Teacher perceptions of teacher advocacy
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This qualitative study explored teachers’ perceptions of advocacy, specifically advocacy for themselves and other teachers. The major question that drove this study was: How do elementary classroom teachers perceive their ability to act as advocates to change their professional situations? Sub-questions included: How do teachers perceive union membership as an advocate outlet? To whom do teachers turn for support when they engage in advocate activities? What forces inhibit/encourage teachers to become advocates? Where do teachers learn to become advocates? To explore these questions, a two phase study was conducted. Each phase consisted of a focus group of elementary teachers who met for six interview sessions. Data each phase was first analyzed independently for insights into the views of each group of participants; then, cross-case analysis was conducted to explore the similarities and differences in the participants’ stories and to compare these to relevant literature. Finally, these data were used as a site for theory generation about the topic of teacher advocacy. The findings indicate that the teachers in this study exhibited ambivalence toward power and that this ambivalence directly affected the teachers’ advocacy on behalf of themselves and other teachers. Three sub-themes support the overarching theme of ambivalence toward power: (1) power and resistance, (2) negotiating power, and (3) reluctance to access power. Additionally, it was found that the culture in which the teachers were located and the discourse of professionalism held a direct influence on the teachers’ ambivalence toward power. It is important to note that the findings were not and should not be generalized beyond the participant groups (Flores & Alonso, 1995). This study will make a significant contribution to the field of education. By sharing the stories and experiences of teachers concerning a topic yet to be explored in the educational literature, this study addresses a gap in such literature and also sheds light on previously hidden aspects of teachers’ lives.