In this chapter, I will introduce the rationale for this book in which I present the aim of my research, which is to discover, through the stories they tell, why women teachers stay in the profession and become trade union activists. In the second part of this chapter, I indicate how subsequent chapters link together to consider my research questions and the aim of my work.
This chapter explores the complexity of teachers’ identity and sense of self. The literature focuses upon the impact of government policy and the emotional work of teaching, citing some of the policy moments which have indicated significant changes to teachers’ roles and their understanding of the concept of professional identity.
This chapter discusses the process of the professionalisation of support staff and how this has shaped the perceptions of the teaching profession and the shifting nature of the role of the qualified teacher. In order to provide conceptual clarity, I have adopted the stance that ‘professionalisation’ is the formalising of work that is done in order to transform the work into a profession and the worker into a professional.
This chapter reviews factors concerning activism and related concepts. I explore the phenomenon of global resistance and the concepts of collective resistance, power, agency and resilience in the context of my research questions. Teachers are on the front line of education in the classroom which is an important and influential position, yet in this position, they are also likely to be criticised or attacked. Although teachers are in such a strong position, being on the frontline of teaching in the classroom on a daily basis, the oppressive nature of the government education reform agenda has undermined their influence through their neo-liberal attitudes and behaviour. The power of solidarity against the neo-liberal education agenda has provided a strong platform which is empowering to teachers locally and globally. I have drawn upon the work of Picower (2012), having explored a wide range of literature and possibilities, to define teacher activism, the journey of which this chapter charts.
This chapter presents my interpretation of some of the main themes and sub-themes that have emerged from the data. Having conducted an initial analytical approach, as described in the research methodology chapter, I began by ‘pawing’ to get the ‘feel’ of the data (Ryan & Bernard, 2003). I then systematically began to code the data to identify themes.
This chapter is informed by the literature review and findings chapters to present a discussion regarding the main themes that have arisen from the data in the context of the research questions. I use the research questions as headings within this chapter and specify the aim of my research at the onset. The concepts which have formed the basis of the literature review chapters – teacher professionalism, professionalization, identity and activism – have been considered here, explicitly and implicitly, to maintain cohesion in the study. The themes of my findings relate to my research questions in a structural way.
This study was carried out to fulfil the aim of my research, which is to discover, through the stories they tell, why women teachers stay in the profession and become trade union activists. I provide conclusions to my study to explain why the research was carried out and I also provide recommendations for further research and discuss the limitations of the research I have undertaken in this study. Most importantly, I present what I believe to be my original contribution to the field of knowledge.