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Voices of social justice activist educators in Arizona

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The passing of anti-immigrant legislation in the state of Arizona over the last decade has exacerbated an already oppressive system perpetuated by globalization and its byproducts, neoliberalism and neoconservativism. The

The passing of anti-immigrant legislation in the state of Arizona over the last decade has exacerbated an already oppressive system perpetuated by globalization and its byproducts, neoliberalism and neoconservativism. The social justice activist educators who live and work with the children and families most affected by these laws and policies must learn to navigate these controls if they hope to sustain their work. I have drawn from Freire's work surrounding the theories of praxis and conscientization to explain the motivation of these teachers, and the sociological theory of Communities of Practice (Lave & Wenger, 1991; Wenger, 1998; & Wenger, McDermott, & Snyder, 2002), to explain how the group, Arizona Teachers for Justice serves as a space of learning and support for these educators. This dissertation is a multiple case study and has employed semi-structured interviews with four social justice activist educators to understand how social justice activist educators in Arizona cope and sustain their teaching and activism, particularly through their membership in groups such as Arizona Teachers for Justice. The teachers in this study are each at different stages in their careers and each teaches in a different setting and/or grade level. This cross section provides multiple perspectives and varied lenses through which to view the struggles and triumphs of social justice activist educators in the state of Arizona. The teachers in this study share their experiences of being singled out for their activism and explain the ways they cope with such attacks. They explain how they manage to fulfill their dedication to equity by integrating critical materials while adhering to common core standards. They express the anger that keeps them fighting in the streets and the fears that keep them from openly rejecting unjust policies. The findings of this study contribute to the discussion of how to not only prepare social justice activist educators, but ways of supporting and sustaining their very crucial work. Neoliberal and neoconservative attacks on education are pervasive and it is critical that we prepare teachers to face these structural pressures if we hope to ever change the dehumanizing agenda of these global powers.

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  • 2013

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All we are saying: teachers' narratives of lived classroom experience

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Accounts in the media often demonize teachers and misrepresent what is happening in schools. Meanwhile, teachers' voices are largely absent from the national and international debates on school reform. This

Accounts in the media often demonize teachers and misrepresent what is happening in schools. Meanwhile, teachers' voices are largely absent from the national and international debates on school reform. This dissertation privileges the voices of nine participating Kindergarten through second grade teachers from a variety of public schools, including affluent schools and schools receiving full and partial Title I funding. Through observations and interviews teachers shared their narratives of classroom joys and challenges while also describing how policy has affected these experiences. A preliminary discourse analysis of these narratives was performed, identifying narratives related to nodes of the activity system of schooling. Further discourse analysis of these identified narratives revealed how these teachers' classroom experiences position them within an activity system strongly influenced by tensions between maternal relationships and the patriarchal project of schooling. A critical feminist theoretical perspective is utilized to respond to these tensions and to describe possibilities for future studies in education and the future of education in general.

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  • 2011