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Caring School Leadership

Caring School Leadership

January 2020 | 192 pages | Corwin

Principles and possibilities to inform and inspire caring in your leadership practices!

Do you feel like something is missing in today’s schools? Do you feel student success is too focused on academic accountability, test scores, and college readiness? Recalibrate your leadership with the help of this book to promote the practice of caring which, with academic rigor, is essential to effective schooling.

Caring School Leadership is a research-based collection of ideas, principles, and values illustrated with numerous examples and stories that will inform, inspire, and guide you. Evaluate your current leadership practice and evolve to lead in the way to which you aspire. In addition to insights and lessons about caring from educators and human service professions like nursing and ministry, readers will be introduced to themes of

·         Caring in interpersonal relationships with students
·         Cultivating schools as caring environments
·         Fostering caring in families and communities

About the Authors
Introduction: Four Stories of Caring School Leadership

Giving and Taking the Chance


No One Graduates Alone

Chapter 1: Caring: The Heart of Caring School Leadership
A Case for Caring in Schools

What Do We Mean by Caring?

How Does Caring Work?

Cautionary Notes: Problems and Pitfalls of Caring

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

Chapter 2: A Model of Caring School Leadership
Defining Caring School Leadership

A Model

Considerations for the Practice of Caring Leadership

Caring School Leadership and Educational Equity

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

Chapter 3: Being Caring in Relationships with Students
Dynamics of Principal–Student Relationships

What Makes Student–Principal Relationships Caring?

Practices of Presence

Practices of Attentiveness and Inquiry

Interpersonal Communication With Students

Acting on Behalf of Students

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

Chapter 4: Cultivating Schools as Caring Communities
The Meaning of Caring Community

Leadership as Cultivation

Approaches to Cultivating Caring and Community

Developing Capacity for Caring Community

Promoting Enabling Conditions

Engaging Parents and Caregivers

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

Chapter 5: Fostering Caring in Families and Communities Beyond the School
Nature of the Work

Fostering Caring in Families

Fostering Caring in Communities

Insights From Community Organizing and Community Development

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

Chapter 6: Developing Caring School Leadership
What Should Be Developed: A Review

Development Activities and Experiences

Learning From Experience

Avoiding the Problems and Pitfalls of Caring

Caring for Oneself

Questions for Reflection and Discussion


“Caring is fundamental for learning. Ask any child. This book explores caring as a ‘quality of relationship’ that points educators in the direction of professional involvement to enhance the school and learning experience. Through an exploration of caring as a leadership responsibility the authors not only make the case that caring is crucial to learning, but that every adult in a school makes a difference in the life of every child entrusted to that school.”

James Berryy
Eastern Michigan University

“Smylie, Murphy, and Louis employ research-based examples to lucidly explain and translate what they mean by ‘caring school leadership’ and they encourage exploring reflection and redefining school structures to facilitate integrating caring into current practice. They call on leaders to embrace caring by providing a range of approaches that include relying on norms and values of communities served, storytelling, positive modeling, and culturally responsive approaches to do their work.”

Mark Anthony Gooden
Teachers College, Columbia University

Caring School Leadership is what has been missing from both leadership theory and practical leadership studies. Without addressing the questions posed in this book, leaders are left unable to answer a central question: ‘Why are you an educational leader?’ Beyond the rich and timely theoretical contributions, this work guides practicing school leaders in their journey of becoming caring and nurturing toward the communities they serve.”

Muhammad Khalifa
University of Minnesota

“There are times when wisdom cannot be found in the academy but rest assured that you will find wisdom in this book, which presents a compelling model for caring school leadership. Smylie, Murphy, and Louis offer the most incisive, analytical, and yet practical approach to developing school leaders who are caring leaders. This is an excellent resource for faculty teaching aspiring and current school leaders—a must-read!”

Pedro Reyes
University of Texas-Austin

“There are many international contexts today where the ‘push-me-pull-me’ approach to schooling outweighs the wisdom of compassion. This timely book offers a much-welcomed counter-narrative to that trend. The book is bursting with ideas—not surprising given the track record of the authors. I would encourage school principals to gobble up the book’s many insights into the practice of caring leadership. Caring leadership—as the authors argue so powerfully—is a dynamic ministry. It is also the kind of moral endeavor so needed in our troubled times.”

Kathryn Riley
University College of London

“For anyone interested in the difficult and vital work of creating caring school communities, this is a deeply thoughtful, humane and highly practical book. Drawing on a large body of research and the stories and wisdom of practitioners, Caring School Leadership compellingly articulates what caring is, how it functions and why it is at the core of human flourishing in so many aspects of our academic, social, emotional and ethical lives. There are no checklists or ‘one size fits all’ approaches here. This book provides a vision of caring school leadership that is contextual, fluid, and contingent upon the most basic aspects of human interaction and relationships. It is a vital resource for school administrators interested in both interpersonal and systematic ways of create caring and inclusive communities. It makes me hopeful that many more young people can develop the motivation and skills needed to recognize our shared humanity, support and help others in ways that are true and meaningful, and develop the sustained, caring relationships at the heart of a wonderful life.”

Richard Weissbourd
Harvard Graduate School of Education and Kennedy School of Government

“Finally, a book that gets at the heart and soul of school leadership. Smylie, Murphy, and Louis describe what caring leadership looks and feels like, and how leaders create trust, build relationships, and develop a culture of caring so that students can focus on academics. Our schools need leaders who lead from the heart.”

Jacquelyn Wilson e
University of Delware

Caring School Leadership goes straight to the heart of what it takes to be a great and good leader in today’s schools: caring. Smylie, Murphy, and Louis provide a compelling vision for care-centered schools and support this vision with instructive examples and practical guidance. Although meant for the education community, the book provides valuable lessons for anyone in a leadership
position in today’s complex and demanding world.”

Michelle D. Young
University of Virginia
Key features

This book will focus on caring and caring leadership at both interpersonal and organizational levels.  There have been very few treatments of caring as applied to school leadership.  Most attention has been paid to caring among teachers and students.  Moreover, most books in education on caring focus on the interpersonal dimensions of caring, the actions and interactions between the one caring and the one cared for.  While the interpersonal is very important in our conceptualization of caring school leadership, this book will argue that caring in leadership cannot be fully understood nor its benefits fully achieved without exploring caring organizationally and without examining the role of leadership in cultivating caring among others and promoting aspects of school organization conducive to caring.

This book is unlike many other books about school leadership practice.  Readers will not find in this book “to-do” lists or scripts.  Readers will not find compilations of strategies that are universally effective.  This book is an exposition of ideas, principles, and values illustrated with examples of how to make school leadership practice more caring.  We present caring school leadership as situational, dynamic, relational, and personal.  There is no “one size fits all” for caring leadership.  We eschew the notion of recipes, of telling readers specifically what to do.  Instead, we present principles and possibilities to inform and inspire.

A key feature of this book will be multiple vignettes of practice illustrating actions and interactions of caring and caring leadership in schools.  We have collected nearly 40 first-person stories recounting acts of caring and caring school leadership from practicing principals, assistant, and associate principals and teachers.  The authors will be collecting more of these stories as they prepare the final manuscript.  These stories include both “hits and misses”, that is, actions and interactions that achieve the aims of caring and those that fall short.


The authors will include summaries of arguments and take-away points at the end of each chapter.  These summaries will be accompanied by study/discussion questions that will aim to engage readers more deeply in the content of each chapter and challenge them to consider this content in relation to their own practice. 

For instructors

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