Macquarie University
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Beautiful wastelands: teachers talk texts in 'Bog Standard' schools

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posted on 2022-03-28, 09:32 authored by Kelly Maree Cheung
'Wasteland': A place where life struggles to flourish A contaminated, unwanted, dangerous place A place for adaptation and creativity in survival A bog standard school is an ordinary school where the grass is always greener at the one next door. Australia has plenty of bog standard schools, many of them, but not always, public schools. Caro (2013) lifted the term out of the Australian vernacular, which in turn had appropriated it from the British (Crystal, 2005), to describe the ordinary if perhaps uninspiring local school which parents dismiss, and at times, outright reject, when weighing up where best to send their young lings (Butler, 2015). The problem for parents as much as for policy makers in Australia is that most schools, of course, are bog standard schools. They are ordinary in as much as school itself is an ordinary feature present in child and teenage life. However, within the ordinariness of bog standard schools are the extraordinary details of distinct human lives. From four schools and four English teachers come distinctive limning portraits of these wasteland schools in the Australian state of New South Wales. This thesis analyses teacher text choices in Grades 9 and 10 English: the pivotal teenage years of identity, struggle, belonging and resistance. In exploring site-specific phenomena and through comparisons of experiences, decisions, and values,stories emerge of teacher identities and their perceptions of their students' coming-of-age within a racialised, unequal, class broken Greater Sydney (Sawyer, 2017). These crystalised stories, collected and analysed through an emergent theorisation of narrative inquiry (Clandinin & Connelly, 1990; Caine, Estefan & Clandinin, 2013) and Arendtian philosophy (1958), provide new insights into the ways micro and macro forces are attempting to shape and mould English teachers as neoliberalised agents of the State (Connell, 2013). As such, this work sits alongside those pieces of research coming from America (Apple,1986/89; Apple, 2018) and the United Kingdom (Ball, 2003; Ball, 2015; Goodwyn, 2016) on English teacher work and identities amidst increasingly precarious times.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Among the Gum Leaves -- Chapter 2. Fields of Literature -- Chapter 3. Ways of Becoming Story(fied) -- Chapter 4. Stuck in the Mud -- Chapter 5. Beautiful Wastelands -- Chapter 6. Dark Times.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 228-265

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Educational Studies

Department, Centre or School

Department of Educational Studies

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Kerry-Ann O'Sullivan


Copyright Kelly Maree Cheung 2019. Copyright disclaimer:




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