Monday, March 20, 2017

The Rebel Coach: Teach Like a Pirate Edition

Well, it's been almost seven months since I started this new job as a secondary instructional coach (or TOSA-Teacher on Special Assignment). Back in January, I made a commitment through my #Oneword post to maintain RELEVANCE, despite no longer having a classroom to call my own. Then, a few weeks ago I checked my progress after the first few months of the year and identified how I was living out that commitment in my most recent post.

Now it's a month later, and we've just started the final trimester of the school year. Seems like the perfect time to begin something I've wanted to do for many months. 

How about a blog post series where each installment focuses on one book from the Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc. suite of game-changing educational resources? My goal is to show ways that coaches can encourage and support teachers to use the ideas in order to pirate up their instruction. 

It only makes sense for this first installment to focus on the book that started it all for me, and for so many others: Teach Like a Pirate.

Each installment will have the same general structure: 

  • a short synopsis of the book
  • a few words about the author
  • an idea or two that I've tried in my classroom (or ways that I've incorporated the ideas)
  • first steps that coaches can take to introduce the book/ideas to their teachers
  • strategies for bringing the ideas to a larger audience
  • Jumping in with both feet once you have buy-in
Book Synopsis: Teach Like a Pirate (#tlap)
This book offers "inspiration, practical techniques, and innovative ideas" to help teachers design a more engaging classroom for them and their students. Dave leads with the idea of drawing on your passion (P), moves into the importance of immersion (I): fully being present with your students, and then highlights ways to build rapport (R). He shares why creativity takes some hard work through asking and analyzing (A), what it takes to transform (T) your teaching and become a purple cow, and he wraps up the PIRATE message with the importance of lighting your fires of enthusiasm (E) every day. But the real treasure follows a short section on crafting engaging lessons, where Dave offers what he calls a "crash course in presentational hooks." There are 170 questions in 32 categories within 7 larger topics. They are designed to be used as teachers plan ahead for their work with students, or whenever they are looking for ways to better engage their students. 

A few words about Teach Like a Pirate author Dave Burgess:
(taken from the "About Dave" section of his website, found on this link.)
Dave Burgess is the New York Times Best Selling author of Teach Like a Pirate and co-author of P is for Pirate. He is a highly sought after keynote speaker well known for his outrageously energetic performance style and inspirational, yet practical, message.
Dave is also the president of Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc., a disruptive publishing company specializing in innovative, creative books and professional development programs designed to transform education and uplift educators to reach their full potential.

How I have used the ideas with my students:
  • When my Advisory students had Reader's Theater, they were able to rehearse and perform in different locations around our middle school wing...even the stairwell. (Safari Hook)
  • Upon entering our classroom after PE to the calming sounds of classical music, my 5th graders took off their shoes and turned on their flashlights before laying on the floor to paint on the paper taped under their desks like Michelangelo. (Mozart Hook and Picasso Hook)

  • To culminate our Circulation/Respiration Science unit, my students practiced and performed (with props) the Pump Your Blood song. (Dance and Drama Hook)
  • Since we no longer had Halloween parties, I told the students to wear pjs, bring blankets and stuffed animals and a flashlight the next day. (Teaser Hook). When they arrived, they saw that our room had been covered floor to ceiling with black plastic tablecloths, there was a roaring fire on the screen, and a simulated campfire in the middle of the room with all the desks pushed to the sides. We had Campfire reading day, complete with reading spooky stories by flashlight and writing our own scary stories. (Interior Design Hook) 
  • Another day, when students arrived, they were welcomed into the Islands of Reading, where they would add palm leaves to our trees as they finished each book they were reading. (Interior Design Hook)

First steps coaches can take to introduce this book/ideas to their teachers:
One idea is to start wearing a pirate eyepatch (ha ha) and hanging the letters of the acronym in your office or meeting area. When you're meeting with teachers, ask if they've heard of Teach Like a Pirate. If not, bring it up during your meetings with teachers. I usually have the book on hand or displayed in my office, along with my pirate flag of course.
As conversations turn toward engagement and motivating students (or a teacher complains about a lack of motivation), share a few hook ideas. I try to think of a few hooks they could incorporate in their lessons/content and work them into the conversation. Start with easier ones like Board Message Hooks, Prop Hooks or Mozart Hooks. Offer to support in their planning or even come in to help carry out their ideas. Once a week or month, email a couple of hook ideas that are specific to your teachers' content. In addition, share Dave's blog posts with your staff as he posts them (including earlier posts). I suggest sharing the PIRATE acronym at an early-in-the-year staff meeting, and then ask to talk about one or two categories of hooks at subsequent meetings throughout the year. Make yourself seen as a resource and a partner. Celebrate any and every foray into embracing their inner pirates.

