The Principal's Office
Leadership. Collaboration. Innovation.
"Do you want to be great?" It's a very interesting question to think about. I'm sure the typical answer would be..."Of course I want to be great." The question that I have is "How do you measure greatness?" Do you measure greatness by an evaluation score? My answer is no. Do you measure greatness by an SGO or PDP? My answer is no. Do you measure greatness by a series of lesson plans? My answer is no. While all of those things contribute to the effectiveness of a teacher, Dave Burgess states in his book "Teach Like a Pirate" that "A teacher’s impact can only be measured through generations, not through a single test." Too often we lose sight of what is important about our jobs. We have the opportunity to shape the lives of young adults. At an elementary school, or middle school level (where I am) we often don't see their success as students move on into high school and beyond so we tend to live in the "now." However, sometimes we are fortunate to hear from a former student or hear about a success that one of them has had later in life. Defining greatness is difficult.
However, the great thing about teaching is that you don’t have to figure it all out before you begin. Greatness evolves. We are working with students who can be molded, shaped, encouraged, cared for, nurtured and dare I say it....loved. Each day we get to make an impact with them. There will be good days. There will be bad days. But with each new day we learn more and more about our students and ways that we can reach them. While yes, we have things like SGO's, PDP's, evaluations, lesson plans, and grade books, each one of those things, in some way, are focused on ensuring that we are being great for our students.
With greatness comes accountability, responsibility, determination, grit, perseverance and a relentless pursuit of making a positive difference in students. It takes work. We have to be willing to look inside ourselves (like the picture above) and decide if we are willing to grow...willing to go the extra mile. We have to spend time building relationships, challenging ourselves and those around us, to make schools great for kids. It begins with us. The path to greatness is not easily traveled. If it was, everyone would take it. Robert Frost said it best when he said he took the road less traveled and it made all the difference. Do you want to be great? The road lies ahead.....
This year my staff and I are reading "Teach Like a Pirate" by Dave Burgess as we explore ways to creatively engage our students in the learning process. Below are reflections that I sent out to my staff during our study of the Instructional "PIRATE" Hooks. Each week these reflections were designed to push each other to learn, to grow, to reflect on how we can be better for our students and for ourselves! This is Part II of my "Teach Like a Pirate" Reflection. Thanks to Dave Burgess for pushing our thinking and helping us find our "Inner Pirates!"
Are You Plugged In?
"Much of your success as an educator has to do with your attitude towards teaching and towards kids. The rest of your success is based on your willingness to relentlessly search for what engages students in the classroom and then having the guts to do it.." This quote stood out to me as I started reading about instructional hooks and integrating them into the classroom. The remainder of our book study will focus on how creative you can be in designing lessons for your students. I expect it to be challenging. I expect it to be frustrating. I expect there to be questions about how these hooks can apply to your instruction. I expect you to think that Dave Burgess might be out of his mind. However, I also expect that we all, at the very least, reflect on how it MAY benefit your class.
The Kinesthetic Hook can really have major effects on the success of our students. How often do you let students move around in your classroom? Or how many times do you actually take students out of your room? Do you have lessons that you plan where students could move around and do not? Stepping outside of your comfort zone may surprise you with what you find out about your students. You might even surprise yourself about how creative you can really be. Get moving......Teach Like a Pirate.
Long Live the Arts
"We have unbelievably talented kids sitting in front of us and many are starving for the opportunity to display their creativity." Are you taking advantage of those opportunities? I remember a lesson I did as a teacher when I taught a unit on Career Planning with my high school students in my Life Management Class. We were doing job interviewing skills and students were permitted to interview for any job they wished that was tied to their college major or future career path. The students would dress up and interview with me. One student decided to interview for a Broadway production and proceeded to belt out a song from "Cats." The stunned faces on the rest of the students in my class were followed by applause and murmurs of "wow, that was awesome," "I didn't know she could sing like that," and "woah." Not only was it one of the highlights of my career but it was one that I talk about whenever I run into the former student in town. What was even more remarkable was that the student happened to be blind.
You never know what can happen when you "hook" students in through creative ways like art, music and theater. It may be outside of your comfort zone but it is right in your students' wheelhouse. Awaken the joy of creative expression....you will be surprised with the results.....Teach Like a Pirate.
What's In It For Me?
"What are we learning this for?" It's a question that I always encouraged my students to ask me when I taught a lesson. While sometimes we don't always have the answer that they want (or care) to hear, there are times when we can link what we are teaching to real world experiences, student interests or moments of inspiration. It is when we can do the latter where we make great strides with our students. When there is some autonomy and choice in their learning you will often find students more passionate, more energized and more willing to collaborate. In the lessons I was able to see this week there were high levels of engagement because students were "hooked in," able to make their own decisions, guide their own learning and reach outcomes through collaboration with their peers or their teacher. Teachers brought their own passions of games, movement, areas of content and hobbies and created lessons that sparked student learning.Can this be an everyday thing? Who knows. What I do know is that when students can see that learning can happen in different ways, in different spaces through different perspectives, instead of asking "What's In It for Me?" they are more likely to ask "When can we start?" Teach Like A Pirate...….
What's In It For Me? (PART II)
It's a question that as an educator we may not always think about because we are dedicated to our students. However, the students are the answer to that question. We have the ability to motivate and inspire student every day. We have the unique opportunity to create lessons that provide students with knowledge, skills and perspectives that will help them be successful not just in your classroom, but in their lives. Associating what we teach with the world around us, with our own personal experiences, and with their interests can bring lessons to new places they have never been to before.
