Compassionate Leadership for School Improvement and Renewal

Edited by:
Kara Lasater, University of Arkansas
Kristina N. LaVenia, Bowling Green State University

A volume in the series: Leadership for School Improvement. Editor(s): Khalid Arar, Texas State University.

Published 2024

Compassionate Leadership for School Improvement and Renewal aims to equip educational leaders with the knowledge, skills, and learning experiences necessary to approach their work from an intentional stance of compassion. Schools serve as both sites and sources of suffering; yet compassionate leadership can facilitate healing for students, educators, and community members. The moment is right to move the field toward a compassion-centered approach to leadership. In recent years, people around the world have experienced unfathomable loss and suffering due to the COVID-19 pandemic, persistent inequities and subsequent social justice protests, war and violence, and catastrophic natural disasters. These events created perpetual anxiety, stress, fear, uncertainty, loss, and grief for millions of people—including educators. Now perhaps more than ever, people need to give and receive compassion. The purpose of the volume is to build educational leaders’ capacity to demonstrate compassion, foster collective compassion within their schools and districts, establish organizational environments in which compassion is routinely given and received, and, subsequently, transform schools into sites of healing. Ultimately, through the unique contributions of each chapter, this volume offers a path toward school improvement that is both renewing and sustaining.

"As a former school counselor and school administrator, my view about compassionate leadership is one grounded in relational practice. This may be obvious to some, but unfortunately lost on many. This thoughtful volume edited by Kara Lasater and Kristina LaVenia explores a desperately needed reformulation of school leadership for our times. Compassionate leadership takes enormous courage because it works against much of the institutional ethos that forms and frames the role, thinking, and behaviors of those ostensibly charged to both manage and lead schools." — William C. Frick, University of Oklahoma

"The education system is in its most challenging period in decades, perhaps in the past century. The need now is to address student, staff and organizational suffering. Lasater and LaVenia et. al., offer antidotes in this volume by providing up to date research, theory and insight to cultivate, conceptualize and practice compassionate educational leadership. For those who teach and lead with their heart, this book is essential reading." — Joseph A. Polizzi, Sacred Heart University

"In an increasingly challenging educational landscape, leaders find themselves facing teacher shortages, student trauma, and learning loss. Schools could easily become institutions rife with secondary trauma and burned out professionals operating in stark contrast to the unifying motivations that drew each of us into this profession. This volume reminds us that among the many skill sets leaders must employ, organizational and leader compassion fulfills a fundamental human need and unlocks a means by which schools can transform from professional survival to the joyful work of changing lives for the better." — Joshua Ray, Greenwood Public Schools

Endorsements. Foreword, Mónica Byrne-Jiménez. Introduction, Kara Lasater and Kristina N. LaVenia. PART I: CULTIVATING COMPASSION THROUGH REFLECTIVE, CONTEMPLATIVE LEARNING EXPERIENCES. Leaders Cultivate Compassion and Dignity Within Themselves and Their Schools, William R. Penuel, Ashley Seidel Potvin, Sona Dimidjian, and Thupten Jinpa. Leading With Relational Compassion: A Contemplative Professional Education Journey Towards Collective Liberation, Wayne Serebrin. Living in Circle: Reflections on Compassionate Leadership and Living the Terms of Truth and Reconciliation, Kelly Hanson and Sabre Cherkowski. Emotional Labor & School Leaders’ Compassionate Practice: The Importance of Relational Skills Development, Kristina N. LaVenia, Kara Lasater, and Marlise Lonn. PART II: CONCEPTUALIZING COMPASSIONATE LEADERSHIP. Why Care About Compassionate Leadership? The Relationship Between Compassionate Leadership and Teacher Work Engagement, Burnout, and Creative and Respectful Behaviors Towards Students, Liat Eldor. Caretaker Leadership: Conceptualizing School Principals as Compassionate Servant Leaders, Sonya D. Hayes and Erin Anderson. Practicing Compassionate Leadership During Times of Collective Adversity: Lessons From Posttraumatic Growth Research and Appreciative Inquiry, Kelly Gesmundo Clarke. PART III: PRACTICING COMPASSIONATE LEADERSHIP. Strategies for Leading Schools With Compassion, Jo Beth Jimerson, Kathleen Kyzar, and Brandy Quinn. Resisting the Single Story of Addiction: Schools as Sources of Compassion and Support for Families With Substance Use Disorders, Kara Lasater and Kristina N. LaVenia. Compassionate Leadership Through Instructional Vision for Special Education, Chris Willis, Kristina N. LaVenia, and Kara Lasater. Conclusion: Compassion in an Era of Incivility, Kara Lasater. Biographies.