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MatthewTong

PositionalityPaperDraft
Identityisamischievousterm.Itcanrefertotheidentitythatothersseemeas,whichis
broughtaboutwhenIampresentedinspecificsituationsandcontexts.Ontheotherhand,there
ismyowninneridentitythatisformedbymyownmind,constructedbymyownlifeeventsand
experiences.Inmanyways,thesetwosortsofidentitiescanbemergedtogether,asonewill,
withoutadoubt,influencetheother.Identitiescanbethrownontome,theycanbeonesthatI
makeandwear,ortheycanbetheonesthatIhavechosentowearoutofalltheonesthathave
beengiventome.Outofthosethree,thetwothatarechosenbymyowndecisionaretheones
thatIwouldliketoshare,asIregardthemastheidentitiesthatIhopetodisplayandemitinmy
life.
OneofthefirstidentitiesthatIhavebeengivenismyethnicbackgroundandculture.
BornintoaCantoneseChinesefamilyonbothmymaternalandpaternalsides,Inaturallygrew
uplearningadevelopingtheidentityofbeingChineseandholdingtothevaluesandtraditions
thathavebeenpasseddowntomyparentsthroughtheirownlineage.Still,Iwearmyethnic
identityfairlycasually;IdonotflauntthatIamChinese,nordoItrulyspendmuchtime
indulgingandinvestigatingintheculture.Nevertheless,ithascometobeapartofwhoIamand
howIinteractwithothers.Myclosestfriends,forthemostpart,aresimilarinbackgroundto
me,asitiseasytobondoverthesimilarupbringingsandstrugglesthatweexperiencedinour
familiesandcultures.Withlargeextendedonbothofmyparentssides,Ialsohavemany
internationalconnections,whichhasbeenbothablessingandacurse.Itallowsformetoeasily
askormakecontactwithspecificareasoftheworld,butithasalsomadeitdifficulttoreally
developanyclosefamilialbondswiththoseoutsidemyimmediatefamily.

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Iamalsoanonlychild,whichisanidentitylessreadilyvisibletotheoutsideworld.
Whetherornotmyreservedpersonallyisaresultofthis,Ihavegrownupbeingveryokaywith
beingsolitarywithmytime.Spendingtimewithothersisneverthedefaultactivitythroughout
myday,anditismucheasierformetolistenthanitistospeak.Thoughthesetraitsontheirown
arenotentirelybad,itisdetrimentalifIonlydevelopthesecharacteristicsandnottheoneson
theotherendofthespectrum.Tobeaneducator,therewillbemomentswheretheknowledgeof
listeningandsolitaryreflectionisvaluable,buttherewillbejustasmanymomentswhereitis
essentialtobewellversedatcreatingrelationshipsandunderstandinghowtoestablishhuman
connections.
Anotheridentitythathasbeengiventomewithoutmuchofmyownsayismysexand
gender.Somemaydisagreewithmeandclaimthatgenderissomethingthatapersongrows
into,butIfirmlyholdthebeliefthatpeopleareprovidedwithgenderatbirth,andhowthat
personchoosestorespondtothatgenderroleishisorherchoice.
Forbothmyfamilialbackgroundandgenderidentity,stereotypeexistandcaneasily
becomeharmfulinmyowndevelopmentofpositionality.Ihavebeenfortunateenoughtonotbe
thevictimofanyseriousstereotypicalassaults,butevenjustgoingtoapublicschoolsystemhas
exposedmetostrugglesandquestionsabouthowIshouldbetreatingtheseidentitiesthatare
not,perse,onesthatIchoseformyself.Ithasnotbeenparticularlydifficultformetobreakmy
ownstereotypes,andIoftenfindthatIamcomfortabledoingthethingsthatotherswillnottend
towards.Ihavefoundthatthisisquiteanessentialtraittohaveinteaching,astherearesomany
situationswhereitisvitaltobewillingtostepoutofyourcomfortzoneandcreatean

