Spring Break Books – “like a pirate”; Teach via @burgessdave & Learn via @PaulSolarz

In 2012ish I stumbled upon Dave Burgess on twitter and his #tlap ideology (Teach Like A Pirate) – I loved his tweets, the chats and found a like-minded educator in engaging students in the learning process. I have shared my copy “Teach Like A Pirate” with a few others and encouraged several others to get it http://www.amazon.ca/Teach-Like-Pirate-Engagement-Creativity/dp/0988217600/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1427326179&sr=8-1&keywords=teach+like+a+pirate

He provides a variety of tactics (or hooks) to connect and enhance the teacher-student relationship – which I have experienced as being particularly important in the learning process.

Like pirates, chances have to be taken. Failures will occur. That’s all okay as it’s part of the learning process. And while there’s no “one way” that is best (gotta fit your style as an educator/pirate) there are some ideas that will enhance the experience – as Dave says: When in doubt, take action” – in my classroom our saying was “When you don’t know what to do – do something!”


P – have passion for what you are doing

I – immerse yourself into the learning moments that are occuring

R – have good – no great rapport with your students

A – ask and analyze – aka use descriptive feedback

T – transform expectations of what is possible in a learning environment!

E – above all, have enthusiasm for what is happening!

Paul Solarz just published “Learn Like A Pirate” this spring break: http://www.amazon.ca/Learn-Like-PIRATE-Students-Collaborate-ebook/dp/B00UZTLRJY/ref=sr_1_sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1427327178&sr=8-1-spell&keywords=learn+like+apirate

a great “follow up” to the work that Dave set sail with! Paul is able to take the reader on a journey into his student-led learning environment!

Setting up the conditions for students to have ownership – of the environment as well as the elements of what is being learned! Embracing the loudness that sometimes comes up in community-learning – but also supporting those that need a bit of silence.

Is it easy? No – but if teaching was, everyone would do it! I will admit that many (not all – yet) of the examples Paul provides mirror my own classroom successes – where students who previously struggled, started to experience success – often with the ‘troubles’ coming up during ‘unstructured time’ (recess & transitions).

Paul illustrates the steps to student leadership in classrooms as:

P – Peer Collaboration

I – Improvement Focus vs Grade Focus

R – Responsibility

A – Active Learning

T – Twenty-first Century Skills Focus

E – Empowerment

My experience has mirrored Paul’s – allowing students to work together (which ‘we’ often do very well in many subjects – less so in math….?) has a huge benefit – I have been able to see students ‘step up’ and help teach others a concept faster than I could – and reinforce to me that ‘they got it’ (even when they couldn’t show that same skill in a more traditional ‘test’)

Our schools work on eportfolios mirrors Paul’s experiences with focusing on improvement vs grades – It has been nearly a decade since I put a score/ letter grade/ %/ etc on a students work – I have focused on descriptive feedback and had a few conversations with students (and adults) who feel they better know how they are doing with a score: “okay – you have an 8/10 – what do you need to do better on?” the first three suggestions the student gave me were enhancing things that they already did flawlessly….

Responsibility is key in classrooms – as principal, I have 3 guiding words for our learning community – be safe, respectful and responsible. Students do well when they have responsibility – I see this both from my school office, and in my classroom during my teaching time – and this component has not changed since I was a student….

Active Learning can be amazing – Paul talks about Passion Projects & hands on learning – which both provide authentic learning experiences and provide much more long-term remembering! I struggled with spelling lists that students would memorize for the week and then never spell correctly again…. I found that our SOLE (Self Organized Learning Environments https://technolandy.wordpress.com/soles/ ) study of the human body had students more engaged and remembering so much more than any text focused resources I had (mis-)used previously.

21st Century Skills may get some eye rolls – but they are essential. In BC we are referring to them as key competencies such as (but not limited to): Communicating, Collaborating, Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking, Change & Adaptability, metaCognition, Curiosity (risk-taking) are just 7 of the Cs to explore (get it “7 seas”)

Empowerment – as a principal, it works well for the adults and the students in the learning community. I believe Paul’s use of the quote by Joss Whedon “Recognizing power in another does not diminish your own” nicely parallels my belief in building leadership capacity


Both books are easy to read – but also cause a lot of deep thinking as well. Why do we do what we do in our learning environments? Is it good to have a few pirates on school staffs – I certainly hope so – because in reflection, I think I have been one! Am I still? Well – that’s for my learning community to comment on…!


About technolandy

Principaling on the Pacific in Powell River BC Pushing 'technologization' in education: blending technology and curriculum seamlessly. Advocate for better understanding of Anxiety in Education (and use of self-regulation) Utilizing ePortfolios & Descriptive Feedback to personalize learning!
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