Pedagogies of Organizing

Josephine H. Pham | California State University Fullerton
Thomas M. Philip | University of California Berkeley
Posted 20 February 2021

(Descriptive text follows the bios and recommended citation below.)

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Josephine H. Pham is an Assistant Professor in the College of Education at California State University, Fullerton. Her background as a daughter of Vietnamese refugees, classroom teacher, teacher leader, and teacher educator in urban and suburban secondary schools informs her research on multidimensional pedagogies and practices for social transformation. Specifically, she is interested in the day-to-day practices and learning of teachers of Color working towards liberatory education.

Thomas M. Philip is Professor of Education at University of California Berkeley. His research focuses on how teachers make sense of power and hierarchy in classrooms, schools, and society. He is interested in how teachers act on their sense of agency as they navigate and ultimately transform classrooms and institutions toward more equitable, just, and democratic practices and outcomes.

Andrew Kohan can’t decide what he wants to be when he grows up, but for now he’s a working comics artist and illustrator regularly making trouble at Winnipeg City Hall. A trained community organizer with roots in the HIV/AIDS movement, he’s made art and noise with grassroots activists in DC, Chicago, Cleveland, and Toronto. More of his work is available at

Recommended citation:

Pham, Josephine H., Thomas M. Philip, and Andrew Kohan. “Pedagogies of Organizing.” Sequentials, vol. 2, no. 1, 2021.

Text descriptions of page images:

Page 1

Title: Pedagogies of Organizing

by Josephine H. Pham and Thomas M. Philip

Comic image of Josephine holding a placard that says “Stand for Ethnic Studies.”

Comic image of Thomas with a small child on his shoulders.

Text: “Context: LA Teacher Strike”

Comic image of Josephine talking to Thomas.

Josephine speech bubble: “To advance educational justice, teacher union organizers grapple with multiple possibilities for engaging people on social issues, while being responsive in the moment.”

Thomas speech bubble: “These practices nurture common cause and identity among teachers with diverse interests, who feel empowered to take collective action.”

Comic image of one person speaking to a group of angry teachers with hands on hips or raised in the air.

Person 1 says: “The district is trying to cut our health care.”

Teacher group says: “Uh-uh!”

Person 1 thought bubble: “Everyone here seems to care about health care… learning about the history of teacher-led action will show that change is possible!”

Person 1 to teachers: “Last year they tried to cut our pay, but teachers put a stop to that. That’s why we need you to take action!”

Page 2

Text box at the top: “In January 2019, over 30,000 Los Angeles teachers marched alongside students, families, community members, and working people to take action for racial, economic, and educational justice. This action was made possible through years of organizing within United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA).”

Comic image of a diverse group of people holding a banner that reads, “We stand with LA teachers: fighting for our students.” People hold flags and placards. One person is playing a tuba. Another person is playing an upside-down water-cooler bottle as a drum.

Comic images of Josephine’s and Thomas’s faces in ovals at the left and right of the page, with speech bubbles in between them.

Josephine speech bubble: “We wanted to understand the practices of Makario, a Filipino American teacher and union organizer”

Thomas speech bubble: “and how he facilitated diverse groups’ learning about social issues to take action, while prioritizing marginalized people’s interests. We call this…”

Shared speech bubble from Josephine and Thomas: “pedagogies of organizing.”

Comic image of Makario standing behind a child. Both wear red shirts that read: “America needs public schools.”

Makario speech bubble: “As a man of color working in a majority women workforce, I have to be mindful that women of color are leaders of this social movement.”

Makario Word bubble: “As a person of color teaching low-income students of color, and as a father, I have to do something to preserve free education for all students.”

Page 3

Text box: “The Los Angeles teacher union did many things for many years to prepare for and support teachers to take action.”

Text 1: “like running training meetings.”

Comic image 1: Lead union organizer runs a meeting with a slide presentation saying: “What can we do to be strike-ready?”

Text 2: “offering pre-printed and handmade signs”

Comic image 2: Protest signs lay overlapping on a surface. They read: “Ethnic Studies, School funding, Justice,” “Students for Immigrant justice,” and “We all stand with teachers.”

Text 3: “recruiting members within an anti-union context.”

Comic image 3: Supreme court building with a document in the foreground that reads “Janus v. AFSCME,” followed by rows of small print.

Text 4: “and organizing food and including grassroots organizations in actions”

Comic image 4: Pupusa & breakfast burritos being distributed from behind a table by a woman in an apron.

Text box: “While activities like setting up a designated meeting place before school picketing seem ‘ordinary,’ the planning and implementation of collective action require strategic thinking and deep relational work—”

Comic image of a long table set with boxes of coffee and donuts, cups, and 2-liter bottles of soda. Signs lean against the table that say, “Stand against DeVos.” Makario stands to the side with a megaphone at his feet and one hand at his chin in contemplation. Thought bubble: “Where should we set up so that our action is most visible?”

Text box: “—which expanded public attention to social issues that impacted schools and the broader community.”

Comic image: Four teachers picketing. Cars behind them honk in support.

Teacher 1 has megaphone and says, “Our schools are under attack! What do we do?”

Teachers 2 and 3 respond to the chant: “Stand up! Fight back!” They hold a large sign that says “Privatizers take a hike.”

Teacher 4 holds a sign that says, “Maestros trabajamos por el pueblo!” (Teachers, we work for the people!) Teacher 4 speech bubble says: “The unions are under attack! What do we do?”

All teachers respond: “Stand up, fight back!”

