Skeptic to Pirate!

Okay…she didn’t twist my arm or bribe me in any way, but she did make it possible for the two of us to attend this Saturday’s Teach Like a Pirate seminar with Dave Burgess in Orlando when she registered us a few weeks before the event and told me we were going.  All week long, I met the opportunity with skepticism even after she brought a copy of the book home and I thumbed through it one tired, sleep deprived evening.

Argghh!  Teach like a pirate?  It sounds too gimmicky to me.  It sounds too much like a packaged motivational seminar with a self-important pirate-dressing speaker.  However, because I am a consummate learner and ready to try anything in my classroom to improve the culture of learning, I committed to being open-minded.  I told my son that if you go to a seminar and meet one new person and bring home one new idea that you can implement you’ve not wasted your time.  Saturday arrived and I went on an early morning 5 mile run before we had to get ready to go to the event.  On the run, I was filled with gratitude thoughts during one shaded, oak covered part of my route and was enthused with some positive energy for the day ahead!

Upon arriving and entering the church building, my wife and I were met with the sounds of Pirates of the Caribbean (“Yo ho! Yo ho! A pirate’s life for me!”) and pirate decorations abundant.  I was beginning to feel the pirate spirit!  Our gracious hosts (volunteers of Glad Tidings church in Ocoee, FL outside of Orlando) provided a fantastic breakfast spread that included pastries, fresh fruit and fully caffeinated coffee.

TLAP Orlando

Do you believe in the power of coincidence?  Last week, I answered the call from my bookshelf of my old copy of “The Autobiography of Malcom X” which had begun saying “Read me, read me, read me” each time I passed to let our dog in or out over the last several weeks.  I was once again smitten and overwhelmed by the words of Attallah Shabazz in the book’s foreword which I had read aloud to my students as a new teacher in my first American History class at a Title I school in Orlando, FL.

“A lover of language, my father believed very much in the power of words to influence and transform lives.”

Reading those words aloud to my students marked a “flash memory” in the beginnings of the awakening of my mission and vocation, my passion for teaching.  I discovered a passion for teaching the Civil Rights movement as I picked up for a teacher who left in the middle of the school year where I was supposed to be teaching the standards according to the county’s pacing guide to a group of students who were painfully unaware of this history.  I found my passion for teaching wrapped up in the calling of the transformative power of education…of words…of the written word to a classroom of 11th graders who were struggling with the grade level text.

On Saturday, Dave Burgess opened with the P of PIRATE: PASSION and shared his passion for the story of Malcolm X and the transformative power of education.  Coincidence?  Who knows?  But he hooked me in hard and fast as he described the need for teachers to answer three questions:

1) Within my subject content areas, I am passionate about:

2) Within my profession, but not specific to my subject matter, I am passionate about:

My Answers:  Building lifelong learners.  Equality of education.  Engaging learners every day.  Helping students discover their innate gifts and talents.

3) Completely outside of my profession, I am passionate about:

Some of the resonating notes from my PASSION page:

Your message to your students lived and taught: “You can become an expert in anything….witness Malcolm X.”

“Bring yourself to work so students see you as a human being.”

“We must bring more of ourselves to work.”

“Build a catalog of LCLs (Life Changing Lessons) that are embedded in your content standards and that match your higher purpose.”

“It’s not as much about raising standardized test scores as it is about raising human potential.”

I have a lot more notes and a lot more to share.  I woke up this morning at 5:15 and read half of the book.  Needless to say, this skeptic is now a PIRATE!  I highly recommend educators put Teach Like a Pirate on their summer reading list or start reading it right now.  Attend a seminar when one lands close to you so you can learn the rest of the PIRATE acronym and the PIRATE toolbox to go with it!

Special thanks to the congregation of Good Tidings Church (@ocoeegt) for hosting this professional development event for Orange County teachers and to Christina Howell (@TeachToDream) for the vision and work she put into making this day happen.  See you on the seas!


2 thoughts on “Skeptic to Pirate!”

  1. I love that you listened to your “little voice” urging you to pick up the Malcolm X book. Your wife rocks for signing you up for the conference:-) I mostly love that you were hesitant about attending the conference and reading the book BUT you did it anyway….AND with an open mind to learn something new. Your students are fortunate to have you as a pirate leading teacher!

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