Thursday, 9 July 2015

Teach Like A Pirate



I'll admit, I wanted to read this book because of the name.  I know!  You aren't supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I did.  And I'll be honest - I'm glad I did!  This book was excellent.



I love teacher books where reading them is like a conversation.  I HATE the dry stuff.  Dave Burgess did an awesome job of connecting to me and my teaching style.  The name comes from the 6 pieces of the philosophy a teacher must have to empower classroom climate:


 Throughout the book, I kept saying things like "wow" or "I really need to meet this guy" or "I wish he worked in my building" as I read.  Our philosophies are so similar! Dave says that teachers need to find passion in every lesson and if they can't be passionate with the content then they can find ways to be passionate about the delivery. 


He argues that a teacher can either be a lifeguard or a swimmer.  You can get in the action or sit on the sidelines.  It's far more powerful to "swim" with your students.  We talked about this so much in my self-regulation book study this past year.   People have such difficulty being in the moment.  Life is fast moving and people need to put down their cell phones and just enjoy what's happening around them.  We are seeing a lot of children enter the school system without the ability to have a proper conversation and it's because parents just aren't talking to their kids anymore!  The electronics need to go away!  .... but I digress....

My school did a trial of a morning run the last 6 or so weeks of school.  I hope that we continue it next year.  It was a great way to connect with kids beyond my classroom.  I also stand at my door at recess and lunch and greet kids at the door.  Not only is it a good check to see how things went for my people outside, but also to interact with other students.  Dave says "being available to kids says a lot to them about whether or not you are interested in them beyond your particular class".  I agree 100%!

One bit that I disagree with, is Dave's mention of his classroom and lessons being a "show".  I get that he is trying to build anticipation and intrigue with this reference.  However, I am by no means an entertainer.  What I do in my classroom can be engaging and I certainly hope a good time, but I am not there to put on a show for kids.  We have a job to do, and it won't always be a good time for everyone.  It will be hard work, but based on how I structure the lessons, I know they will enjoy it.

In the "Ask and Analyze" section, Dave says that teachers need to be reflective.  After every lesson they should be asking themselves "How was that? What can I improve? What will I keep? What will I change?" I heard this a lot in my teacher training.  But, even before the lesson, he says teachers should be asking questions.  He says, "the types of questions we ask ourselves determine the answers we will receive".  This really spoke to the growth mindset culture I'm trying to build in myself and students.  He has a whole section on questions a teacher can ask themselves when creating a lesson, including:

- How can I incorporate movement into this lesson?
- How can I get my class outside my four walls for this lesson? (LOVE this one!)
- Can I use music to make my transitions smoother and more engaging?

In fact, there's over 50 pages of these questions and great examples of how to employ them in your room.  I am going to recommend this book to our teacher training facilitator in the district, because I think student teachers NEED to read this chunk of the book, if not the whole thing.

What am I taking away from this book?  Here's my big 3:
1) My students need to get outside of the classroom more often.  There's so many real life learning examples in my community and I need to get my kids out there experiencing it.  My goal for this upcoming year is to do 1 lesson a month out of my classroom, even if it means heading out to the playground or school library.
2) It's okay to do things in class because it increases the fun factor and positive feelings about school.  The new BC Draft Curriculum really allows for this too, and I think takes the pressure off of teachers guilt for not "covering it all".  It's okay to go deep, not broad.
3) It's okay to answer that awkward question: I want to be great.  Dave says "your greatness in the classroom doesn't negatively impact or inhibit anyone else's opportunity to be great" and "by being great, you are raising the bar and providing a model for others to emulate".  I have to tell you, those two sentences made me feel really good about all the hard work I do in my classroom for my students.

Note: I was not compensated in any way for this post.  I just really liked the book!

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