Saturday, August 8, 2015
Learn Like a Pirate #bookaday August 8, 2015
I loved Dave Burgess' Teach Like a Pirate when I read it last summer. I reread it this spring for a Long Island Writing Project book discussion. Dave's passion for teaching and his philosophy really resonated with me and changed me in some ways. When Talks with Teachers chose Paul Solarz's Learn Like a Pirate for their August Professional Book Club (discussion on Facebook), I was excited to read another "pirate" book, this one focusing on the students.
Paul is the teacher I want to be. The idea of empowering students to be passionate, collaborate, take risks and be engaged in their learning is so powerful. The worst thing as a teacher is to look around the room to a sea of bored faces, watching the clock. When school is disconnected from your interests and when you don't feel successful, it is not a happy place. Of course, I went into teaching to help students reach their potential and Learn Like a Pirate is full of amazing ideas to make that happen.
It's also a little overwhelming. Paul is so incredible and his students are doing so many amazing things that it's easy to feel kind of deflated and sort of like the worst teacher in the world (of course, not his intention). It's also very different from traditional classrooms and without a visual model of how this works, some of the ideas were hard for me to imagine doing. One of the key components in this book is giving students the power to stop the class with a "Give Me Five." I understand the value, yet I am afraid of how my third graders would do with this privilege.
In the Summer Literacy Institute in Merrick, literacy coach Pete Gangi told us that we need to believe the students can do it and rise to the occasion. If we believe they can't do it, they won't do it. This reminds me of Learn Like a Pirate and Paul's expectations for his students. He writes, "I beg you to have high expectations for your students. Too often, we are the ones making excuses and preventing our students from stepping up to challenges."
So, taking a deep breath, I am going to work to move towards a more student-centered classroom. Who's with me?