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  • Writer's pictureKaren Caswell

How being a PIRATE reinvigorated my teaching.

Updated: May 16, 2020

I know I’m a little late to the party (okay, maybe a lot late), as Teach Like a PIRATE has been out for a number of years, but I’m thankful I finally discovered it, and I believe that now was exactly the right time for me to hear the message. My experiences over the past six years had led me to this point – where I was ready, and needed, to be a pirate.

As mentioned in a previous blog post, this book was the second Dave Burgess Consulting Inc book that I read, and was my introduction to the whole PIRATE movement. Since reading this book, not only has my passion for teaching been reignited, but I’ve also connected with many other like-minded educators from around the world – a crew. These connections continue to inspire, motivate and challenge me on a daily basis. This book really did, as the cover states, increase student engagement, boost my creativity and transform my life as an educator. Big call - but it delivered!

The thing I love about this book (well one of the things, as I actually love the whole book) is that the PIRATE acronym explained in Part 1 made the concept of student engagement, and teacher fulfillment, so clear to me. It lays it out in six elements: Passion, Immersion, Rapport, Ask and Analyse, Transformation, Enthusiasm – and voila, you have a simple system to guide you on your journey. Your treasure map! In each section, Dave shares many personal stories and experiences, asks some tough questions and challenges you every step of the way. As I read each section, I was able to reflect on my own teaching and identify where I could make improvements – and I was motivated to be better!

I view Part 2 of the book, Crafting Engaging Lessons, as a treasure chest of ideas and questions to help you develop and present learning experiences, not just lessons. There are a multitude of hooks explained within seven categories, to help you get started on your journey. This section has become my go to when planning how to deliver content to my students. I’ve also found that through using the hook ideas from the book, my own creativity has started to fire up and I’m more able to design innovative experiences. Lesson planning is now fun and exciting (most of the time)!

The third section of the book is the most personally challenging, but I believe it is also the most important. Dave dares you to be great, to fulfill your mighty purpose and to play your drum. For many of us of us, this is easier said than done, but don’t worry, as once again you are guided through how to overcome some common blockers that hold us back and get started. Often the most difficult bit is taking the first step – all I can say is, take a deep breath and just go for it!

Now, all pirates need a crew. At school seek those that are open to trying something new, or are already innovators, those that are looking for something more, those that may seem a little unorthodox, and gather them around you. Your crew may only start small, but believe me, once others see what you are doing it will quickly start to grow. I was the only person at my school to have read the book, but as I started telling anyone who would listen about it (some listened out of politeness and others out of intrigue - I didn't really care why, as long as they listened) my enthusiasm began to attract others. Then when I began to do my 'pirate' thing, even more began to take notice - initially out of curiosity, but then out of genuine interest as they saw how engaged the students were. I can proudly say, there is now a small, committed crew at my school, that is growing every week.

Start building a snowball - as it gets bigger the momentum will grow.

Twitter is an awesome place to find a broader crew. Dave (@burgessdave) is always willing to connect with others and help you on your journey. All of the other ‘pirates’ – authors of the books published by Dave Burgess Consulting Inc – are also open, approachable and supportive. Find them here:

Twitter chats are also an amazing professional learning resource, and participating is fun, as well as a great way to find others to connect with and follow. There is a weekly #tlap Twitter chat, follow Dave or @dbc_inc for day and time (in Australia it’s Tuesday 12pm AEST). Also, I’d be honoured if you were able to join the #TLAPdownunder chat on Sundays at 7pm AEST. This chat is for those that the regular #tlap chat time is not really do-able due to timezone differences, not just Aussies – so far, we have participants from Singapore, Japan, and Switzerland, as well as those of us down under.

I haven’t been lucky enough to see Dave speak or meet him in person, but he generously spoke to teachers at our school via Skype, and to say we were blown away is an understatement - obviously, this also generated a lot of excitement. There are also a number of podcast and interviews you can listen to and watch. Dave's energy, passion, and enthusiasm for his message leaves an indelible impression. You will be inspired and motivated, but you may also need to take a nap afterwards!



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