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Monday, July 8, 2013

Teach Like a Pirate- Transformation and Enthusiasm

This post marks the end of Part 1! So far we've covered Passion, Immersion, Rapport, and Ask & Analyze... it's time to look at Transformation and Enthusiasm!

This chapter focused on making a change, in your classroom set up and in your lessons. Burgess starts out stating that you don't want your lessons to be ordinary. You want your lessons to be remarkable.

"Remarkable means that you are so exceptional and different that people talk about you- in a good way." (Burgess p.56)

Focus on that last part... in a good way. You want others to be impressed with you, not looking into medicating you.
The point is, you want your lessons to be memorable. Special. Worthy of attention and note.

Burgess asks us these 2 questions:

1. If your students didn't have to be there, would you be teaching in an empty room?
Ouch. That hit a little too close to home for my taste. I put a lot of thought into my lessons, but am I presenting it in such a way that students want to hear it? Am I engaging enough that my students rush to get to their seats, and not in fear of being counted tardy?

2. Do you have any lessons you could sell tickets for?
This one is a little easier. I think we all have one of those lessons. The lesson we wish administration would walk in while doing a surprise observation. My ticket worthy lesson is on the branches of government and The Constitution. LOVE. IT.

There's no way that each and every lesson is going to fulfill both of those questions. However, we can make sure that every lesson is worthy of learning if we can focus on 2 things: Positioning and Reframing.

Positioning: Putting your information in the front of your students' minds... and keeping it there!

When I go to Walmart with my kids, they know which aisles are their favorites. All they have to do is look for the end caps. I hear complaints about their being hungry and thirsty until I put a box of crackers into their hands. That's positioning!

In your classroom make sure you have the information students need front-and-center, along with yourself! Bright colors, sounds (music maybe?), pictures... something to catch the eye! Make it pleasing and interesting.

"Reframing involves providing a new context for the material that helps to break down the negative associations many students come to class with." (Burgess p.62)

In other words, reframing is taking something that might not seem great, and turning it into something magic. Your students might think they hate math, but that's because they've never experienced math your way!  My kids (the ones I birthed) thought they hated to clean, but that was before I introduced them to Mary Poppins! 

Sometimes all a lesson needs a just a spoonful of sugar. Or fairy dust. Or Disney in general. Whatever you use, make it worth your, and their, time.

If you're not enthusiastic about your lesson, how can you expect your students to be?

"If you apply nothing else form this book, but you consistently ramp up your enthusiasm level in the classroom, you will be far ahead of the game and a dramatically better teacher." (Burgess p.65)

Burgess goes on to say that he would rather hire an enthusiastic teacher than a brilliant but staid teacher any day.

"An enthusiastic teacher can learn technique, method, and strategy, but it is almost impossible to light a fire inside the charred heart of a burned-out teacher." (Burgess p.66)

Ouch. That's a little harsh, huh? But think about it. 
An enthusiastic teacher is like a happy puppy- eager to please and learn new tricks.

A burned-out teacher knows all the tricks and doesn't want to learn any more. 

I'm not going to lie, there are times when I begin the day like the first illustration, but end the day looking like the second. Not a pretty picture, but you understand the sentiment. The only way to have an energetic and engaging classroom is to be an energetic and engaged teacher- and it's exhausting!

Then I have to go home to 3 little ones of my own and they want snacks, and dinner, and homework help, and clean clothes so I start laundry, and baths, and bedtime stories, and just one more kiss and hug... you get the picture.

Don't let their cuteness fool you. They can be demanding little tyrants.

So, how can I be an enthusiastic teacher day after day without becoming completely burned out?

1. Fake it.
You heard me. Someones you just don't feel it, and that's ok. That doesn't mean, however, that you're off the enthusiasm-hook. Your students still need you to be at your best. So, fake it. The plus side of faking it is that eventually you'll manage to fool yourself as well. It's like laughing. Your brain can't distinguish between a real or a fake laugh, so you do it until your brain is convinced it's real.

2. Change your focus.
"No Honey, I'm just too tired to do the dishes. I'll just let them soak another night." I drag myself upstairs and barely make it to the bed before I flop face-down on the mattress. I'm almost in dreamland when suddenly I remember that today was the release of the newest book in a series I'm reading. I jump off the mattress, grab my Kindle and download the book. 4 hours later, the book is finished, a mug once full of ice cream is set on the bedside table and I'm finally ready for bed.

Your day is going to have plenty of ups and downs. The important thing is being able to focus more on the ups. If you're able to focus on something that makes you happy, it will help you keep your energy when you're faced with something less pleasant. Find an enjoyable aspect of the lesson you're teaching and it will help you sail through any more difficult times.

** Discussion question: What is one way you've "Mary Poppin-ed" a lesson? What's your favorite "spoonful of sugar"?**


  1. Hey mrs delk this charkedia calloway i miss u I'm going to A I'm going to a schoo I'm going to miss u.

  2. Hey, Charkedia! I miss you too! I hope you're having a wonderful summer!

    1. Hey mrs Delk this is charkedia I just want to say I miss u and I'm crying my eyes out and I got my repot card to day and I got honor role all 15 A's and B's I miss u

    2. Well done, Charkedia! I am so proud of you! I'm glad you're still checking the blog. :)

  3. Hi,
    Loved your post...especially your 2 questions at the end! "What is one way you've Mary Poppin-ed a lesson?' and 'What's your favorite spoonful of sugar?' Excellent!