28 October 2016

Is a PIRATE's Life for Me?

I could hear Dave Burgess scolding me every second I wasted that first week. I should have had the map handouts printed and copied, waiting on tables with the necessary number of markers for the activity with nice, neat SMARTboard pages with complete maps (sorry, Uruguay--you weren't in the clipart) and images carefully pre-selected and arranged to represent each country.

Instead: maps were printing as students walked in, I had scissors in hand to separate them as I started the activity, I had to dig around two cabinet drawers to find the big marker box after my explanation, I shuffled countries and photos on the SMARTboard, resizing and regrouping (all but Uruguay), and, frankly, I lost them.

Not a lot has changed since I started this post three years ago, back when I first started reading Teach Like a PIRATE. I mean, I don't do map lessons much anymore, and of course there have been multiple inspiring PIRATE spinoffs in the intervening years that I have not had time to get to (except the picture book--that I've read cover to cover!) But I still scramble as students are walking in and often make my photocopies at lunch, which conveniently breaks up the "learning episodes" for my third period class. Just yesterday I caught myself playing lifeguard instead of swimming with my students. I don't stop and ask all the questions I could or should in my lesson planning, and you will almost never hear me say, "You don't want to miss class tomorrow!"

Yet I have talked my principal into making TLAP required reading for my school--even though I still have not read the original cover to cover.

From the 3/4 of the book I have absorbed and savored and rolled around in my brain, I would say that Sr. Burgess' main message is above all JOY in the classroom: creating opportunities for joy and removing obstacles to joy. The point is that if our students aren't happy with what's going on, and if we aren't happy with what's going on, WE DON'T HAVE TO ACCEPT IT.

I wonder how Teach Like a PIRATE is going to strike my colleagues who are feeling a little resigned. I wonder if they will be turned off by Sr. Burgess' seemingly unending pep and see it as a standard beyond anything they can or want to reach. I mean, it's a LOT of pressure to think that everything that happens in your classroom ultimately comes back to decisions you made--or neglected to make. True though that may be, sometimes, you do just have to let that go--a message I think might be lost in the grand scheme of TLAP.

Still, I would recommend the book again. It asks questions that in all reality I can't ask myself every day or even every week or month. But now I know where to find those questions, say, when I find myself slipping into DEVOLSON and need a way out. Even on days I'm not feeling so seaworthy, Teach Like a PIRATE gives me a way to move forward without blaming students or forces beyond my control.

So can I control every aspect of every lesson ahead of time so I and my students can experience maximum joy every time we enter my classroom? Am I prepared for that kind of PIRATE's life?

No. I am decidedly not prepared for that kind of life. People already think I don't sleep, and I really wouldn't sleep then--or eat or read or breathe.

But can I use Teach Like a PIRATE to feel a little less helpless in the face of failure, to keep my focus on making my class experience better for me and my students?

Aye, that I can.

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