This paper stems from research in Australia examining pre-service
teacher and mentor teacher experiences on the practicum. The
paper focuses on findings from the research, highlighting the
tendency among the pre-service teachers to either valorise or
demonise their mentor teachers, reflective of what we describe,
following Kristeva and Britzman, as their powerful need to believe.
The paper draws on psychoanalytic theory in order gain insights
into this process, viewing the pre-service teachers’ accounts of
their mentors as fantasies that serve a stabilising function in
order to manage the intense emotional demands of schools and
classrooms. The paper concludes with considerations of how teacher
educators might ameliorate the ideality of novice teachers,
reflecting the insistence of the imaginary, and hence enable them
to benefit more from the practicum experience. We briefly suggest
the use of tools that work within the symbolic register to exercise
a mediating role in the context of these intense demands.