Opening up connections with community, place and culture: Teacher becoming through culturally responsive place-based practice.

Year: 2021

Author: Diplock, Abigail

Type of paper: Symposium

This paper will share Naomi’s culturally responsive practice, where she works with her Aboriginal students to critique and reclaim place through the creation of a new school mural. As a Boandik woman, Naomi ‘knows’ (cognitively and affectively) the profound need for connecting with and strengthening students’ cultural identities. For her, working with community, place and culture was foundational to her culturally responsive practice. In the unit of work discussed in this paper, Naomi provokes her students to recognise the constructedness of place (Comber et al, 2006), and to question and critique how an old ‘Aboriginal’ school mural both represents and affects who they are. The class then worked with a local community artist to create a new school mural, thus re-constructing this site with their own politically and culturally layered stories, and re-presenting themselves in the public space of the school yard. In this way, the artwork offered possibilities for Naomi and her students to assert, reframe and reimagine who they were through emergent conversations and interactions with others. Thus the new mural transformed the publicness of this space, enabling Naomi and her students to become public pedagogues, opening up new ‘opportunities for public relationships-in-plurality’ (Biesta, 2019, p. 139). In this paper I use affect theories of ‘becoming with’ to consider how working with community, place and culture offered new possibilities for both the students’ and Naomi’s becoming (Somerville, 2010; Barad, 2007). Drawing on Bronwyn Fredericks’ assertion that people don’t ‘just “make” place, the places and spaces “make” them’ (Fredericks 2009, p. 29), I suggest that critiquing and repainting the mural was more than Naomi and her students remaking place. It was also place remaking them. Thus I consider how Naomi’s culturally responsive practice opened up new connections with culture, place and community and how this in turn offered affective possibilities for her and her students’ becoming.