Reconstructing the power narrative: how Winnipeg elementary school teachers think about and define their everyday work

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Bell, Jennifer
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This study explores how Winnipeg early years elementary school teachers think about and define their everyday work. Many studies have addressed teacher perspectives. These studies, however, are often prescribed to particular subject areas, teaching methods, teaching strategies, or challenges. In contrast, this study casts the net wide and was concerned with broader narratives that examined how teachers think about their everyday work. The research question that guided this study was: How do teachers think about and define their everyday work? Winnipeg elementary schools are situated in a local context that must be understood within a global context. In other words, Winnipeg elementary schools and classrooms are a small part of a wider universe. Accordingly, this research speaks to existing data by examining the lived experiences of teachers from their perspectives, in their specific context. This qualitative study was guided by a phenomenological approach and atheoretical constructivist grounded theory. This study was not led by a hypothesis or a particular theory. From this standpoint, the broad concepts of what the teacher participants shared could be illuminated. The findings identified significant challenges that teachers face in their everyday work, including direct violence, working with trauma, and lack of resources. These are not unlike human rights challenges found globally. Winnipeg elementary school teachers also identified strategies that are supportive in their everyday work, including student voice, and the importance of including multiple intelligences and perspectives and social and emotional needs. Building relationships was foundational to teachers’ everyday work. Ultimately, the teacher participants in this study identified areas of their jobs where they had influence and where they did not. Teachers are finding influence in humanizing, validating practices. The practice of advocating for dignity and human rights is a radical paradigm shift seeking to resist dehumanization and division. This speaks to power related to connection, cooperation and empathy.
education, power, transformation, conflict, culture, inequality