Abstract: Research within communities that have historically been failed by formalised schooling often describes teachers who have found it difficult to engage with the social and cultural differences of their students. In this article, I present the case of Richard, a teacher whose work entailed a particular set of demands generated by a complex range of intersecting factors - amount and nature of experience in teaching, and the context in which he worked, a school located within a remote Indigenous community in Australia. Richard's descriptions of his experiences reflect a range of conflicting deficit discourses directed variously at his students, their families and community, as well as the school, its teachers, and himself. In this article, I use Bourdieu to explore Richard's case, and suggest that the analysis of deficit discourses in teaching needs to move beyond their identification, and towards unravelling the complex structural and personal inter-relations at play. Understanding how and why such discourses can arise and persist in teaching may afford new directions for research and practice, enabling more productive support of teachers and their work with diverse groups of students.