Es mio mio mio

my-performancesmallDuring MayDay Colloquium XX, check cialis sale held June of 2009 in Boston, buy cialis Hildegard Froehlich did this lovely wondering-out-loud-thing she does most beautifully.  Thinking aloud with us during the opening session she pondered how she felt she was no longer able to refer to students as “mine” or as “her” students, or “my” students.

“That’s nice.”  (I remember thinking not so very generously to myself.)

Ah, but then when I recognized the stealth-like meaning of this comment my next reaction was one of those intensely joyous “Ah hah” moments in which your entire world suddenly shifts.  In this one brief moment (one that was probably a deliberate pedagogical strategy that was shared as a think-aloud protocol – she really is that lovely and brilliant) she shattered the illusion and desire of ownership.  She did away with those possessive pronouns we so easily take for granted and reminded those of us in the room of the hegemony – the maintenance of domination through consensual social practice [1] that is produced in the simple yet insidious use of words.

I have since had a conversation similar to Hildegard’s in every single class I have shared with others.  Her insight so shifted my world that I no longer even feel comfortable using the words “my” class, or even the words students “I have taught.”  I have so embraced this message that I stumble over describing what I “do” when it comes up with others.  I usually settle on something like, “I am one who helps others think about what it might mean to think through what it might mean to teach and learn music.”

Oh, thanks.  Sorry I asked.

This conversation with students, as to the shedding of possessive pronouns, is often messy.  Their first reaction is why not refer to the class as mine, it lets people know a certain amount of information.  Their second reaction is, “But, they are mine.”  Well, perhaps in the sense that for 40 minutes twice a week they are in a space of which you are ostensibly and legally “in charge.”  But to the extent that a sense of ownership pervades the thinking they do, they creating they do, the singing and moving and playing they do, then no, they certainly aren’t yours.  And not only are they not ours, with the cavalier use of these words (these performatives) we succeed in erasing our own presence, our own thinking and musical lives, our own being.

I believe that we ought to consider this use of possessive pronouns as one that leads to the formation of curriculum as self-centered, as one that replicates rather than affords understandings upon which we have no control, upon which we desire no control.  We might also consider that the naming of “my” students is what creates, to a certain extent, the differentiation between school music, which often centers upon an individual’s class (”my” class, “my” orchestra) and music making that is engaged in and with elsewhere.

Es mio mio mio! was one of the first sentences I managed to put together in Spanish that brought laughter to my heart.  Goodness knows what I was thinking; some moment of selfish poutiness, no doubt.  I call it to mind every now and then; often accompanied by foot stomping.  The moment brings with it both the remembrance of possession and of the remembrance of moments that can shift one’s world.

Ellos, no son mios.

[1] Darder, A,  Baltodano, M., Torres, R. (eds). (2003).  The critical pedagogy reader. New York, NY:  RoutledgeFalmer, p. 76.



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