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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Teach Like a Pirate Book Study Part 1: Passion and Immersion

Welcome to part one of Teach Like a Pirate Book Study!  It is not to late to join in, so if you are looking for some inspiration for your teaching, grab a copy of the book and join our discussion!  Feel free to leave your discussion in the comments or if you have a blog and want to do a post about it, leave a link in the comments.  

Here is the posting schedule

I want to start out with these two quotes from the beginning of the book:  
Clip art by Amanda Wittenborn
"Teaching like a pirate has nothing to do with the dictionary definition and everything to do with the spirit.  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.  They are entrepreneurs who take risks and are willing to travel to the ends of the earth for that which they value.  Although fiercely independent, they travel with and embrace a diverse crew.  If you are willing to live by the code, commit to the voyage, and pull your share of the load, then you're free to set sail.  Pirates don't much care about public perception; they proudly fly their flags in defiance."

"We need mavericks and renegades who are willing to use unorthodox tactics to spark and kindle the flame of creativity and imagination in the minds of the young."
These quotes got me fired up about teaching and excited to read the rest of this book.  I love reading books like this in the summer time, I find it is an excellent way to recharge my batteries and get me excited about teaching again.  


The first section of the book is all about Passion.  There are three great questions that Burgess asks that you are supposed to answer before reading the section.  I am usually the type of person to glance at the questions and go on, but I found these questions to be good ones and in the interest of making a good book study, I answered these in writing before starting this section.    

Within your subject matter, what are you passionate about teaching?  
      I have 2 topics in math that I am most passionate about.  The first is algebra.  I am not talking about that big heavy text book you had in eighth grade.  I am talking about the patterns and conjectures students make starting in Kindergarten.  I am talking about the moment when a student realizes that knowing 8 + 9 = 17 helps them know 17 - 8 = 9.  I love seeing these magical moments when kids get the big ideas of mathematics.
     I also have a slightly unhealthy obsession with fractions.  I think this is because I was taught fraction in such a strict methodical way that I am always surprised and delighted when I find a new way to look at fractions.  I remember sitting in my first math professional development after graduating from college and the instructor told me that her research was showing that kids had 5 different strategies for comparing fractions.  I thought common denominators was the only way!  When I was a sixth grade classroom teacher, I remember waking up one night thinking about how to use the area model to multiply fractions.  I feel like there is always more to learn about fractions and that is exciting to me.
Within your profession, but not specific to your subject matter, what are you passionate about?
     I am passionate about seeing kids gain knowledge.  I love seeing that spark kids have when they have worked really hard at learning something and the self-confidence boost they get when they master it.  I love how that confidence can translate into a better attitude, a willingness to work hard and a passion for learning. 

I love the focus on making sure you have identified your professional passion because, "On all of the days when you don't have passion for your content, you must consciously make the decision to focus on your professional passion."  I may be one of the freaks Burgess mentions who is passionate about everything they teach (almost) but I have days where I am just not feeling the love for the content.  When that happens, I need to make a conscious effort to focus on my passion for teaching and seeing student growth.

When you combine your content, professional and personal passions you get an unstoppable teacher!  "Teaching is no longer about relaying the content standard... it's about transforming lives.  It's about killing apathy.  It's about helping the next generation fulfill their potential and become successful human beings.  It's no longer about memorizing fats; it's about inspiring greatness."  Reading quotes like that get me so fired up for the new school year!


This section focuses on being present in the moment.  I love the analogy of the swimming pool and the person watching from the sides versus the person in the pool.  As a math specialist, I spend a lot of time in other teacher's classrooms and I think the difference between a good teacher and a great one can be their willingness to jump right in the pool.  Their students really benefit in both engagement and academic success from their willingness to completely immerse themselves in the lesson.  

As much as this section focuses on being present in the moment and making sure you are not distracted by other things, it still shows the importance of sizing teachable moments.  "I'm a firm believer in having structure and definite plans for the direction of lessons, but sometimes things happen that demand a change in direction and a "letting go" of the plan.  The teachable moment is called that because if you wait it will be gone!" Even if it means you are not "covering" the curriculum you are supposed to, it is important to seize these teachable moments!  "At some point in your career you have to decide if you care more about teaching to tests or teaching kids." I know the reason I became a teacher was to teach kids and not to teach to tests! 

Your turn!  What are your thoughts on Passion and Immersion?

I bought the kindle version of this book and have been reading it on my iPad and my desktop using the free kindle app. This is my first time using a kindle version and I am still not sure how I feel about it.  What is your opinion on e-books versus real books?


  1. I love reading on the kindle app. Did you know that you can highlight sections in different colours then refer back to all of your highlighted sections? I also love that I can make the font bigger for my over-40 eyes. Lol! Enjoy your weekend!
    Grade 4 Buzz

    1. Cool! Thanks for sharing! I am way behind on this e-book thing but catching up quick now!

  2. Replies
    1. You should get it! The Kindle version is under 10 dollars!

  3. I liked this chapter. I actually wrote about it a few weeks ago--
    Not very fancy

  4. Thanks so much for this fantastic post!! I really enjoyed reading your thoughts and can sense your passion for your subject seeping off the page. I can't wait to follow along with the study!!

    1. I am so honored that you stopped by my blog! I am loving your book and the passion session really got me excited because I am pretty much one of those freaks who is passionate about everything they teach! At least in my current role I really do love most of it.

  5. How's it going now that you're a whole year out of launching TLAP?