Organized: an exploration of teachers' engagement in grassroots organizing

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University of Delaware
This multi-method qualitative study explored why, how, and in what contexts a group of Philadelphia teachers engaged in grassroots organizing (McAlevey, 2016). At a time when educators across the country are increasingly participating in bottom-up, grassroots movements seeking more democratic visions of education reform, this critically bifocal (Weis & Fine, 2012) project situated the motivations and activities of these teacher-organizers within the larger neoliberal context of the city and school district of Philadelphia. Drawing on narrative inquiry (Chase, 2005; Connely & Clandinin, 1990), critical place inquiry (Massey, 1993; Massey, 1994) and ethnography (Vargas, 2008), this dissertation provides insight into the understandings and experiences of the teachers as well as the tangible means by which they engaged in grassroots organizing in the challenging environment of Philadelphia. ☐ More specifically, teachers of this inquiry were found to be embodying the two key elements of Freire’s (1970) definition of praxis, “reflection and action upon the world in order to transform it” (p. 70, emphasis added). Pairing activities centered on learning and reflection (e.g. book groups) with activities centered on taking action and seeking change (e.g. policy campaigns), the dual elements of praxis played an essential role in actualizing McAlevey’s (2016) model of grassroots organizing within the teachers’ work.