a focus on curricular leadership and strategies that enable teachers to address a range of barriers to learning; building a caring and supportive collegial culture; promoting professional learning communities; paying attention to the functioning of school level structures; addressing discipline and safety; drawing in additional funding and support at a school community and systems level; and having the moral courage and leadership to address issues at both a personal and systemic level. Leadership to support teacher well-being requires a focus by the principal and school management team on both structural and cultural dimensions of support at the school level and in addition requires the school leadership to address structural inequalities at the systemic level. It is hoped that the findings of this study will make an important contribution to understanding the role of leadership in supporting the well-being of teachers. They illuminate the challenges teachers in primary schools in challenging conditions face and provide suggestions to enable enhanced systems of teacher support at a school and systems level. These findings identify a number of personal and systems level indicators of well-being that can be used to evaluate and monitor school level teacher well-being and the bio-psycho-social elements of school health promotion. They provide a conceptual model of school well-being from the perspective of teachers. The study concludes with a number of recommendations to strengthen policy, practice, training and further research.