July 11, 2016

Teach Like A Pirate Book Study {part 1}

Ahoy Mateys! Let's talk pirates and professional development!


Sometimes in life you get really lucky and the book your principal gives you for a school-wide summer book study is a book that has been on your list for ages!  Suddenly, there it is! Sitting on the table of the last staff meeting of the year just begging to be read.

And I thought, FINALLY I will know what everyone has been talking about!

I remember when Teach like a Pirate by Dave Burgess swept the blogging community last summer. The book was everywhere, except in my hands getting read. Apparently, last summer the pirate's life was not for me, but this summer I'm all in!

So, in case you are a bit like me and a little late to the pirate party, let me catch you up a bit. Below are some thoughts, musings, and big ideas for Part 1: Teach Like A Pirate.

First of all, Dave Burgess is inspiring and maybe a little intimidating, but truly remarkable. In one word, his book is entertaining. Filled with witty quips, memorable stories, and an honesty you can't ignore, his book is a stunning example of his passion for teaching. I would LOVE to be a student in this man's class. 

His voice fills the pages as if he is beside you. He's talking to you, guiding you, and to some extent holding you accountable. I like that. You can't help but nod along in agreement.

Dave is all about engagement for kids and bringing out the fun and joy in teaching. He is unapologetic about it being our job to inspire students, create lifelong learners and engage kids each and every day in the learning process. You know?  Like a pirate!

So, how do you teach like a pirate? Well, you certainty don’t have your students walk the plank. 

PART 1 defines what it means to be a teaching pirate. The Teach Like A Pirate philosophy can be broken down into 6 categories.


Teachers need passion every day in the classroom. Burgress breaks down passion into three distinct categories: Content, Professional, and Personal. 
  • Content Passion: The love and excitement you have for specific topics and standards you teach
  • Professional Passion: The reasons you became a teacher
  • Personal Passion: The things you love and enjoy outside of the classroom that have nothing to do with teaching
This section really resonated with me. I like the idea of looking at passions through different lens and finding ways to include each passion every day.

It's true. I am not always passionate about the subject I am teaching.  The 4 regions and sub regions of Texas is not what I would call the most exciting topic in 4th grade.  But, now I know to shift lens and use this opportunity to bring in my professional passions.

In the book, Burgess suggests writing down your professional passions to realign yourself as a teacher. I mean, seriously, when was the last time your wrote down what you were passionate about as an educator?

Take just a few minutes and write some thoughts down. Here are mine:

I am passionate about creating lifelong readers, writers, and communicators. I am passionate about getting kids to think deeply, ask questions, and think creatively. I am passionate about helping my students become problem solvers and community leaders. I want them to understand the power of kindness, empathy, and understanding. I want to create a room full of kind, compassionate, and thoughtful individuals who see strengths in themselves and strengths in others.

Once I got started, I almost couldn't stop. It turns out I have a lot of professional passion.  :)

Passion is not a singular entity. It comes in many forms. By including a mixture of all these passions in your teaching, your classroom becomes a place where engagement, joy, and excitement thrives for both the students and the teacher.


Be a part of your class! Join in the lessons - the discovery - the learning! As Burgess says, "It is far more powerful to "swim" with your students."

I love being immersed in my classroom.  In fact, most adults come into the room and can't find me. Why? I'm on the floor. Under a desk. Hunched in a corner. You get the idea.  I tend to be knee deep in whatever we are doing and I love that!


Connect with your students.  Learn and know their interests. Make connections between the content and what already interests them.  This creates buy-in and engagement. Creating rapport with students not only creates a classroom climate that encourages risk, but it also alleviates a lot of misbehavior. Win-Win.

Hearing that rapport and positive relationships are important was nothing new.  But, it did make me think about how well I know my students throughout the year.

There are tons of fun ways to learn about your students during back to school. But, don't forget to keep learning about them throughout the year. As teachers, we all know how much they change and grow in one year with us. Interests change and grow throughout the year too. Consider giving those "get to know me" surveys throughout the year as well - maybe once every nine weeks. It will be fun for the kids to see what's changed too.  Or add a "Get to Know More" component to your morning routine.

This year I'm excited to try Anytime Morning Messages from Emily at I Love My Classroom. I was the lucky winner of her giveaway, but I already think I need the other sets.  These quick little prompts are the perfect way to squeeze in a little extra get to know you time all year long. Each set includes a daily question and a quarter page response sheet for students. To read more about Emily's awesome community building creations, click here. She has sets for back to school, autumn, winter, and a special holiday edition.


Ask & Analyze:

To help you become a effective teacher, you need to get creative! Burgess describes the creative process and the questions he uses to help spur creativity. He believes it's all about asking the right questions so that your brain begins to generate possibilities.

One of the things I especially liked about this chapter was that he didn't say it was easy. He describes the creative process as one of hard work, perseverance, and constant reflection.  His lessons are outstanding because he worked to make them outstanding.

Burgess writes, "Creativity is rarely about natural brilliance or innate genius. Much more often creativity results from properly directed attention, laser-like focus, relentless effort, and hard work."

In other words, it takes grit people. It takes the same thing we expect from our students. It takes stumbling over an idea, picking yourself up, trying again, and seeking improvement. I'm a fan.

"It's not supposed to be easy - it's supposed to be worth it."

 - Dave Burgess, Teach Like A Pirate


Transformation of a classroom begins with changing our expectations of what can be accomplished in the classroom. Instead of looking at limitations, imagine the possibilities. Go out of your way to make the content you teach interesting. Position lessons so that students can make connections to their daily lives.  Reframe the "boring"  content as something amazing.

Burgess asks, "Do you have any lessons you could sell tickets for??"

Hmmm.... do I?  I'm not sure, but by golly, I want to get some.  I'm sure there are lessons I could ramp up to be ticket worthy.  Imagine what my students would say when they got home from school if I did.

I loved this section because it got me fired up! I want to have lessons worthy of ticket sales, and suddenly the wheels in my brain started turning.  Creativity at work.


Be enthusiastic! Be excited! Be willing to fake it if needed (until the enthusiasm becomes real) even if that means a couple of extra shots of espresso in the morning. :)

You know those days when you are excited to go to school, because you get to teach something really cool. I think the idea here is that we all (students and teachers) need more of those days.  And it doesn't happen by accident. It happens through putting all these elements together. It happens when you make a conscious choice to make each day exciting.  It happens when you teach like a pirate!


Having read PART 1 and then revisiting the ideas to write this post,  I think I am even more inspired than ever! I loved PART 1 of Teach Like A Pirate and I love Dave Burgess!

These are not new ideas, but I believe they are the important foundational ideas of any good teaching philosophy. They are ideas that I strongly believe as an educator and it felt good to hear them again.  I think anytime we can have our beliefs affirmed and valued, especially in print, it makes us feel like we are not alone, we are on the right path, and we are making a difference. Pirates unite!

My thoughts and notes could never do Teach Like A Pirate justice. You simply have to read Dave's words yourself.  Click the image below to go directly to Amazon to get your own copy to join the pirate ranks.


THANK YOU Dave Burgess for an inspiring, entertaining, and reflective summer read! I'm feeling rejuvenated and excited to teach like a PIRATE!

Part One Complete.


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