Page 4

Josephine’s face appears in an oval at left. Josephine speech bubble: “Makario often worked tirelessly behind the scenes to create the conditions for people to take action.”

Thomas’s face appears in an oval at right. Thomas speech bubble: “We don’t think about these practices because they happen right under our noses!”

Comic image of a duck that looks calm above water. Over its head are the words, “This action went smoothly!” Underwater, however, the duck’s webbed feet kick vigorously, creating a lot of bubbles.

Underwater text reads: “Do we have all the materials needed for the rally? Can I find student volunteers to speak with the media about our campaign? What is our backup plan if we don’t get city permits for closing down the streets?”

Page 5

Text box: “Makario’s practices included strategic recruitment of women of color who were authentically positioned to be at the forefront of action—”

Comic image of a Black woman at a lectern, which is labeled with the UTLA logo in the shape of an open book. She holds her hand over her heart and has a determined look on her face. She speaks into a microphone: “I am a mother and a teacher, and I care about the well-being of our students.” Supporters behind her have signs that say, “Keep public in public education.” At the left of the page, a camera man in a baseball cap records the scene. Makario stands off to the side, arms cross at his chest, looking satisfied.

Text box: “—increasing the participation of a wide range of social movement actors.”

A series of comic images show different educators, activists, and children.

Image 1: A young child and adult hold posters that say, “Stand with LA Teachers.”

Image 2: Four people do a call-and-response chant in Spanish: “Maestros unidos!” / “Jamás serán vencidos!”

Image 3: Two students walk, holding signs that say, “Students deserve a nurse every day” and “Students deserve fully funded schools.”

Image 4: Two teachers hold a sign between them that reads: “We stand with our Black, Muslim, LGBTQ, undocumented students.”

Image 5: Three adults and a child pose for photo in sunglasses.

Image 6: A dog wears a shirt that says, “4 public education.”

Page 6

The page is broken into four panels.

Panel 1, full-width: Josephine’s face appears in an oval at the top-left of the panel. Speech bubble: “Unexpected events sometimes occurred on the day of large action, and union organizers improvised as needed.”

Comic image: Rain falls on a city plaza. Teachers participating in a rally wear red, with many of them carrying umbrellas. In the foreground, a man reaches out from under his umbrella, and a raindrop falls against his open palm. The man’s speech bubble says, “It’s raining on the first day of strike!” Makario replies, “Yep!” He wears a hooded jacket and pulls his toddler behind him in a wagon. The toddler carries a striped umbrella. Makario also holds a sign that says, “Rain or shine, we walk the line.”

Panels 2 and 3 form the next row. Overlapping the tops of panels 2 and 3 is a speech bubble from Thomas, who appears in an oval at left. Thomas speech bubble: “Makario improvised by paying attention to people’s needs during action.”

Panel 2: Makario notices lead chanter saying “No Justice!” with low volume and uneven responses of “No Peace!” from the crowd.

Image 3: Makario joins the march with a megaphone and responds “No Peace!” alongside crowd until they are louder.

Panel 4, full-width: Josephine’s face appears in an oval. Speech bubble: “Depending on the mood of the crowd, he also improvised music to re-energize people throughout action.”

Comic image: A crowd at a rally, including some people carrying signs saying, “Fund our schools” and “Limit charter school growth,” is re-energized by music (lyrics with music notes to Prince’s song entitled “7”: “All seven and we’ll watch them fall / They stand in the way of love / and we will smoke them all”). Makario stands on the event stage, DJ’ing. Makario thought bubble: “How do I want people to feel? How are they moving?

Page 7

Text: “During a day of action, union organizers like Makario are often the first ones there, and the last ones to leave.”

Comic image: Thomas, standing with a small child at his feet, saying, “Pedagogies of organizing are essential to facilitating people and coordinating space for collective action.”

Comic image: Makario, the organizer, stands in the bed of a truck next to two stacked speakers. Thought bubble: “Time to set up the music before people come!”

Central comic image: A multiracial group of people with signs and a UTLA banner with shared speech bubble that says: “WE STAND WITH LA TEACHERS!”

Comic image: Josephine holds a sign and says, “It is intellectual and orchestrated work, and often overlooked in large action, and unwritten about in history books!”

Comic image: Makario pushes a speaker on a dolly near the back of the truck. Thought bubble: “Maintaining solidarity for a shared cause is hard work!”

Text: “Let’s honor the unrecognized and important work of teacher union organizers who have transformed the past, the present, and the future of our schools.”

Comic image: UTLA teachers and organizers march with a megaphone, with signs that read “Fund our Schools” and a red sign in the shape of an apple with text that reads “#RedforEd.”

Page 8

This comic is part of Learning to Engage: Movements and Sociocultural Theories of Learning.

For more, visit:

Written by Josephine H. Pham (a little sketch of Josephine) (@PhamJosephine, and Thomas M. Philip (a little sketch of Thomas) (@ThomasMPhilip,

Art and lettering by Andrew Kohan (little sketch of Andrew) (@akohan,

Edited by Joe Curnow (little sketch of Joe) (@LearnSolidarity, & Tanner Vea (little sketch of Tanner) (@TannerVea,

To find out more about the research presented in this comic, go check out:

Pham, J. H., & Philip, T. M. (2020). "Shifting education reform towards anti-racist and intersectional visions of justice: A study of pedagogies of organizing by a teacher of color." Journal of the Learning Sciences.

This comic was made possible by a grant from the Spencer Foundation (Grant #201900131). The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Spencer Foundation.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License