Strategies for bringing the ideas to a larger audience:
Once you have a few pirates on board, find a way to share their hook ideas and experiences. Maybe it's asking to take a picture of the resulting student engagement, and posting it in the lounge. It might be joining team or department meetings to lead some brainstorming of hook ideas. Or emailing/tweeting out these hooks via a school hashtag. Ours is #OrioleShoutOut. Eventually, you may get teachers observing each other and possibly joining one of the many Twitter chats around #tlap (#tlap on Mondays at 8:00 CST, #scitlap on Wednesdays at 8:00 CST, or #sstlap on Thursdays at 8:00 CST).

How to jump in with both feet (once you've tested the waters):
One suggestion is to provide/lead a book club. Whether you have building funds or you ask teachers to purchase books on their own, set a schedule and break down the book into manageable sections (Part 1: one letter of the acronym each week, then invite participants to try an idea from each of the presentational hook categories-Part 2- in between each meeting and report back, followed by a wrap up/next steps in Part 3) Dave will often Skype or GHO with book clubs, and he will definitely show your teachers how to preheat the grill so their steaks (lessons) really sizzle. Also, look for opportunities to see Dave Burgess in action at local and other conferences. Maybe you'll even consider bringing Dave and the #tlap message to your school or district. It's definitely a life-changing experience.

Like Dave talks about in this book, teachers need to be willing to have fun with the process and not take things too seriously. This also goes for you as a coach. Start slow...don't come on too strong. Celebrate any baby steps your teachers take in their ask & analyze process towards more creativity and student engagement. Watch their reactions and try to read when they are ready for more. Just as important is asking permission to share ideas and to join their team/planning meetings. Let them know you have more resources if they need them, and always promote pirate hooks as an opportunity and not an expectation. I can almost guarantee that once they start teaching like pirates, they won't ever want to stop.

I hope you've learned a little about Teach Like a Pirate and how to coach your teachers towards using hooks to engage their students. 

Stay tuned for the next installment of The Rebel Coach, when the focus will be on gamification and Michael Matera's book, Explore Like a Pirate.

Until then...ARRRRR!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Update on my #OneWord for 2017: Relevance

At the beginning of 2017, I chose RELEVANCE as my #OneWord. Having taken a new (3 year) position as an instructional coach, and with a few months under my belt, I wanted to be sure I stayed connected. I wanted to continue to offer ideas and to learn from my PLN. I wanted to keep growing professionally, as well as share what I learned.

Now that two months have gone by, I feel the need to reflect on my progress.
Here’s what I’ve been up to (in no particular order)…

  • I coordinated a school-wide World Read Aloud Day on February 16th, with 24 author Skypes in 5 locations, connecting over 700 middle school students. I started planning and organizing early last October, and wrote a grant (thanks, District 279 Foundation) to purchase multiple copies of all the authors’ books for the students to read ahead of time.
  • I served as a MN Book Awards preliminary judge.  It felt like a dream come true to have been selected to read 16 novels in the Young Adult Literature category from October through January. On January 28th, we (my fellow judges and I) chose our top four in that category.  See all of the finalists here.  I’m looking forward to celebrating the winners with my good friend Laura at the ceremony on April 8th.
  • I shared my love of books by participating in the #30secondbooktalk competition and advancing from the sweet 16 to the final four. It was my honor to celebrate Jeff Zentner’s upcoming Goodbye Days and MN author Abby Cooper’s Sticks & Stones. Although I didn’t take home the win (and $500 for my school’s library), I enjoyed creating these videos (which included my own kids, as well as a few of my friends’ kids). Happy memories.
  • I presented two sessions at our district staff development day on January 30th One  was a choice session about teaching argument and evidence, using resources from my good friend, author Erik Palmer’s latest book, Good Thinking. The other was a session for 6th and 7th grade Social Studies teachers on the ideas (questions and signposts) from Kylene Beers and Bob Probst’s book Reading Nonfiction: Notice & Note Stances, Signposts & Strategies . During this session, I also shared sketch noting (channeling my good friend and author Matt Miller) and #booksnaps (a genius way to use the app Snapchat, from the mind of Tara Martin).
  • I planned and facilitated the opening activities for our district Middle School Experience Committee. January’s activity was Anchors of Appreciation from Lead Like a Pirate (courtesy of leaders/authors Shelley Burgess and Beth Houf). In February, we all engaged in a “What If?” activity from The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros.
  • Speaking of The Innovator’s Mindset, I joined the 2nd round of George’s #IMMOOC  (Massive Open Online Course), which begins today. If you haven’t already signed up…go ahead and join. You’ll be glad you did.
  • I’m also in a smaller book study w/two fellow coaches as part of our professional growth plans. We’ll share our love for the ideas in this book with all of the other coaches next month. And hopefully, we can eventually share with the staff at our four other secondary buildings.
  • I presented #tlap (Teach Like a Pirate by teacher/author Dave Burgess) engagement strategies (specifically Ask & Analyze) to probationary teachers at three secondary buildings. There was even interest in starting a #tlap book study this spring. A fellow coach and I are in the planning stages. Excited!
  • Thanks to the friendship and collaboration with teacher/author Vicki Meigs-Kahlenberg , we submitted a proposal for #NCTE2017. Our hope is to share rebel resources for ELA teachers to help bring back the joy for teachers and students. Fingers crossed that our proposal will be accepted come May, and we can rock the room this November in St. Louis. It would be my 3rd consecutive NCTE presentation.
  • I’ve been fortunate to be involved in our district’s secondary Blended Learning Collaborative, led by one of our technology leaders. Last week, we learned more about Flipgrid, a site/app I’ve been using for a few years to amplify student voice. I was very impressed with the increased capabilities, and already helped get one teacher’s account up and running.
  • And just last week, I hosted #Ditchbook (a weekly Twitter chat) that encouraged participants to use results of this Bartle Test to determine students’ gamer personalities and better differentiate for increased engagement. I incorporated gamification (from author Michael Matera’s book, Explore Like a Pirate) last spring in my ELA classes, and was amazed at how it transformed my teaching.

