Performative identities: reflections of a male elementary teacher on teacher subjectivities

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University of New Brunswick


Looking through a Foucauldian lens, this thesis critically examines a culture of performativity as defined by Butler (1988) and Ball (2003) as central to exploring how teacher subjectivities are shaped and how teachers – and the students they teach – are evaluated and made to feel evaluated under the intersection of various surveilling gazes. I author my narrative through critical reflection of “moments of breakdown or gratification” (Britzman, 2007, p. 1) from my own reconstruction of experiences – and the experiences of those characters implicated within, and “analyze cultural beliefs, practices, and the social experiences that influence our [teacher] identities” (Allen, 2015, p. 33). I share my re-written experiences with a grade one boy whose schooled identity was defined by what he lacked with print-centric literacy rather than his strengths in other modes of communication and meaning making. I illuminate the tension between binary divisions of gender normativity while working in a ‘feminized’ elementary profession. I critically examine several judging gazes – administrative, parental, temporal, collegial, and self-surveillance – as they were brought out through my own personal and professional experiences and the collective experiences shared by my teaching colleagues. I present that teachers are defined more than they are empowered to define themselves. By critically examining how colleagues, students, and myself are evaluated and our subjective identities are governed, spaces for critical discussion of the limiting effects of evaluative practices on teaching, learning, and the agency of self-authoring may be found.