Lead Like a Pirate (#LeadLAP). What an incredible book to read on my patio this summer. I've known authors Shelley Burgess and Beth Houf for a few years now, but had the opportunity to meet them both in person in 2016. Shelley at the incredible Summer Spark last June in Milwaukee, WI, both of them at AMLE in Atlanta, GA last October, and Shelley again later in October at SMSU here in MN. Any time I can meet up with one or more members of the #tlap (Teach Like a Pirate) crew, I seize the opportunity. Every one of them, from captain Dave Burgess, to each educator who strives to create engaging experiences for their students, is doing the important work needed to inspire educational change.
In my opinion, this book: the fifth in the "Like a PIRATE" series*, has great potential to fire up and inspire anyone in a leadership role to make school more amazing for all staff. When we focus on lifting up and supporting staff, showing appreciation for what's going right, instead of the deficit model of reaching in to fix what's wrong, there's no limit to how far we and our students can go.
Right away, I was hooked by the introduction.
Now, I'll take a minute to explain my pirating background. I proudly #tlap every chance I get. Whether with my 5th graders in elementary, or my middle school English students, I openly lived the PIRATE way (passion, immersion, rapport, ask & analyze, transformation and enthusiasm). However, something felt different when I stepped out of the classroom to take a three year position as an instructional coach. A teacher on special assignment (TOSA). A leadership role.
Back to that #LeadLAP introduction. The one that hooked me because it spoke to my feelings of being treated differently. Of no longer feeling relevant. Of becoming "one of them."
Interestingly, the more I read of this book, I was reminded that the same attributes I brought to my classroom with students, I bring to my buildings with staff. Right there in that introduction, Shelley and Beth asserted that PIRATE leaders are courageous. That they inspire and influence others to follow them. And the treasure we seek? Amazing schools for students, staff, parents and the community- schools where they WANT to be.
These dynamic authors share a wealth of ideas for creating these types of schools, no matter your unique PIRATE style. They truly emulate what it means to focus on what's really important: "raising human potential in our students, in our staff, in our parents, and in ourselves."
I love that #LeadLAP starts out by offering insights on each character trait of PIRATE, like it's predecessor, Teach Like a Pirate. There are also Leadership Challenges for each one, as well as a Compass to guide you and Cannonballs to avoid. Yes, the PIRATE theme is in full swing. But, what would I expect from a book published by Dave and Shelley?
Here are a few connections I made from the original #tlap and my time in the classroom, to this book and my new role out of the classroom-as an instructional coach.
Passion: Where I once channeled my passion into creating engaging experiences for my students, I now focus on learning the passions of the staff so I can help channel them into engagement with their students.
Immersion: Before, I would immerse myself in my students' learning, always looking for ways to be the guide on the side/guide on the ride. Now, my goals include becoming more immersed in the school culture so I can have an even greater impact.
Rapport: This one's pretty obvious. My "class" is no longer students, but the adults who work with students. Building and sustaining relationships need to be part of everything I do.
Ask & Analyze: Before, I was always looking for ways to not just teach lessons, but create experiences. I'd look ahead at content and make it relevant and engaging for the students in front of me. As a coach/leader, I need to ask questions of staff members that might lead to engaging conversations- empowering them to take risks.
Transformation: Before, it was about transforming lessons and activities into meaningful experiences, or transforming my classroom into a space that enhances learning. In this leadership role, I shift to thinking about ways to transform meetings, conferences, and trainings into something more engaging and effective.
Enthusiasm: In my classroom, enthusiasm and positivity created a place where my students wanted to be every day. As a coach, I want the staff to be excited about their learning journey, which directly impacts their students- making our school a place that everyone wants to be.
Following the PIRATE character traits section, Shelley and Beth roll out strategies to help build leadership capacity in any organization. From determining your focus, avoiding blame and harnessing the power of teams...to highlighting the magic of people (not programs), assembling a tribe that strives for greatness, and making time to support the important work. They round out that section with ideas/rationale for using social media to tell your school's story, as well as ways to PIRATE up professional development.
My favorite section (which might seem obvious) is Coach Like a Pirate. These inspiring leaders lay out a plan for ANCHOR Conversations. (Yes, another acronym.) Leaders need to be invited into the real conversations about teaching and learning, and must move away from the judgmental "fix it" mentality toward one that seeks to build on strengths. That's the only way to move each individual, and the organization/system forward. There are three goals for these conversations: for staff to see that we value them for the work they do, that they believe leaders add value/we are a resource, and the for the conversation to push their practice forward.
Here's the gist of each letter of the ANCHOR Conversation acronym.
A- Give daily messages of Appreciation
N- Notice the Impact
C- Have Collaborative Conversations (not evaluative, unless it needs to be Captain-Directed)
H- Honor Voice and Choice
O- Offer Support
Finally, Part Four includes tips and strategies to help you build a better captain and become a PIRATE leader.
Not surprisingly, Shelley and Beth don't just leave you high and dry. They are here to support you on your PIRATE leader journey. Both are available via tweet (Twitter), using @burgess_shelley and @BethHouf and the hashtag #LeadLAP, You can find them in conversation each Saturday morning on the #LeadLAP Twitter chat at 9:30 am CST (the chat formerly known as #satchatwc). In addition, you can find contact information and other #LeadLAP resources on their website leadlikeapirate.net.
I'm more excited than ever to take on this challenge to Lead Like a Pirate! I hope that, whatever leadership role you're in, you'll find this book as amazingly inspiring as I do.
*The other books in the "Like a PIRATE" series are: Teach Like a Pirate, Learn Like a Pirate, Explore Like a Pirate, and Play Like a Pirate. I have read and used all of them in my teaching. All are highly recommended, no matter what subject or age group you work with.