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From Fantasy to Depression: A Beginning Teacher’s encounter with Performativity

Jason Loh


This paper reports a qualitative study of a beginning teacher in Singapore. It explores the journey of a beginning teacher from his pre-service teacher education to his third year of teaching, drawing on extensive interviews, emails, phone text messages and fi eld notes over a span of three years. This study illuminates the issue of performativity faced daily by teachers caught in such a discourse, and highlights the tension between enacting one’s idealism as a beginning teacher and pursuing academic excellence as required by the school system within such a climate. The study describes how the performativity pressures exerted by the school system shaped the beginning teacher’s beliefs and practices. As a result of the socialization forces limiting and regulating his practices, the beginning teacher experienced cognitive dissonance, and consequently suffered clinical depression. From the fi ndings, it shows there is a need for current teacher education to highlight the neoliberal emphasis on “market values” of accountability that currently exists in the school system. The study concludes with suggestions that teacher education in Singapore needs to extend beyond skills training to incorporate performativity discourse within its pedagogy courses. This might create more opportunities and thus induce a greater propensity to teach against the grain.

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