Cohort 12 of Buell Fellows, 2019-2020
The 12th Cohort of the Buell Early Childhood Leadership Program represents a culturally and linguistically diverse group of leaders. These 18 Buell Fellows, all identifying as women, are emerging and experienced early childhood leaders mostly from the Denver metro area. Three Fellows reside 90 or more miles from the Front Range, in Pueblo, Gipson, and Canon City. This year’s Fellows are employed in various work environments of the early childhood landscape. This group of leaders is so much more than their number, titles, or location - they are the wise wonderful women who have embraced, shaped and are sharing their 2019-2020 Buell Fellowship year together.
Participatory Action Learning and Action Research
We believe that all early childhood professionals with a stance of commitment and curiosity about children and families have the capacity to be leaders and innovators able to co-create “open, engaging, and democratic cultures” (Lambert et al. 2016) in our communities. Our long-term outcomes as BECLP faculty reflect the sentiments of Dugan’s (2017) description of Strategic Social Change Leadership where we aim to go beyond individual achievements and productivity, but rather to reframe discourse, promote a “greater sense of interdependence” (p. 303), and unleash human energies through transformational learning and community-based action. Across the experiences during the full program year, Fellows build agency with others within the cohort and within their communities to transform and apply theory in ways that advance leadership that can make a meaningful difference in the world.
Specifically, we are guided by the emerging paradigm and practice of Participatory Action Learning and Action Research (PALAR), most recently defined and described by Lesley Wood (2020). As practicing leaders we are grounded in appreciative forms of inquiry and the generative journey, collaborative curiosity, innovation and the potential of human organizing. We have learned the power of unleashing positive potential through affirmative questions that seek to surface “provocative curiosity” that brings out “the best of each other and the situation” (Whitney, et al., 2010, p. 205).
In dialogue with the 12th cohort, we began a PALAR process in January, 2020 by identifying the following collective goals:
- Explore the courage of not knowing
- Develop efficacy and agency while we educate ourselves and others
- Illuminate children, family, and practitioner voices
- Stay rooted in an equitable lens with a stance of humility
- Appreciate context as we join with others on their journey
Pivot in a Pandemic
The group was together in one room on March 7th, 2020. We left with renewed PALAR research agreements and plans for further engaging our communities. Then our communities entered into rapid and immediate changes in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic that altered our individual and collective leadership priorities in significant ways. We made a pivot and a commitment to practice our goals in a different way and found a collective call to deepen and share our stories in the following quote.
“Hope is tough. It’s tougher to be uncertain than certain. It’s tougher to take chances than to be safe. And so hope is often seen as weakness, because it’s vulnerable, but it takes strength to enter into that vulnerability of being open to the possibilities. And I’m interested in what gives people that strength. And, what stories, what questions, what memories, what conversations, what senses of themselves and the world around them.” ~Rebecca Solnit (2020)
Lived Stories of Leading
The leadership stories of the 12th cohort are offered as a gift. They are a unique set of individual reflections on early childhood leadership from unique times, perspectives, and ways of being in the world. The stories are organized around three emergent themes that represent journey arcs of leadership development - Life Deep, Life Wide, and Life Long. One set of stories invites us into discovering new leading practices through and during the BECLP year (Life Deep). Another set of stories magnifies the experience of leading and learning during a global pandemic (Life Wide). And a final set of stories illuminates life-long journeys of leading from prior to BECLP and beyond (Life Long). Embedded in the stories are gifts of vulnerability, strength, and hope, gifts of critical questions surfacing the realities of our current early childhood leadership, and gifts of memories and calls to the future. Please take with you the gifts that compel you the most during this time. We thank the wise wonderful women of the 12th Cohort!
Dugan, J.P. (2017). Leadership Theory: Cultivating Critical Perspectives. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Lambert, L., Zimmerman, D. P. & Gardner, M.E. (2016). Liberating Leadership Capacity: Pathways to Educational Wisdom. NY: Teachers College Press.
Solnit, R. (2020). Falling Together as recorded in interview with Krista Tippet, On Being podcast.
Whitney, D. & Trosten-Bloom, A. (2010). The Power of Appreciative inquiry: A Practical Guide to Positive Change. Routledge.
Wood, L. (2020). Participatory Learning Participatory Action Research. London: Routledge.