Wonder Wednesdays:  Teachers Leading Teachers


This past year I kicked an idea around where teachers would lead other teachers in learning about topics that interested them. I ran it past a couple of other teachers to test the waters. They liked it, and so we began. Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly (well, maybe not ugly) of our first year.

I decided on the name Wonder Wednesdays because I liked the ring of it. We met on, you guessed it, Wednesdays. We met to discuss what we were wondering about and what we wanted to learn more about at our own pace. It was purely voluntary, topics were teacher driven, and we moved on when the group decided. Anyone could propose and lead a topic. And like EdCamps, no hurt feelings if you left because it wasn’t what you needed.   That was the good…

The bad part? Low attendance. We’re a Title One building and it seems like every day of the week there was a meeting to attend or a club that was meeting. Well, maybe not Mondays, but come on, no one wanted to meet about anything on a Monday morning at 8am. There seemed to be no good day.

What about the ugly? While not truly ugly,  it’s the comments or complaints you’d hear about how the district wasn’t training us on this or that (I’ve been guilty of this myself which is one of the reasons for starting Wonder Wednesdays). Or, people asking you how you learned something and wanting you to take your personal plan or other time to show them. Umm…that’s what we were doing on Wednesdays.  Really, I’m not mad or making judgments, but just don’t complain when you don’t or can’t take advantage of something when it’s offered. Please no hateful replies in the comment section. I get that meeting doesn’t always fit into everyone’s schedule. I’m just saying you can’t have it both ways.

So what do you do? Give up and chalk it up to experience? Nope. No one ever said leading was easy. While attendance was low, we learned a lot when even just a few of us were able to attend. Not just one teacher led. We had several teachers who brought something new for the group to investigate. At times, our administrators were also able to attend and learned right along with us.  Will I suggest changes for next year? You bet. Here’s what I’m thinking.

Moving Forward with Wonder Wednesdays 

  • Ask my administration what days are already planned for mandatory meetings and see if Wonder Wednesdays could be put on the schedule but still have it be voluntary. 
  • Together, choose a topic each quarter so that the group has longer to really explore the topic. 
  • Continue to have a basic agenda for the meetings and post it.  This helped us stay on track when we met.
  • Advertise our meetings better. 
  • Invite everyone at the beginning of the year to join our Wonder Wednesdays Google Classroom. This way they can be a part of the group virtually if unable to physically attend. 
  • Film the meetings and post to Google Classroom and possibly consider a YouTube channel. 
  • Don’t give up and keep extending the invitation.

Trying Wonder Wednesdays was a bit of risk for me.  I like helping people and learning from them, but I’m not the kind of person who usually organizes a group to start something new.  If I were in a comic book series, you’d see me cast as the trusty sidekick.  I usually play the supportive role.  I worried that no one would come.  This is where I had to check my ego at the door.  It’s not about number of attendees or if other people question your motives. You need to do what you believe in, no matter what.  Eventually, if it’s important enough to others, or they find value in what you have to offer, they will come.

If you are already doing something like this in your building, I’d love to hear about it and get ideas from you as well. 


Kids Deserve It! And…So Do Teachers


Have you ever read a professional book and found that you just couldn’t put it down until you finished reading it?  Or, once finished you just had to share with all your friends, especially those on social media.  Well, you will once you get your hands on Kids Deserve It! you’ll see what I mean.

The book is written by Todd Nesloney and Adam Welcome.  What’s great about these gentleman is that you feel like you already know them as you read through the book.  LIke you could be sitting out on the deck after school discussing your crazy ideas and how to make them happen.  I’m particularly impressed in that these are practicing educators.  I find myself trusting these kinds of writers much more.  After all, they still know what’s it’s like to be educating kids today.

This book is an inspiration for teachers who are in all phases of their career. I find it particularly inspiring for those of who have been in education long enough to have experienced the pendulum swinging back and forth a couple of times already.  Kids Deserve It! will remind you of the teacher you started out to be, once were, but may have gotten side-tracked along the way.  It’s a book that will speak to you, but not in an excessively preachy way.  Rather in a way that you wish you were in your classroom right now, ready to set the world on fire.  Yes, it’s that good.

