You Can't Give What You Don't Have: A Community of Care Among Special Education Supervisors
Purpose: The caring professions, including those working in the field of special education, are at increased risk of compassion fatigue and burnout. As they take care of vulnerable students and adult providers, it is critical that they take care of themselves and that their organizations do the same. Limited research explores the practices of self-care and care of others in rural school districts or communities. The participatory action research (PAR) study engaged a group of six co-practitioner researchers, all special education supervisors, as they examined how they could improve their leadership practices and self-awareness to cultivate safe, supportive, and collaborative environments for themselves and others. Research Methods: Participatory action research methodology included three iterative cycles of inquiry in which we, as co-practitioner researchers, collected and analyzed these data: written correspondences, surveys, meeting minutes, agendas, artifacts, and group member checks. Data were coded using the existing frameworks for community of practice (Lave & Wenger, 1998) and the Guiding Principles of Trauma-Informed Care (SAMHSA, 2014) as well as open codes that emerged from the evidence (Saldan̋a, 2016). Findings: Three key claims emerged: (1) trauma-informed guiding principles foster a community of care; (2) emotional safety is cultivated among a team where community and connections are valued, and colleagues and the leadership provide support and encouragement; and (3) consistency and predictability on the part of a supervisor support emotional safety and increase mutual engagement. Implications: Potentially, the PAR project provides a way forward for many school districts. Focusing on trauma-informed guiding principles of safety, trustworthiness, voice and choice, empowerment, and collaboration helped to create spaces for leaders to be reflective and understand themselves as they lead others. Equipping leaders with the skills to ask the right questions, create safe spaces for dialogue, and promote equitable practices is essential to promoting connectedness in organizational settings and schools. Schools can support key front line staff by attending to policies and practices that support continuing reflection and learning. Finally, those in organizations can use the PAR methods with staff to interrogate their practices and better engage as collaborative teams of adults who care for themselves and others.
LaFeldt, Jodi. (April 2019). You Can't Give What You Don't Have: A Community of Care Among Special Education Supervisors (Doctoral Dissertation, East Carolina University). Retrieved from the Scholarship. (http://hdl.handle.net/10342/7185.)
LaFeldt, Jodi. You Can't Give What You Don't Have: A Community of Care Among Special Education Supervisors. Doctoral Dissertation. East Carolina University, April 2019. The Scholarship. http://hdl.handle.net/10342/7185. February 24, 2021.
LaFeldt, Jodi, “You Can't Give What You Don't Have: A Community of Care Among Special Education Supervisors” (Doctoral Dissertation., East Carolina University, April 2019).
LaFeldt, Jodi. You Can't Give What You Don't Have: A Community of Care Among Special Education Supervisors [Doctoral Dissertation]. Greenville, NC: East Carolina University; April 2019.
East Carolina University