I have spent the better part of this school year dreaming up, fleshing out, and now realizing this idea to build ukuleles with my students. Even with close to 300 partially built ukuleles staring me in the face each day, it still doesn’t feel completely real. The students are so eager to begin in earnest, as am I. However, at this point, I have reached an impasse, as my need to control the situation is coming into conflict with the reality that I cannot.
In my teaching (and especially with this project), I have attempted to learn to balance planning with the ability to “go with the flow.” At the least, I realize the need to balance these two aspects, and I’m try to bring it to fruition in my daily actions. Anyone who knows me is aware that “going with the flow” is not my strong suit. I like to plan, and I like things to go just as I envision them. Over the past month, I made “test” ukuleles for my sisters to develop my luthier skills and to encounter any problems that my students may face as we undertake the process. While making their ukes, I made regular trips to the hardware store, brainstorming with the staff about problems that I had encountered.
After unsuccessfully mixing the epoxy on my sisters’ ukes four times and realizing we had nowhere to dry them while school was in
session, I concluded that we (myself and several dedicated teachers) would epoxy the necks to the bodies of 290 ukuleles over Spring Break. In one day (approximately 7 hours), we had 281 successes, 7 epoxies that didn’t take, and 2 ukes that were defective—not too shabby!
That day, I let go of some control and put my trust in my colleagues. They didn’t let me down. They made me smile and bought into this crazy idea I had. I know that I am not able to foresee all of that we will encounter with this project; but ultimately, I am able to see what can happen when you trust. When students know that you trust them with the task at hand, they are empowered. They’ll buy in too and the experience will be their own. This is not to say there won’t be mistakes or missteps, but those are a part of life and a part of the learning process. So, April 23rd, regardless of whether I feel truly ready, the ukuleles will be in the students’ hands, and the project will be fully underway.