The premise of the book is to create an atmosphere and experiences that kids deserve to learn in each and every day.  However, I’d like to go further and say it’s what teachers deserve as well.  The book will not tell you exactly what to do to in order to achieve certain results.  Rather they offer you suggestions, examples from their experiences, and fill the book full of personal anecdotes.  In addition, after each chapter they include things to consider and Tweet about.  I mean, come on, they’ve already included a ready made book study and Twitter chat.  Now those are principals who are taking care of their staff, whether their personal staff or those of us who have now adopted them as our virtual principal.

Here are just a few of my favorite ideas/quotes from the book and my thoughts about them.

Worse than loneliness is the negativity that comes when we’re in an environment where, even if you want to innovate and push boundaries, you feel isolated by people who aren’t willing to do anything but push back.

I’ve often referred to this as being on an island.  Todd and Adam often talk about that alien look.  You know, the one where  you are talking about something you are doing or want to try, and some of those around you look at you like you’re an alien. We have to learn to not let it bother us so much, or we have find a way to get them on board.  Regardless, your kids deserve a teacher who is willing to go it alone if necessary.

The good news is that you can choose whom to connect and collaborate with–and they don’t have to be within the walls of your building.

Collaboration does not mean everyone on the grade level team is doing the same thing, the same way, sharing the same planbook.  To me, it means sharing ideas, helping a teacher who may not even be in your grade level, being a sounding board when needed.  It’s great when this happens in your own building, but why stop there?  I have learned so much by being on Twitter.  Not just reading the feed, but by interacting in chats.  When I’m asked how I heard about a new piece of technology, found a new book to read, or how I knew what was happening at the state level with education, my answer is often that someone in my Twitter PLN told me about it.  Don’t  limit yourself to someone else’s idea of collaboration, or even the walls of your building. Get out there and connect with people who will support your desire to grow.  After all, kids deserve it.

While you think we may be talking about being “techie,” what we’re actually talking about is being relevant for your kids.

In some education circles it seems that in order to be considered an innovative teacher you need to be using technology in everything you do. Yet, like everything else, you need balance in your approach. Some of my best projects have been those that involved roles of various types of tape, paper, and cardboard.  I do love technology.  I just want to be able to offer my kids the best approach for the task at hand.  My kids deserve it.

When leaders don’t lead, no one grows, and superstars leave.  Without strong leadership, exceptional team members will leave in search of a campus where they are challenged to grow.

Sadly,  I’ve seen this happen all too often. Teachers feel their ideas aren’t being listened to, or there’s no real support. Or, I’ve seen teachers who demonstrate innovation and leadership only to be accused of showboating or bragging.  Sometimes, they just don’t feel like they belong because their ways are so different than their team or building. Sometimes a lack of vision and culture of growth can drive teachers straight into the arms of a school that will.  Teachers deserve to work in a school where growth mindset is not just for kids, where our ideas and research are respected.  We deserve the respect we are due.

I got lost in the scores and judged my entire year by one day of testing-forgetting the ways we’d touched and changed lives.

While I am great at letting my kids know that they are more than a test score, I have a hard time telling myself the same thing.  That I am more than twenty-four test scores.  When scores roll in, I find myself wondering what more I could have done.  For the past few years I have felt that all I do is test kids.  Yes, I know I do way more than that and provide my kids with numerous learning opportunities, but it feels that I am just a testing machine. I tend to overlook all the growth and excitement in learning when scores don’t always meet my expectations. My goal for next year is to actually believe that I am more than a test score.  I’m not a test giving machine, I am the person who helps kids realize their dreams.

When you relinquish some of the control, stop making excuses, and trust kids just a little, they’ll always surprise you.

I started doing that more this year.  Not just with kids helping me learn new apps or other technology, but in the classroom itself.  Why can’t they be given more responsibility?  My goal this year is to give my students more opportunities in which they can do this.  One thing I’ve learned over the years is to go into anything new with the attitude that it will succeed.  Kids can’t be responsible and make the right choices if they are never put in the position to do so.

Now, go out and buy this book.  But more importantly, join the movement and the conversation using #KidsDeserveIt.  Get on Twitter and follow Adam (@awelcome), Todd (@techninjatodd), and the book (@KidsDeserveIt).  They also have a website, http://www.kidsdeserveit.com, as well as being on Facebook.  Our kids  deserve the very best that we can give them.  And teachers, you deserve to be the best teacher that you can be.


3 Ways to Attend a Professional Conferences When Money and Location Are a Factor

Ok, so you can’t attend the conferences for your dreams due to money, time, or the location. Don’t let that stop you. Here are a few ways to attend conferences for free without leaving home.

