Monday, January 20, 2014

Embrace your Inner Ukulele Player

The title might be misleading: you may or may not actually play the ukulele.

I happen to...

I love this picture, taken by one of my kids to be "artistic."

But here's the thing, teacher: even if you don't actually play the ukulele, I'm pretty sure you have some innate, personal, geeky thing about you.

Admit it. It's true.

Oh, you might be that teacher who is

But there's something that gets you totally geeked out.

Own it.

Embrace it.

Let it out, even in class.

Be real with your students.

Let them see you as a real human being, with quirks, and foibles, and unique characteristics that make you you.


I've read Parker Palmer's book The Courage to Teach at least seven times now. It is fantastic, and if you teach, I highly recommend it. In the book, Palmer explains that you can act like a teacher, or you can be a teacher.

People who act like teachers are one person "on stage" (with their students) and a different person "backstage." They are acting, plain and simple.

But until you own the fact that you are the teacher--and allow yourself to come out in your teaching practice--you'll only be acting.

So my encouragement to you, teacher: embrace your inner ukulele player. (Or, you know...whatever your quirky thing is.)


  1. I love it! When can I download your song on iTunes? I think this enthusiasm must double for administrators as well. If kids see us comfortable enough to express ourselves then they will start to do the same. Great post and strum away dude!

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Jon! Not recording anything yet...but I'll let you know... ;-)

      Hope this post gets educators thinking. Palmer also says (often) in the book: "We teach who we are." That statement can be taken several ways, but this is the key, I think: your personal identity is integrally part of your teaching practice. You can act like someone else, but you can only *be* you! So be yourself, teacher!

  2. Hey Dave!
    Didn't know you were an Uke player! I love my Uke and we have a somewhat active ukulele club here at my school!

    1. Hi Shannon,
      Yep, I've been playing the uke for about three years now. It helps that I played the guitar for almost 2 decades before that...picked it up pretty quickly.

      I love the idea of a ukulele club! So fun. :-)

      I'm sure you are the sort of teacher to embrace your inner ukulele player too. See you in class, my friend!

  3. This is an inspiring post. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to reply, Nerissa! Glad to hear it resonated with you.

  4. Dave:
    Not only do you share your quirkiness with your students, but you have just shared your "geekiness" with the world! The picture Rocks!
    My favorite line in the post, "Let them see you as a real human being, with quirks, and foibles, and unique characteristics that make you you." Through genuine relationships with students, connections foster not only scholastic gains, but attitude and life achievements as well. Students recognize those educators that support their efforts and passions inside and outside of the school day. One piece to building rapport with students is showing that vulnerability, human side, inner-nerd to all those that enter your room in the morning! As you say, "Own it" "Embrace it", a tough thing to do, and makes me reflect upon my early years as an educator.
    Finally, I love that you brought in Palmer. I have just finished reading "A Hidden Wholeness" and the immediate connection I draw is when he states it is harder to hurt someone you KNOW. This, I firmly believe. Whether a student, a teacher, or a clerk at Wal-Mart, when you truly know someone you value them for their perfections and imperfections; hurting them becomes imaginable.
    Thank you for sharing!
    PS - please bring your Ukelele to conferences - I would like to learn!
    - Shaelynn

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Shaelynn. I'm glad you've found Palmer's work valuable too. Teaching is one of the most relational professions I can think of; it's amazing to me that some teachers just play the role, rather than putting themselves into their teaching practice.

      I owned my geekiness years ago. But it's great to let it out with abandon sometimes too!

  5. It's funny that you wrote a blog about this because i recently ordered a t-shirt that says "may the mass times acceleration be with you" and I plan on wearing it to school for casual Friday. It shows not only my science geekness but also my sci-fy side too.
    Also I shared with my kids this "ah ha" moment that was also rather geeky. We are talking about bonds in one class and magnetism in the other where both have opposite attractive forces. This got me thinking, what would our world look like if this attractive force did not happen. I shared that with the kids and got a few *cough nerd cough* but it made me smile even broader.

    1. Way to own that awesomely-geeky side! :-D Great stories, Amber; thanks for sharing!