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environmentthatcancatertothestudentslearning.Thedifficultyformehasneverbeento
leavethecomfortzone,buttoknowwhatexactlytodoafterleavingthatzone.
ThereareplentyofotheridentitiesthatIhavetakenonthatwerenotgivendirectlytome,
butofallofthem,themostimportantismyidentityasaChristian.Theentiretyofmyvalue
systemandallthechoicesIdeveloparearesultofmyfaithandthattruthsthatitholdsto.My
endgoalofevenpursuingmusicandeducationistobeabletoreachothersinthatfieldaboutthe
goodnewsthatisofferedintheBibleandtohopefullyshedsomelightoftheimportantthings
thataretobeconsideredduringthislifetime.
Myidentityasamusiciancouldbesaidtohavebeenthrownatmefrombirth,asIknow
mymotheralreadyhadplanstoprovidemewithpianolessons,butIdidnottrulyembracethe
musicianroleuntilmyhighschoolyears.Thiswasdefinitelyanidentitythatthemajorityofmy
peerslabeledmeas,andnoonewassurprisedatallwhenImadetheswitchfromthesciences
intothemusicfieldduringthemiddleofmycollegecareer.
Upuntilthatswitchincollege,however,mydevelopmentasamusicianhasprimarily
beeninperformingmusic.Asachild,Iwastrainedtopracticewellandtoperformwell,but
neverreceivedmuchchancetolearnhowtoteachwell.Myexperienceasbothapianistanda
cellisthasprovidedmewithaglimpseattwodifferentworldsofmusic,andthesetworealms
havedefinitelyshapedmyperspectiveandidentityasamusician.Asapianist,Ilearnedabout
musicaltheoryandthefoundationsofharmony.Asacellist,Iexploredmyfirstlargeensemble
anddiscoveredaloveforchambermusicthatspilledrightbackintomypianoplaying.
Interestinglyenough,Pellegrino(2006)foundthatalthoughpreservicebandteachersandthose
studentswithclassroomteachingexperiencehadamorerealisticviewoftheteachingprofession,

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stringplayerswereidentifiedashavingaparticularlystrongprofessionalperformeridentity
ratherthaneitheramusicianormusiceducatoridentity.Ihavedefinitelyfeltthatsame
experienceandtendencytoleantowardtheprofessionperformeridentity,anditwasnotuntilI
lookedmoreintoeducationthatIbegantoseethenecessityandbenefitsofnurturinganidentity
asaneducator.
Ibeganmyventureintoeducationduringmythirdyearasanundergraduate,andit
openedupanentirelynewviewonwhatmusicisandwhatitcanbe,andIfoundaninterestin
developingmyselfinmyabilitytoteachandsharewhatIhavelearnedinmymusical
experiences.However,teachingisnotsomethingthatcomesentirelynaturallytome;even
pursuingeducationisastepoutofmycomfortzone.Idohopetocontinueworkingtoestablish
myroleasateacher,andIaimtocontinuelearningfromeachmomentandpersonIencounter.
BecauseIgrewupinanincrediblyprivilegedandshelteredenvironment,itiseasyforme
toforgetaboutthevarietyofbackgroundsthatexistforotherstudentsandcolleagues.Atthe
sametime,itisneverhelpfultosimplymakeassumptionsaboutastudentbasedpurelyonthe
wordsprovidedbyformsandpaperwork.Asaneducator,Iwanttobeconstantlybuildinga
relationshipwitheachofthestudentsIencounter,andthroughthatrelationship,figureoutthe
bestformofassistingthatstudentinlearningandharnessingtheclassmaterial.Eachstudenthas
hisorherownpersonalstory,anditisuptotheeducatortobecomefamiliarenoughwiththat
storytoinstantlyreacttoascenario.Thisroleisalreadyachallengewithonestudent,butan
educatorwillneedtoworkwithgroupsofstudentsatonce,andwhenallthingsareconsidered,
thetaskofateacherisanamazinglyhighcalling.

MatthewTong
Thedevelopmentofmypositionalityisnotonethatissoontoend,andasIgrowtolive
throughmoreexperiences,Iwilllearnmoreofmyself,ofothers,andofhowIhopetopresent
myselfasateachertothepubliceye.AsPellegrino(2006)discovered,identitycanbedefined
asfluid,dynamic,evolving,situated,layered,andconstructedindividually,socially,and
culturally.However,usingtheoreticalframeworksand/ormethodologiesthatcapturepreservice
andinservicemusicteachersidentitiesassnapshotsfrozenintimewhileattemptingto
representthechangingnatureofidentitiesisproblematic.Thereisnevergoingtobethatexact
snapshotmomentthatwilldefinemyidentity,butitisdefinitelyimportanttobetakingthose
snapshotsthroughoutlifeinorderthatImaylearnandgrowfromeachofthem.

MatthewTong
Sources
Pellegrino,K.(2009).ConnectionsBetweenPerformerandTeacherIdentitiesinMusic
Teachers:SettinganAgendaforResearch.JournalofMusicTeacherEducation,19(1),3955.