Australian students come from a wide range of linguistic and cultural backgrounds with each context providing unique challenges. Tensions however exist between the intentions to address diversity and the competing influence of a high-stakes context that prioritizes monolingual classroom practices and diminishes teachers’ use of engaging pedagogy. Viewed through the lens of socio-spatial theory, these tensions highlight how the ideal of education for diversity is re-shaped by the everyday practices in schools and systems. This can result in monolingual ‘firstspace’ practices that do little to develop the knowledge of language and culture that is central to students’ engagement with learning. This article reports ethnographic research in which secondary subject English teachers challenged routinized monolingual practices and re-imagined their classroom practices. The use of translanguaging and the reading and writing of poetry – translanguaging poetry pedagogy – created ‘space’ to support a dynamic process in which students could use all their linguistic resources to produce identity texts. The use of translanguaging and identity texts disrupts a transmission pedagogy that positions the student as a blank slate. Teachers reported how translanguaging poetry pedagogy moved from a ‘thirdspace’ practice to a ‘what we do’ or ‘firstspace’ practice as they came to see that using students’ full language repertoire is a way to return the power of language to their students. The resultant translanguaging space and the symbolic propensity of poetry helped students to develop powerful personal representations and reinforces the need for pedagogies that acknowledge students’ diverse backgrounds, and honor the languages and identity of all students.
- social justice