One way to attend a conference is to see if your conference has a virtual component.  Blackboard World is a conference I attended last year. And by attend, I mean from my couch. You can sign up to watch their sessions live.  They even make it possible to send in your questions.  With it being in real time, it’s like you are there.  If you area BlackBoard user, or interested in blended learning, consider “attending” this conference.

Another is to follow the conference hashtag.  Last year I stumbled upon #notatiste.  This is where all of us who couldn’t attend the ISTE (International Society for Technology  in Education) conference could learn from those who were there.  The conference has an official hashtag where many of the speakers/presenters will share their material or conference attendees will share what they are learning.  Follow along on Twitter @isteconnects and #iste2017.

Are you on Periscope?  Periscope is another great way to attend a conference virtually.  Last year I really did feel as if I were at ISTE2016.  I follow @TonyVincent on both Twitter and by using the Periscope app.  Last year he went through the poster sessions and interviewed those presenting.  He even zoomed in on their name tags so that we at home could get their name, school district, and Twitter contact information.  Even better, the app allows you to post questions to the person broadcasting, they read them, and then answer you verbally in the broadcast.  It really was amazing and I learned about so many new technologies and the amazing things that schools around the world were doing.

These are just a few of the ways I have found to be able to attend conferences.  How do you do it?

Are You a Teaching Champion?

front row logo and title

Roughly two years ago I began using an amazing website, www.frontrowed.com.  It is a website that will help you meet the diverse math and ELA needs of your students.  In upcoming posts I will be guiding you through the website and all of the amazing features.  However, the focus of this post is on the Teaching Champions section of the website.  I wish I had known about this feature earlier. I found it by poking around the site.  I’m glad I did.  It is a way the creators reward you for using their site.  Oh, and did I mention, I have recently become a Front Row Ambassador?  Through this program I will help spread the word about a resource I believe in and to share what I have learned about the program by using it with my own students and the new features that are constantly being added.

Front Row Teaching Champion

As I said, this is the section of the website where they reward you for using the program and sharing your successes as well.  Click here to view a video that I made to walk you through how to access the Teaching Champion section, what you will find there, and how to use it for your benefit.
Once you sign up for, and log-in to the website, you will find the Teaching Champions tab on the upper left side.  Click on it and you will find a variety of ways to earn points that will move you through the bronze, silver, and gold levels.  Each level brings benefits for you.

I look forward to posting more about this wonderful resource.  Future posts will focus on explaining the different parts or sections of www.frontrowed.com and how I am using them with my students.

Revitalizing Staff Morale Using the SNAIL Method-Part One

I know it’s summer break and I should just be relaxing.  However, I can never fully disengage from teaching.  I’m always looking to the next year and how I can make my teaching better.  Whether it be reading a professional book, building a brand new unit, tweaking an existing one, or self-reflection.

This coming school year holds many changes for our staff.  We will  have a new principal, school improvement specialist, and at last count seven teachers and support staff new to our building.  While change can be quite unsettling to some, it also brings with it the opportunity for improvement.  With the kind of turnover my building has experienced in the last five years, morale has taken a dip.  Thankfully our commitment to our students remains high.  I believe we can use this latest change to bring about the opportunity to repair or revitalize our morale.

This series of five posts are my thoughts as to do how we can accomplish this. I’m calling it the SNAIL method as snails carry the weight of their homes, not unlike our school, on their backs.  They work hard to get to where they are going, yet don’t move so fast that they miss out on the opportunity to observe what’s going on around them.


image courtesy of https://pixabay.com/

Stand up and take pride in our profession

Never pass up the opportunity to show appreciation

Acknowledge when things aren’t working and develop a new plan

Ignite a spirit of collaboration not competition

Let go of old hurts or jealousies

Stand Up and Take Pride in Our Profession

I believe that all the negativity in the press and even among our own colleagues can drive down staff morale quickly. Standing up for our profession makes one feel empowered, rather than a victim.  This does not mean you have to attend rallies if that’s not your cup of tea or engage in heated debates about teaching.  It really just means presenting yourself as a professional.  Show your excitement about teaching.  Join a professional organization.  Have a positive and professional social media presence.  Contact legislators on legislation that harms students and teachers.  Don’t say, ” Oh, I’m just a teacher.”  Rather, “I am a teacher!”

