The messages teachers convey to their students through their use of language can often go unconsidered, yet such practices can have a significant impact on students and their schooling, and in the creation of learning difficulties. In this paper we employ a discursive and ideological approach to analysing teachers’ language practices and suggest that such systematic examination is warranted given the centrality of ‘teacher talk’ to students’ schooling. We draw attention to these concerns through an analysis of a spoken text between a teacher and student in the context of ‘show and tell’; a dialogue drawn from a larger body of data of interviews with and observations of teachers in six Australian primary schools. The analysis attempts to uncover the meanings conveyed to the student in question, Sam, through his teacher’s language practices and to demonstrate the potentially detrimental effects of these practices on his schooling. Generally, we propose that teachers frequently employ linguistic techniques to refashion students in various ways, according to the norms of schooling; norms that often do not account very well for student difference and which position them as ‘difficult’. Specifically, we argue that Sam’s teacher seems more interested in moulding Sam’s behaviour to conform to the interests of the school than in valuing his heritage and contributions.
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