I began working as a teacher educator with Jonathon Paton and Denise Newfield. I was extremely fortunate to start my academic career with colleagues who were serious about education but who laughed a lot; who were innovative and lively teachers; generous friends and who were committed to making English teaching count in the struggle against apartheid, despite the presence of police spies in our classes.
In the 1980s I realised that with degrees in literature, I was simply not properly qualified for my job. How could I prepare teachers to teach English to students whose home languages were Sesotho, Setswana, IsiZulu, IsiXhosa, Tshivenda or any of the other African languages spoken in South Africa without any knowledge of linguistics or pedagogies for teaching language in multilingual classrooms? In registering for a degree in Applied Linguistics in 1984, I began the journey that has culminated in this book. Many of my fellow students became my close friends and professional colleagues. I am indebted to Debra Aarons, Yvonne Reed and Pippa Stein who have shaped my thinking over two decades and to Jo Nowicki who gave me the book on language awareness that started me on my research trajectory. I am also indebted to Rosemary Wildsmith, Norman Blight and Ishbel Hingle, our teachers who went on to form the Department of Applied English Language Studies with us.
My degrees in Applied Linguistics took me to Lancaster University, to work with Norman Fairclough. It was 1989, the year in which Language and Power was first published. The title of this book, Literacy and Power, is a deliberate inter-textual reference to Norman’s work, my way of acknowledging the intellectual debt that I owe to him. Ros Ivanič and Romy Clark took me under their wing and looked after me from visit to visit. Ros co-authored the article we wrote for Norman’s edited collection, insisted that I be the first author, and mentored me in the art of academic publishing. She was a giant in more ways than one. At Lancaster, I met Esther Ramani from India and in 1992 when we established the Department of Applied English Studies we persuaded her to join us and to take over the leadership of the new Department. She has stayed in South Africa and has been my friend ever since.
AELS has been my academic home since 1992. The many colleagues that I have worked with over the years have provided new directions for language and literacy education in South Africa and each has made an important contribution to my own thinking about multimodal and multilingual literacies, academic literacies, school literacies, spatiality, critical literacy and digital literacies. I thank Pippa Stein (now sorely missed), Yvonne Reed, Stella Granville, Susan van Zyl, Pinky Makoe, Carolyn McKinney, Kerryn Dixon, Ana Ferreira, Patricia Shariff, Chris Orsmonde, Ingrid Riener, Magauta Mphahlele, Leila Kajee, Nonhlanhla Dhlamini, Ben Afful and Vis Moodley for their shared sense of purpose, collective self-irony, inspiration and care.
The AELS project would not have been possible without our amazing students and I have been lucky to work with many graduate students who were also colleagues, as well as students from other parts of Africa. Their work has broadened my understanding beyond measure. Postgraduate research weekends have become a highlight of the AELS year. Working with postgraduate students in education, many of whom have years of experience in schools or universities, is a singular privilege. Their research across a range of sites and topics is the most exciting form of life-long education the academy has to offer its staff. The other opportunity for learning can be found in productive research partnerships, and I am deeply indebted to Paulina Sethole and the staff at her school for sharing their working lives and their classrooms with me. They taught me more than they will ever know.
More recently I have had the opportunity to put my theory of diversity as a productive resource to the test in my partnership with Mary Scholes in the Postgraduate Project Office. Mary is an environmental scientist, who together with her husband Bob, has introduced me to new ways of seeing and understanding the world. Hildegard Chapman, our project administrator needs a special vote of thanks for her work in constructing my endnote data base and tidying up my manuscript. In addition, I need to thank Jonathon Williams, who, as a student in publishing, did a sterling job of managing my permissions.
But this is not all. My second academic home has been the Centre for Studies in Literacy, Policy and Learning Cultures in the Hawke Research Institute at the University of South Australia. Barbara Comber, Phil Cormack and Helen Nixon, together with Jacky Cook, David Homer and Rob Hattam, have been my steadfast academic friends. Barbara, Helen and Phil have unselfishly introduced me to colleagues in other parts of Australia (Alan and Carmen Luke, Barbara Kamler, Annette Patterson, Bronwyn Mellor, Marnie O’Neill, Wayne Martino and Judith Rivalland) and given me the chance to work with awesome teachers (Helen Grant, Marg Wells and Ruth Trimble). As if that were not enough, they have in addition shared their international network of colleagues committed to literacy and social justice. They used their established positions to provide me with access, connecting me to colleagues in the US, the UK, Canada, providing the opportunity for me to work with Vivian Vasquez, Pat Thomson, Andy Manning and Jerome Harste. I was lucky enough to meet Bill Green, Jo-anne Reid, Alison Lee, Wendy Morgan, Ray Misson and Peter Freebody at conferences and each in their own way has contributed to my thinking. Bill Green has been my theory-beacon since I first met him in 1985. Terry Locke, from New Zealand, found me and that was my lucky day. Working with him and the other founding members of the journal English Teaching Practice and Critique has been both formative and pleasurable. Terry is a superb editor and he has taught me a great deal. Courtney Cazden has been my sounding board and friend in Boston.
Once one has a network, it snowballs and everyone you know leads to more other interesting people. Most importantly, my network led me to Naomi Silverman and Sonia Nieto. This book would never have happened without their encouragement, their joy in the project, their absolute commitment to my work and their unending patience, advice and constructive feedback. Naomi is a remarkable commissioning editor whose publishing list has made a significant political contribution to social justice in education. Her experience has provided the touchstone throughout this project. Sonia Nieto epitomises the kind of academic whose work Naomi is proud to publish. Widely recognised for her contribution to multicultural education, Sonia is an icon in the US. Her stature is belied by her modesty, her warmth, her down-to-earth values and her investment in others. Both Naomi and Sonia have been my trusted friends and guides throughout. Together with Meeta Pendharkar, they made a formidable publishing team.
I wish to express a particular word of appreciation to Jerry Harste, who not only gave me permission to use the visual images produced by his students, including the remarkable image on the cover, but also urged me to expand my model and thus provided the initial impetus for this book.
While my intellectual work has been fed by my colleagues and students and the work they have done, it has been sustained by my family and my friends. Eunice held the house together and Debra and Cally from afar, Natalie, Jill, Gerrit, the two Marys as well as, Len, Carrie and Renette contributed in different ways to keeping me together. My father, Gerald, taught me to love language and ideas; my mother, Sadie, taught me to care about people and to love books. My sons, Gregory and Daniel, and now their partners Sonia and Tiffany, more than my work, have given my life meaning and made everything worthwhile. I take pride in their expertise and real joy in learning from them. Greg, himself a writer, told me to find a great opening sentence from which the rest could flow. I took his advice. Daniel took the photographs and provided ongoing computer support.
Watching my granddaughter, Sadie Elaine, discover her world renews my faith in children’s determination to learn; to do what it takes; and to move on to the next challenge. She reminds me that as teachers we have simply to create the conditions of possibility for students to learn, we have to give them recognition for their efforts, praise for their triumphs and we have to be ready to catch them when they fall. We have simply to be there, every step of the way.
I have dedicated this book to my husband, John, who has always been there for me – my personal cheering team and safety net. I appreciate his careful proof reading, his wonderful meals and his unstinting generosity. His principles serve as my moral compass; his dry wit keeps me both sane and honest; and his love is the ground on which I stand. I thank him for making everything possible.
We are grateful to the following publishers for permitting work from previously published journal articles and book chapters to be reprinted in this book.
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