Another way to stand up for your profession is during professional development.   When you are at a meeting or in-service pay attention and be polite.  No matter if you feel the presenter is less than engaging, you feel you already know the information, or you just plain don’t want to be there.  Decide to find one positive or take-away from the experience. Believe me, I’ve been there and looking back am not always proud of how I or my colleagues have acted.  I often tell my students that boredom is a choice.  So is a negative attitude at these meetings.  Sure, we all hear something at a meeting or presentation, and it sparks an idea of how we could implement or tweak it.  Human nature is that you want to share immediately with the friend sitting next to you.  It’s also human nature to complain about the meeting to that same friend sitting next to you. However, think of the presenter.  Is it their first time presenting?  Is this something they were just told to do and are really uncomfortable or nervous about doing it?  Are we tuning out because we’re not particularly fond of the presenter?  Administration also needs to stand up for the profession.  When staff are not behaving well at these meetings, give them the opportunity to change their behavior, if they don’t then call them out on it. It doesn’t need to be a public shaming, but could be addressed privately.  Find out why it is they are acting the way they are.  However, if we truly want there to be a change we have to be willing to address our colleagues and let them know that we are trying to get something out of the meeting and need to be able to hear.  Behavior that is allowed will continue to fester and harm staff morale.  It doesn’t just affect the person presenting, but also those who are trying to get something out of it.

So, as you look forward to the next school year think about how you can stand up for your chosen profession.  It doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking, but rather a series of small actions that lead up to a positive change.

Next post in the series will be N-Never pass up the opportunity to show appreciation.

Why Teacher Leaders Matter

“Developing the leadership potential of teachers empowers them to better support student learning, encourages them to stay in the profession, and makes it possible for principals to be more effective.”-Judy Seltz, ASCD Executive Director

How many principals and superintendents have you had in your present position?  I’ve been teaching in the elementary setting for twenty-two years. During this time I’ve had numerous superintendents and principals.   I’ve been in my current district for fourteen years where we’ve had, I believe, four superintendents and about to go to number five. We’ve also had four principals, and we’re going to number five next year.  You can’t blame someone leaving for career opportunities, but that kind of turnover is what prompted this post.

When I think of a teacher leader I’m not envisioning someone who has the ultimate goal of being an administrator or leaving the classroom for an education job outside of the classroom. Rather, I’m envisioning the teacher who is innovative, current with best practices, a risk taker, and one that provides stability when administrators leave. What’s better than a teacher leader?  Simple, a whole school of teacher leaders.

So how do we go about cultivating teacher leaders?  That’s where the real challenge lies. How can you be a leader with a full plate of teaching responsibilities and a busy home life?   I think the key is to not look at it as one more responsibility, but rather an extension of what were already doing. Here are a few quotes I’ve found that will help us think about how to get teachers thinking of themselves as leaders.

“You don’t have to be a district superintendent or building administrator to be a leader within your school community.”-Justin Zatt in ASCD

This is a great quote, but so hard for many of us to believe.  A tittle doesn’t make the leader. It’s what we do and how we treat others that makes us leaders. 

“Teacher leaders take risks within their classroom and aren’t afraid that they don’t know something.”-Anne Cunningham-Morris, ASCD’s Director of Professional Learning

This is so true about many of the teachers I work with, and what I wish more teachers would embrace.  Fear of failure or not always knowing the outcome, or the answer prevents many teachers from realizing their potential.  We must emulate what we want our own students to do.  It’s hard to say you don’t know, but isn’t that where the real learning begins?  This is what moves a building forward, especially when there is a change in administrative leadership.

“If more educators felt supported in thinking, stepping and even jumping outside of the box, real change would begin”-Carol Hunter, ASCD blogger

This piece is key.  Teacher leaders must feel valued, and that when we do venture out and take a risk, we won’t be reprimanded or ridiculed for taking that risk. It must go beyond an email of support. We need to know that our administrator will truly be present as we experience successes and setbacks. Come into our classrooms not to only evaluate, but to see what it is we’re trying to do. Don’t just stop in one day during a unit, but consider a course of days to really see how it unfolds. Then, either leave feedback or arrange a time to discuss what you observed. True teacher leaders value your feedback and won’t mind you popping into their classroom. We see you as a partner. 

Each teacher has the potential to be a leader. But just like our students, this potential must be cultivated and supported. By growing a building of teacher leaders, change in administration won’t cause a disruption in building morale, building growth, and most importantly, student learning. 

