As a teenager I attended Liceu de Ponta Delgada, the only high school in my Island, and whose curriculum in Literature covered the Portuguese authors from the 13th century –D. Dinis, the troubadours, As Cantigas de Amigo, de Amor , Escarneo e Maldizer– up to the early 20th century with Fernando Pessoa and His Heteronyms. Yet in Portugal Salazar’s dictatorship, which pervaded the instructional discourse of Portuguese education with its repressive ideology, would censor all the books we were required to read. ‘Forbidden’ was the word crossed out by the blue pencil of the censorship. ‘O Crime do Padre Amaro’ and ‘A Reliquia’ by Eça de Queirós were some of those pieces in the black list of Portuguese literature readings.
Yet, for the youngsters who had the privilege to attend the high school even though those works were forbidden, they were the window opened to a new world, our best legacy to the world of the classics. Our teacher and mentor, Armando de Medeiros, encouraged us to read the forbidden books which were ‘omitted’ in the curriculum, and needless to say, we read them all from beginning to end. My mother could not afford to buy all those works each school year, and as a consequence she would borrow them from the local library.
I grew up between fear and hope. Then, future seemed bleak. At 17 I attended university in Lisbon graduating 5 years later. Being a young high school teacher, the reactive generation X of the late 70’s which never experienced crisis in their younger years, I had to cope with an increasingly uncertain world. Yet, with enthusiasm I started a new life. My mother moved to a smaller house and kept doing what she knew better- teaching her pupils how to learn.
But learning involves a plethora of circumstances. Learning is acquisition, development, acceptance and challenge; learning is memories, skills, behaviors, knowledge, values and as Einstein would say ‘wisdom’. So Mother engages with her children with the subjectivity of her intuitions and the pragmatism of her convictions, she is a mentalist over a behaviorist, she assumes the priority of personhood over action as a person who uses her mental acuity to nurture, care and socialize her children.
Mothers are women whose main virtue is their heartwarming maternal teaching, the first nurturing teachers of their child(ren). Sara Ruddick, the American philosopher who retrieved the complexities and subtlety of maternal practice in her book Maternal Thinking: Toward a Politics of Peace written in 1989, acknowledged the interest of the intellectual, harmonious and holistic growth in maternal thinking as the link to the Influence of maternal teaching in the early instruction of any child and the beginning step for bridging the gap between home and school.
In my personal journey I have tried to understand and relate to my mother’s ethos and what teaching meant to women in the Azores of my childhood, and although my mother is now retired from teaching, her legacy "teaching is not a job, teaching is a gift of love" goes on. And so does the maternal teaching of those women whose caring labor and nurturing mothering enlightened the lives of their children.
Some years later many of those women embarked in a long and different journey. They came to Canada as dependants of their husbands, following their dreams to seek a better life .They were allowed to enter Canada only as wives of their men. As married women, they could not be first applicants, they were not citizens. But where have all the women gone? The first generation of those immigrant women were hidden behind the fluidity of their identity, their importance ignored , their roles treated as trivial. They were Rosalia, the babysitter, Rosa the cleaning lady , Fatima the nurse’s aid and Maria the factory worker. Maria was baptized Nemesia but it was difficult to be pronounced. One day her boss in the toy factory changed it . Maria was much easier.
In a dance of power those women moved between two worlds: in the household as wives, mothers and daughters while disappearing elsewhere as immigrants and workers. They could not teach their children any more. They had no time. They had to bring ‘’a sua fera para casa". Their weekly wage was needed.
In my kitchen in Toronto I can listen to the sound of those real women teaching, and the sounds of children fighting, resisting and learning. Even though maternal teaching is downgraded by some pedagogues as a less desirable form of early instruction, my mother’s maternal pedagogy was the best teacher I could have had in my infant life.
Laudalina Rodrigues was a teacher in Ponta Delgada, São Miguel, Azores, and now lives in Toronto with her husband, José Carlos Rodrigues and their son, Edmundo. She is completing her Master of Education at Brock University, and volunteers some of her time to Orfeão Stella Maris (Toronto 2005), a creation of her husband, the maestro, who was also the co-founder and the maestro of Orfeão Edmundo Machado de Oliveira (São Miguel, Azores 1986).