     In addition to the above, and my instructional coach responsibilities, I have continued (and will continue) to share varied book titles with students at the schools I work at. I always find time to read books and enjoy tweeting book cover pictures and titles.
      Overall, I am pleased with my ability to remain relevant to the different PLNs and communities I’ve connected with in recent years. Revisiting this #OneWord will keep me motivated throughout the upcoming months of 2017.

I hope you click on the many hyperlinks in this post, since it’s always my pleasure to share the work and brilliance of others.

Until next time…

Sunday, January 8, 2017

My #OneWord for 2017: RELEVANCE

As I considered my #oneword for 2017, I couldn't help but reflect on the decision I made in August. 

  • The decision to apply for a secondary Instructional Coach position and take a 3-year leave from the classroom...where I taught English, which is my passion! 
  • The decision to use the experience and resources I've gained from over 20 years in the classroom, and to draw upon my incredible PLN (professional learning network) to support and inspire fellow educators. 
  • The decision to no longer have students of my own, and to no longer have that direct impact on their excitement for reading, writing and speaking. 
  • The decision to pack up my entire classroom in 2 days, and move as much as I could to my new office in a different middle school. 
  • The decision to build relationships with educators who cover all subject areas, getting to know their strengths and finding ways I could add value. 
  • The decision to move from sharing the engaging things my students and I are doing, to sharing the amazing things the teachers in my buildings are doing. 
  • The decision to move from teacher to coach.

It's been a wonderful four months so far, and I've enjoyed getting to know the amazing staff at both of my buildings (a middle school and a small high school). The opportunity to visit classrooms and witness the variety of teaching styles, strategies and student learning experiences has been valuable. I have grown and learned in many ways through the coaching and leadership training provided by my district, and have developed a camaraderie with my talented fellow coaches.

However, the further I'm removed from my time in the classroom, I wonder if I'll have enough value to give back to my PLN. 

Will I continue to be relevant?

And that's why my #oneword for 2017 is RELEVANCE.

My hope is to maintain relevance as an English teacher, as a Nerdy Book Club member, as a #tlap (Teach Like a Pirate) teacher, and as a #ditchbook (Ditch That Textbook) teacher. 

As much as I am inspired by the incredible experiences that members of my PLN create for their students, I want to always be resourceful in return. 
I want to continue blogging about my educational philosophy.
About the teaching ideas I'm fortunate to witness in my building.
About the amazing ideas shared in Twitter chats and Facebook groups, on educational blogs, during edcamps and teacher conferences, and by word of mouth. 

I want to read as many new books as I can, and connect with the plethora of phenomenal authors who continue to write amazing stories. I want to find ways to share that book love with students in my schools, throughout my district, and among the many teachers I've met because I chose to be a connected educator.

No, for the next three years, I won't have a classroom of students that call me their English teacher. However, I'm determined to remain relevant to my teaching profession, to my beliefs about teaching Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening, to my rebel/renegade/innovator mindset, and to the community (my PLN) that I'm proud to be part of.