For more about being a leader, view the video, Teacher Leaders. Then think about your answer to the following question. Are you ready to be a teacher leader and support others in becoming one as well?

Are You a Marvelous or Mediocre Mentor?

Well, the answer to that question is simple.  It depends on the day.  This year I have the unique situation of mentoring a student teacher from August until October.  Then, I mentor a teacher intern full time January through late April/early May.  There are days where I feel that I am doing a marvelous job of mentoring my student teacher. However, there are days I feel mediocre.  It’s these days that if I feel so guilty.  I’m still trying to teach until she takes over full time, balance all of the extra demands we teachers have to meet, and then balance my family life with the demands of teaching and mentoring.  I’m not content on being mediocre and quite frankly, my student teacher and intern deserve marvelous.

So, after looking at resources I’ve used in the past, ones I’ve come across on the internet, and those shared by my PLN on Twitter, I’m going to share a few of the more Marvelous ones.

The Spiral Notebook-One of our teachers last year began using a spiral notebook with her teacher intern.  In the notebook she would leave her observations and questions.  The intern would then be able to read it and record her own observations and/or questions.  This then became a place in which to start a conversation about the teaching and have  a record of progress and learning.  Had I remembered this earlier, I could have gone from mediocre to marvelous.  However, I plan to start this tomorrow.  It’s never to late to be marvelous.

Another great resource, 10 Tips for Mentoring a Student Teacher, is from Teach 4 the Heart. One of the best ones, and one that seems obvious, is to explain everything you do.  This can actually be quite challenging because it’s all second nature to you.  I often will pull my student teacher or intern aside and while the students don’t need me, explain why I just did what I did.  My student teachers and interns have expressed that this is extremely helpful.

This Teaching Channel post came to me from my Twitter colleague, Steven W. Anderson (@web20classroom).  While it is titled “The A-B-C’s of Giving Feedback to a Colleague” is directed toward a teaching colleague, we need to remember that our student teachers/interns are our colleagues.  The author, Ashley Hurley, does a marvelous job of providing specific examples of giving targeted feedback.  I will be using these on Monday to go from mediocre to Marvelous.

At TeachingShop.com Richard E. Lange and Brian P. Roach wrote a blog post on what the university supervisor, cooperating teacher, and student teacher should be doing in order to create a successful student teaching experience.  My favorite take-away from this post is helping your student teacher/intern manage their time.  Last week I observed my student teacher mange her time during guided math groups.  She had expressed that this was an area that concerned her.  I was able to track her time on each portion of the lesson and offer both praise and suggestions.

Not only time management, but organization can be also be challenging, especially when it’s not their own classroom.  I create a binder for my student teacher.  I provide the schedule, planning sheets, websites and codes, planning resources, standards, and district pacing guides.  In addition, I create a list of expected duties.  I break it into before school, during planning period, and after school responsibilities.  This lets my student teacher/intern know exactly what is expected.  We also work on a timeline of how they will assume teaching the various subjects.   I add to the binder as I find more resources that would be helpful.

My favorite planning resource to use to keep my student teacher and I on the same page is Planbook.com. It’s an online planbook that is simply Marvelous.  My student teacher and I each have access to it.  This allows me to see her plans and comment.  I can even create the planning template that I want her to follow.  This way my expectations are readily available.  What’s even better is that we are able to attach supplemental resources.  She can see what I use and I can see what she is planning to use.  Oh, and did I mention there’s an app for this?

Whether you’re already a Marvelous Mentor or sometimes mediocre, I hope you’ve found a resource here that will help you mentor our future teachers.

Be fearful of mediocrity.–Jonathan Ellery

Using Twitter to Connect Within Your School

Twitter has been a great way for me to connect with teachers, administrators, and authors from around the country and the world.  As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I never thought I’d really use Twitter much, but now I love it.  I’ve begun to think about using Twitter as a means to connect with teachers in my own building. We all want more time to meet with colleagues, but let’s face it, it’s often difficult during the course of the day. Many of us have family responsibilities, activities we’re involved in, etc. it’s difficult to coordinate so many schedules.

