Saturday, March 1, 2014

We Must Engage Our Students

I just finished re-reading Dave Burgess' book, Teach Like a PIRATE. It was published a couple of years ago, and it is one of my favorite books about teaching. Rather than a focus on generalized standards or district-wide instructional strategies (which are also important), Dave's focus is on what each teacher and student individually brings to the classroom. He emphasizes the importance of the relationships we build with our students.

His premise is that we as teachers need to create an environment that our students want to be a part of. We do this by using our creativity to create lessons that actively engage our students in learning. We make our classrooms so appealing that our students wouldn't think of being absent, and since they are there and engaged, we are teaching them what they need to know. How do we do that? To get the full picture you need to read the book!

However, I can give you a taste to entice you.

First, we must let our passion show - our passion for our subject matter and our passion for teaching, as well as using the passions we have in our personal lives as ways to relate to and hook our students. Second, we must immerse ourselves in our teaching. Dave's example is the difference between the swimming coach who coaches with words from the side of the pool and the coach who gets in the water and demonstrates and actually helps with the students' strokes. Third, we must develop positive relationships with each of our students. We must really get to know them as people, not just as subordinate students. Fourth, we must ask ourselves the right questions to determine the very best ways to teach what it is we're teaching. Fifth, we must transform our content. We must show how what our students are learning will be valuable and relevant to their lives. We must make connections between the learning and the real world. Finally, we must be enthusiastic in our classrooms. There is no place for any less than our very best for every class, every day.

Dave had my attention immediately because of two things.
  1. He began his theories about teaching with passion and ended with enthusiasm. I agree with Dave: Give me teachers with those two traits, and I can help them become better teachers.
  2. He groused at people who said that unlike themselves, it was easy for him, because he was a creative person. ARGH! How many times have people said to me that integrating technology was easy for me, because I am a techie person? ARGH! First, that belittles the years of work and learning that each of us have invested to get to the place that what we do looks inborn and easy. Second, what a convenient excuse to not do the work that it takes to become a better teacher.
I'm not going to say anymore, because I want you to read the book. I want you to go see Dave's sessions if you ever happen to be at a conference where he is presenting. You'll know by the pirate costume. I've seen it!

Dave Burgess validates my belief that we must do whatever it takes to increase student learning. It's our job. Yes, you will find his methods over the top. However, by seeing teaching through the eyes of someone who is willing to go over the top, we are able to honestly examine our own techniques in the classroom. Only then can we determine how we can bring our A-Game to school every day and help our students do the same.

No comments:

Post a Comment