Monday, June 17, 2013

Teaching LIke a Pirate

So, a few months ago, I started hearing a lot about this book - Teach like a Pirate - on Twitter.  I decided to check it out, and I got my hands on a copy.  Two days later, I finished reading it.  

This was unprecedented for me.  I had never read a "teacher" book in only two days before.  Usually, it takes at least a week, even during the summer.  Sometimes much longer.  But I found this book to be both readable and short.  Mr. Burgess isn't as engaging and quirky as someone like Tom Romano or Barry Lane, but I still finished his book much faster than those other guys.  

Another surprise?  It was useful.  And not just in a theoretical way.  I know that I enjoy reading books that help me understand instruction or engagement better, but this provided helpful tools for planning engaging instruction that I could use the following day.  

This is starting to feel too much like a paid endorsement, so let me summarize what I don't like about the book:
  • Many of the strategies suggested focus on delivery of lectures or content.  It often feels like "sage on the stage" paradigm stuff.  
  • Not enough of the book seems to focus on ways to get the students taking control and responsibility.  
  • It sometimes feels like a "one size fits all," "all my kids are the same," "let's teach everyone the same way" thing.  Not always.  
Perhaps these are my biases coming through, as a middle school teacher reading a book written by a high school content-area teacher (Burgess teaches history).  Perhaps these things are there and I'm not seeing or remembering them.  And perhaps these things are not the point of the book, really, so it might not be fair to fault the book for not including everything about everyone.  After all, the book focuses on engagement, and apart from the above, it does so quite well.  

Perhaps the most valuable section, for me, was his discussion of how he encourages his own creative ideas.  I learned a lot from reading about this, and I continued that study beyond the book.  

Some time after reading and enjoying the book, I found the #tlap hashtag and book discussions.  I also found the author participating in these book discussions (as @burgessdave).  I met a lot of great people as I continued to show up for these chats, and I really learned to look forward to this hour of discussion of engaged, passionate teaching with a growing group of dedicated, connected teachers.  

I just finished participating in a very large (hundreds of teachers from all over the country), very productive (almost 2,000 tweets in one hour) chat centered around a book study of this book.  Chicago-area teacher Paul Solarz is moderating this chat - (, and I'm looking forward to participating more.  

I think it's one of the best educational Twitter chats out there, and I encourage everyone who is interested to participate.  
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