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!