So why not set up a Twitter chat just for your school? At my school we have groups of teachers who are interested in reading books on close reading and trying the strategy in their classrooms, blended learning, utilizing science notebooks, writing workshop, and more. The great thing is that these teachers aren’t in the same grade level, but are interested in learning and sharing together. The down side is that it’s difficult to meet with all the different plan time schedules. So, why not use technology, and Twitter specifically, to help with this logistical problem?

Understand that I still feel like technology is not always my strong suit, and I’m definitely an introvert. So, even considering approaching this idea with the staff is a tad bit anxiety inducing. But, I’ve embraced the Teach Like a PIRATE philosophy and this will get me moving along on that journey.

So here’s what I’m thinking right now. Start small. Find a small group of teachers who are up to trying something new. I have a few in mind already. Set up the chat for twice a month (same day and time) with the hope of going weekly. If there’s interest, but the time/day is a factor, then I could consider offering the same chat twice in the week and provide teachers with the archive of the earlier chat. I’ll have to ask my Twitter teacher friends how exactly to do this, though. I think I’ve finally got a handle on Google Docs, so I can send out the topic with list of questions. It might even be a good idea to send out a survey to find out the topics teachers are interested in discussing. After all, this must be beneficial to all of us in order for it to work. We could even conduct a book study this way. I’m thinking of using #setogether (part of it is our school abbreviation and the other shows our intent, in the idea phase right now).

Now, if this works, and takes off, I’d like to do the same thing, but district wide where we have grade level chats. Again, run it the same way as at the building level, but maybe just do it monthly. I’ve switched grade levels this year, so I’ll need to make some new contacts to see if there is interest in doing this. Many of our district leaders once taught or were an administrator in my building so I may be asking them for help to see if this idea would help. I’m thinking #DeSoto5 for our district and grade level.

I’m also wanting to try this with our student teachers and teacher interns. It’s even more difficult trying to coordinate schedules with this group, as they are being pulled in so many directions during their training. I and my fellow building representative, Coleen, could set the topic for the first chat, and then survey them to find out what they’re interested in discussing. We could also bring in their cooperating teachers and maybe even guest teachers. Anything to help them connect and learn from one another. If this works out we could consider taking it program wide. We are a part of the University of Kansas Professional Schools. These chats could be #senew2teaching, #KUnew2teaching, and #KUPDSmentors.

So, that’s where my mind is at today. Using technology to connect within my own building. I’d love to hear from other teachers who may have tried, or who are doing this already. Or, simply any comments about trying this.

I’ll leave you a few quotes from the Teach Like a PIRATEteacher and author, Dave Burgess.

Let’s just be sure that the “definite purpose” of collaboration is improving education, not simply standardizing it.-Dave Burgess, Teach Like a PIRATE

I strongly believe in the power of collaboration, but I don’t believe the final goal of such work should be to come to a single “right” way of teaching. -Dave Burgess, Teach Like a PIRATE

One of the most rewarding parts of teaching is the personal and professional relationships we develop on our voyage.-Dave Burgess, Teach Like a PIRATE

Twitter, I Think I Love You!

Never thought I’d say something like that.  I resisted social media for so long.  What did I care what other  people were doing or what celebrities were saying?  I didn’t see any value in any of it.  Then, I was introduced to ProTeacher and then to Pinterest, or what I refer to as the gateway drugs to social media.  This opened up a whole new world to me.  I could feed my addiction to ABC’s Once Upon a Time and to all things teaching.  I was hooked!

In order to join Pinterest at the time I signed up for Twitter and thought I’d never use it.  Then, I decided to see what all the fuss was about and decided to follow Once Upon a Time and it just snowballed from there.  Now, I follow people, am being followed, and participate in chats.  My most recent chats have been #readingjoy and #tlap.  It’s one thing to follow a hashtag, but it’s much more powerful to join in on a live chat.  The first one I joined in on was quite daunting as I had no idea what I was really doing and the chats go so fast.  I have to admit it took me a while to figure out the moderators post the questions in advance so you have an idea what the live chat will be about and then it helps you prepare better answers.  For me, that enabled me to better be able to respond to other posters.  That’s where the real magic occurs.  Getting to interact with teachers from across the country and sometimes the world.  My PLN (personal learning network) has increased dramatically.  I now have one more place to go for ideas and advice.  Plus, everyone I’ve met so far has been incredibly nice and supportive. Because of #10summerblogs people have actually been reading these posts! In addition, I never imagined being able to chat with the authors of books I’ve read or am reading.  I love checking in to see what Dave Burgess (@burgessdave) or Kylene Beers (@KyleneBeers) have posted.  Dave is the author of Teach Like a PIRATE and Kylene is the co-author of Notice and Note.  These are two great books!