As we get deeper into our study of Instructional Hooks you may still be thinking, "What's in it for me? I'm comfortable teaching how I am teaching. What I'm doing works for me and I don't have time to do all of this "Pirate" stuff." In a keynote address at Techspo this week I heard a quote that got me thinking...."The love of comfort is often the enemy of greatness." So ask yourself, "What's in for me?"..........GREATNESS. Teach Like a Pirate.......
Stand and Deliver
We have had the opportunity to hear from some great speakers over the past several years. Jack Berkemeyer, Alice Keeler, Jimmy Casas, Joe Sanfelippo and Weston Kieschnick all brought different ideas, thoughts and messages to inspire us to keep moving forward....to keep making a difference. Each person, in their own way, drew us in with stories, kinesthetic activities, upcoming technology practices or teasers for what was to come during the day. Each speaker brought energy, enthusiasm and a passion for their message to a large audience of people who for some, were looking to learn, for others may be have been indifferent and for others...maybe wondering, "can't I just be somewhere else right now." It didn't matter who they were speaking to. They believed in their message and they were ready to share it with you.
It is the same way for you as a teacher. You may not realize it but you are a keynote speaker every day. You are delivering a message for your students. Whether it is a story, an activity, a set up for the next day or creating a buzz that gains interests from your students, you are looking to spread a message in your classrooms every day. As educators, we can either embrace that we are "public speakers"..intentional about making a difference in students or we can continue to say "I don't like to speak in front of audiences because it makes me nervous." Like our keynote speakers, do you bring energy, enthusiasm and a passion for your message? Is what you are doing memorable? Yes, students need to be in your classrooms every day. But what if you needed to sell tickets to your lessons? Would anyone show up? Stand and Deliver.......Teach Like A Pirate.
The implementation of the 1:1 Chromebook program has had its benefits (and drawbacks) over the past several years. (Drawbacks...yes...I said it.). Whether you knew it or not, you have been utilizing #tlap hooks for the past several years through the "techno wiz" hook. We have been able to create paperless activities, capitalize on our students' knowledge of technology by integrating different projects, connecting students to the world that lies outside your classroom. We have utilized breakout-edu activities in some classrooms, QR codes for scavenger hunts and some of us are seeing the power that social media has in branding our classrooms. We have seen engagement levels rise in certain areas of our curriculum that were once "uneventful." Some of "less tech savvy" have dipped your toes in the water and have taken risks and have seen the reward that can happen.
However, we must remember that technology is a tool. We must not become so dependent on it that we forget that it is not the ONLY tool we should be using. The drawback to technology is that it can tend to take over a classroom. We must continue to focus on designing solid outcomes guided by our curriculum (treasure map). Our expertise in instructional strategies must continue to direct us (compass) as we navigate the outcomes we are looking to accomplish with our students. Tools like technology can help us reach our destination but ultimately it is up to us as PIRATE educators to continue to learn "advanced tactics" as we provide uncommon experiences for our students. Advanced tactics like technology are great....but teachers are better........Teach Like a Pirate.
Around the Edges
"Students will do amazing things if you can design a class and environment that is positive and empowering." This quote by Dave in the final hooks in the book is a great reminder that no matter how much time you spend planning how you are going to "hook" students in, the most important thing is building trust, respect, responsibility and accountability.....a place where students feel supported, encouraged and celebrated. The final hooks of the book really extend learning beyond the walls of the classroom and encourage creating experiences that build the school connections that are critical. Whether it is a contest, a mnemonic hook, or a challenge hook, we have the opportunity to encourage students to raise and fulfill the potential that they have burning inside of them. After all, we can all be PIRATES full of...
I hope that you enjoyed reflecting on the various ways we can engage students in learning. I look forward to seeing the Pirate Hooks in Action! Don't be afraid to take risks, raise the sails and chart a course for success. Your students are waiting......TEACH LIKE A PIRATE!
Work Like a Captain, Play Like a Pirate
I'm sure some of you are thinking that education is getting crazy and that it sounds like we should be entertainers rather than teachers. While I know that our book study has been about student engagement and making the classroom exciting for students, it is also my hope that it is understood that the ideas in this book and the strategies/tools that I share with you are all ways in which we can CHOOSE to educate our students. There is no "one way" to do it. What I do know is that we have to teach the students that are in front of us. Those students are changing. They are coming to us with different stories, with different skills, with different passions. with different experiences. As much as we want them to adapt and learn the routines of our classrooms, the content of our course and wisdom that we can bestow, we must also understand that they are kids. They are going to make mistakes, they are going to challenge us, they are going to try to "just get by." But they are also going to learn, they are also going to grow. They may fail once, twice, three times..... we must be there to support them......sink or swim. Why? Because we made a CHOICE......a CHOICE to make a difference in the lives of our future. This is the journey we have set sail on. The ocean changes day to day just like instruction may have to. Use your compass that has guided many of you for years but don't be afraid to chart new courses every once and a while. You never know where the wind might take you...….. TEACH LIKE A PIRATE.
Richard M. Hayzler
A life long educator and current Principal of Pequannock Township High School in NJ, Rich is excited to share his ideas and thoughts about education and how we can change the world for our students and our staff.