Challenges faced by female superintendents in rural South Texas school districts and their implications for superintendent preparation programs

Date

2023-5

Authors

DeWitt, Michelle Crystal

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Abstract

This case study explored general education elementary teachers’ sense of self-efficacy for supporting students dealing with mental health problems in the general education setting. The research for this case study also sought to understand general elementary teachers’ interactions, training, and support for those teachers who have students struggling with mental health issues in the general education setting. For this case study, the researcher interviewed 15 participants utilizing a purposeful sampling semi-structured interview to gather rich data (Creswell & Clark, 2011). The overarching research questions that guided this study were: 1.) What is general education elementary teachers’ sense of self-efficacy in teaching students with mental health issues in their classrooms? 2.) How do general education elementary teachers describe their classroom interactions with students who have mental health issues? 3.) What training and support, if any, have school districts provided general education elementary teachers who work with students that are struggling with mental health problems? The theoretical framework that guided this study was a social-cognitive theory (Bandura, 1986). Mental health providers and educators may use the framework of social cognitive theory to help improve teachers’ self-efficacy involving students with mental health issues by providing strategies to identify and address students who struggle with mental health disorders. Self-efficacy is a significant component of Bandura’s (1986) social cognitive theory, which contends that an individual’s behavior prevails upon their self-influence. According to a 2012 United States Department of Education report, general education teachers have 80% of students with mental health disorders sitting in their classrooms. Teachers are often one of the first to identify students with mental health problems within the school setting (Fredriksen & Rhodes, 2004) because of their relationships with students and their position to see behaviors and emotions on a normative scale (Headley & Campbell, 2011). It is imperative to intervene early when someone has a mental health problem to avoid exacerbating symptoms throughout their life (Belfer, 2008) and help them return to normal functioning (CSMH, 2012). Students who display mental health issues struggle to make adequate progress, continue falling further behind their peers, and experience increased academic frustration (Strauss, 2015). Since there is a rise in the number of students suffering from mental health issues in the general education setting, it is necessary to provide the general education teacher with the proper training, resources, and support to ensure the teacher can identify and provide the necessary resources for those students with mental health issues. Research has found that many teachers leave their profession because they become burned out, which was supported by the findings of this study. The research indicates a direct correlation between teachers’ perceived self-efficacy in classroom management (Brouwers & Tomic, 2000) and the increased burnout rate. Burnout and low self-efficacy can negatively affect teachers’ emotional state, classroom management abilities, and students’ performance (Herman et al., 2018). The rate at which teachers leave the profession is significantly higher than the departure rate in other professions (Minarik, Thornton, & Perreault, 2003). In the teaching profession, turnover is higher now than ever, with as many as 40 to 50% of teachers leaving by the end of their fifth year (Strauss, 2015). One of the findings from this study was that many teachers stated that they were growing tired and frustrated or even wanted to leave the profession. Additionally, all participants indicated the importance of training in identifying and understanding the characteristics of significant mental health disorders in children. Eleven of the fifteen participants in this study had low self-efficacy, which hinders the overall academic success of students with mental health issues. In this study, most participants did not receive any classes on mental health while obtaining their bachelor’s degree in education. Lack of training is a crucial barrier to student mental health interventions (Moon et al., 2017). Teachers in this study felt the weight of responsibility to provide student mental health interventions, which creates stressful situations for teachers to navigate. Limited mental health training in teacher preparation programs and professional development contributes to a lack of or delayed interventions provided to students. Participants in this study were not provided mental health training during teacher preparation, which is consistent with the literature (Reinke et al., 2008).

Description

A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership.

Keywords

female superintendents, South Texas, superintendent preparation programs, superintendents

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