Now I’ll leave you with two quotes.  One from each of the authors I follow.

“One of the most rewarding parts of teaching is the personal and professional relationships we develop on our voyage”-Dave Burgess

“Isn’t it amazing how quickly a group can become a community.”-Kylene Beers

I’m Setting Sail and Becoming a PIRATE

First of all, let me be honest.  I resisted reading TEACH LIKE A PIRATE Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator by Dave Burgess for quite some time. I’ll be honest here, it was the title. I don’t like pirates. Well, except for Captain Hook on ABC’s Once Upon a Time, but that’s an entirely different post. However, Dave Burgess hooked me with his definition of pirates. It looks like I’ve been a pirate all along and just didn’t realize it.

“Pirates are daring, adventurous, and willing to set forth into uncharted territories with no guarantee of success. They reject the status quo and refuse to conform to any society that stifles creativity and independence.”-Dave Burgess

This quote sums up the Teach Like a PIRATE philosophy and sets the tone for the book. If you’ve never read the book or it’s been awhile, set sail with me for a short voyage through the book.  I’ll briefly explain what each letter of the PIRATE acronym means and share my favorite quotes from the book.  (In case you don’t stay with me for the entire voyage, here’s the short version.  Read the book!  It will get you motivated to teach or it will help you reconnect with a passion that you thought you had lost.  It’s not just a feel good book, it has solid strategies for engaging your students and yourself.  You will find many strategies to hook your students into your lessons.  There’s bound to be one that you can feel comfortable with trying and then find one that takes you out of your comfort zone.)

One idea that really resonated with me from the book is when Dave (and since I’ve tweeted with him I feel I can call him Dave) speaks the hidden truth. We are not always passionate about what we teach. I think that’s why I’m always trying projects or trying new things. I don’t always enjoy every subject I teach and therefore am constantly finding ways to make those subjects more interesting to me, thereby making it engaging for my students.

So, before I share anymore quotes from the book and my thoughts about them, I’ll briefly explain what the PIRATE acronym means.

Passion-Feel passionate about what you’re teaching, even if you’re not passionate about it.
Immersion-Be immersed in the moment to engage your students.
Rapport-Getting to know your students and showing them that they are more than just a grade.
Ask and Analyze-Ask the right questions and be open to feedback.
Transformation-Reframe your subject to overcome barriers.
Enthusiasm-This is your most powerful tool. Use it freely.

A few more quotes that I identify with concerns the “cookie cutter” approach to teaching and collaboration.  It seems like more and more that either an administrator or a team conveys that idea that collaborative planning means we all do the same thing, on the same day, in the same way.  And, if you don’t, you are not a team player.  As good as the ideas in this book are, Dave cautions that what gets him excited will not necessarily work for someone else.  Again, the key is to find your personal and professional passion and bring those into your teaching.

“Resist any movement that attempts to clone teachers and lessons and instead rejoice in the fact that it is your individuality and uniqueness that will  always lead you to become the most effective teacher that you can be.”-Dave Burgess

“I strongly believe in the power of collaboration, but I don’t believe the final goal of such work should be to come to a single “right” way of teaching.”-Dave Burgess

“Let’s just be sure that the “definite purpose” of collaboration is improving education, not simply standardizing it.”-Dave Burgess

This post is getting incredibly long, but I hope it gives you an idea of what it means to be a teaching pirate and nudges you into the direction of reading it.  As I said, I resisted reading it and then couldn’t put it down. It renewed in me my passion for teaching and gave me that added reassurance that I am not alone in pursuing my passion for teaching.  Now, read the book and then join in the weekly Twitter chats at #tlap.  The Twitter chat is a great way to connect with other teachers finding their passions and engaging their students.  I’ve already met a lot of great pirates there!  As I end this post I’ll leave you with three more quotes to think about and then feel free to leave me a comment if any of these quotes have  resonated with you.

“You have to have a vision of what your ideal classroom experience looks like if you want to have any hope of creating it.”-Dave Burgess

“Don’t allow misguided and ill-informed critics to steal your enthusiasm for innovation.”-Dave Burgess

“One of the most rewarding parts of teaching is the personal and professional relationships we develop on our voyage”-Dave Burgess

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