We are using Schoology (that's a whole different post) to have discussion about what we are reading. Dave Burgess uses the word PIRATE to stand for: Passion, Immersion, Rapport, Ask and Analyze, Transformation and Enthusiasm. He shows in the book that by using these strategies you can truly increase student engagement and love your job more. I am a believer.
Passion is easy for me. I am so passionate about teaching, about computer science, and about getting my students to want to be in the STEM fields. I am passionate about extending my students and making them want more for themselves. Many of my students are first generation college students - and some are even first generation high school attendees. I want them to love computer science the way I do - to just be enthralled. I don't understand people in my career who aren't passionate - who don't love the kids and love igniting the fire of learning. I don't understand why they are in it.
Immersion is defined by Burgess as being deeply engaged or involved. He uses an analogy of a swimmer versus a lifeguard. The lifeguard sits on a perch overlooking the pool, monitoring all the swimmers. He is not amongst them. The swimmer on the other hand, is actively in the pool - splashing, interacting, and active. Too many times as teachers we separate ourselves and don't get into the action with the students. I have found my best lessons have me involved with them - not watching from the sidelines. When you are in it with the kids, they sense the excitement, and learning occurs at a fevered pitch. It really is something to behold! I leave those days exhausted - but it is the exhausted that comes not from frustration, but from having lived!
Rapport is another area that comes easily to me. This is building the atmosphere of trust and really knowing who your customer is. Branching from Burgess, I think this is also the time to get to know not only your students, but your parents. I hear the moans now - I have so many kids and there just isn't enough hours in the day. Before you go down the excuse route, you need to know my teaching day. I am responsible for 273 students. I teach 8 classes a semester. I teach dual credit so I have to play by the rules of three institutions that don't necessarily want to conform to one another. Yet I still manage to communicate in some way with my parents once a week (go check out http://www.smore.com for a great way to make visually creative newsletters). I still manage to get my grades entered (what good are assignments if kids don't get feedback?). GET TO KNOW YOUR STUDENTS. I promise it will pay off in dividends later. The first day in class we spend on getting to know each other and making our social contract (Capturing Kids Hearts - Flip Flippen). We decide how we are going to treat each other. The kids always like this step. They love the ownership. I promise to give my kids 100% and they promise to give me 100% (remember, it is important to know that 100% does not always look like 100% each day - we all have off days). We set the expectations and the norms. By taking the time to know my students, they almost feel obligated to do well for me. They don't want to let me down. The few lost days at the beginning are more than made up by Christmas. This is the piece that so many secondary educators miss. By missing this, you really do miss out on some great humans.
Ask and Analyze is difficult for me since I always want to save the students. But if you truly want to extend your students, you need to ask great questions. Questions that challenge the students and extend their learning. Life isn't a multiple choice test and so many times we as teachers try to make it one. We also need to analyze the situation we are in. As a project based learning teacher, I constantly analyze what I have done and what I can do better next time. Ask the students for critical feedback - they are the audience and too many times we leave them out.
Transformation - We need to make our classrooms stand out. I love when Burgess asks - "Is your classroom a brown cow or a purple cow?" I want my room to be a purple cow. One that is different and is a standout. But how do you do it? First, it cannot be sterile. I have been in so many classrooms where the walls are bare and nothing is there to personalize it and make it yours. Why is that? I know I spend a great deal of my time here and so do my students. I don't want them looking at an institutional wall. That's boring! I want to be the flame that attracts the moth to learning. I can't do that in a brown cow classroom!
Finally, the "E" in pirate - my favorite - enthusiasm! Here is a secret - you can't fake enthusiasm with kids. They see through it. Be enthusiastic - for the students, for education and learning, for your content. I promise the enthusiasm will spread! They will love it too! Over the last two years it has been incredible to hear my students say, "I always thought computer science was boring. I met you and now I want to do it. This is a cool field." This makes my heart flutter! I LOVE that they love what I am doing. When you are enthusiastic, students want to learn and they want to be there. This is what gets the students to the lesson.
If you have never read the book, please do. It will reignite your passion and love of what you do. It will inspire you to do more and grow as a teacher. Maybe it will even remind you why you got in this crazy field. Remember that first day when you were going to change the world? Well guess what? You probably did!