Manipulative Managers and Devilish Dictators: Teachers’ Perspectives On the Dilemmas and Challenges of Classroom Leadership

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This qualitative study looked at how early childhood teachers talk about and interact with the most powerful children in their classrooms—the student leaders. Relying primarily on interviews with six teachers in early childhood classrooms (infants, toddlers, and preschoolers) within a University‐affiliated center, this paper reconsidered leadership qualities in young children from the teachers’ point of view, probing the often overlooked challenges and dilemmas that young leaders present in student‐student and student‐adult relationships. Findings showed that the teachers described children’s leadership skills in positive ways in the abstract, but these theoretical beliefs were quickly challenged by the realities of the classroom. As a result, teachers faced the complex dilemma of supporting individual children’s leadership strengths while nurturing their own visions of classroom community. Findings are discussed with reference to implications for practice, including implications for early childhood teacher education, and suggestions for further study.



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