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Article

Kurt Stemhagen and Tamara Sober

There are a variety of ways in which teachers engage in activism. Teachers working for social change within their classrooms and teachers who engage in advocacy and organize to influence policy, law, and society are all doing work that falls under the umbrella of teacher activism. While there are numerous catalysts, many teachers become activists when they encounter unjust educational or social structures. There are also considerable obstacles to teachers recognizing their potential power as activists. From the gendered history of teaching to the widespread conception of teaching as a solitary and not a collective enterprise, there is rarely an easy path toward activism. The importance of collective as opposed to individual social action among teachers is increasingly recognized. Many cities now have teacher activist organizations, a group of which have come together and created a national coalition of teacher activist groups. Overall, teacher activism is an underresearched and undertheorized academic area of study. Possibilities for collective action should be fully explored.

Article

Lori Beckett and Amanda Nuttall

The case story of a local struggle in the north of England by research-active teachers to raise their collective voice and advocate for more realistic policies and practices in urban schools is one which premises teacher activism. A school–university partnership initiative exemplifies how teachers, school heads, school leaders, and academic partners can work together to address disadvantaged students’ lives, learning needs, and schooling experiences. The practitioners’ participation in an intensive, research-informed project to build teachers’ knowledge about poverty effects on teaching and learning was successful in the yield of teacher inquiry projects which were published. However, teachers’ efforts to combat student disaffection and under-achievement were deprecated with a lack of system support to the point where democratic impulse and social justice goals were weakened. It would be a misnomer to describe these teachers’ professional intellectual and inquiry work as activist, but they did engage in transformative practices. This led to the production of new knowledge and teachers working collectively toward school—and community—improvement, but it was not enough to effect policy advocacy. Professional knowledge building as a foundation of teacher activism is foregrounded in the matter of trust in teachers. To agitate for change and action in a vernacular neoliberal climate means to fight for teachers’ and academics’ voices to be heard.