It’s time to be daring and adventurous!

We are hours away from kicking off our back-to-school week for teachers and staff, and we are in for a real treat as Dave Burgess (Teach Like a Pirate) leads our district in bringing passion, transformation, enthusiasm and more to our classrooms.  The book, much like a treasure map, provides key steps to move all of us to greatness. It won’t be easy. The journey to change never is.

Last week I started counting down the days on Twitter until Dave arrives in White Oak. I also included some specific key points from the book to get us ready for what’s to come. He will encourage all of us to develop a classroom climate where students feel like doing the outrageous; where the out of the ordinary and sometimes silly are the norm. One quote from his book particularly resonates with me because it is on transformation–the specific focus of this district. Dave tells us:

“Provide an uncommon experience for your students and they will reward you with an uncommon effort and attitude.” In other words, “we have to have a vision of what the ideal experience looks like if we have any hope of creating it.” In moving toward transformation there are two questions included in the ‘Transformation’ chapter that ought to make us all think about the future and what it takes to teach a ‘this century’ student.

#1 If your students didin’t have to be there, would you be teaching in an empty room?

#2 Do you have any lessons you could sell tickets for?

I couldn’t begin to guess how many of us have thought about what we do from this perspective, and what it would take to be truly outrageous. But as we prepare for tomorrow, here are some final thoughts from Dave’s book: “Much of your success as an educator has to do with your attitude towards teaching and towards kids. The rest of your success is based on your willingness to relentlessly search for what engages students, and then having the guts to do it.”

And finally, “Being truly great requires a significant amount of extra time and effort. It demands relentless pursuit of excellence, self-improvement, and a never-ending commitment to grow and stay on the cutting edge.” Thank you for the encouragement Dave Burgess.

Now for the rest of us–let’s be daring and adventurous, and the time is NOW!

10 Ideas for transforming your teaching this school year


I was reviewing some of the blog posts I had written or posted in prior school years. This was posted back in 2012  because it provided ideas that supported our district initiative of transforming instruction. It continues to support our focus, and it reminds us to ask high level questions, promote student-centered classrooms instead of teacher-centered classrooms, give our students voice and choice, and create lessons that provide collaborative settings.

As we move into the 2014-2015 school year, we should be looking at what we can do to stretch ourselves in terms of how we create lessons and provide instruction. How can we become more creative when we’re designing lessons?  Do we have high expectations for our students? Are we consistently asking questions that lead to creative and outside-the-box thinking? The list goes on and on, but if we are to truly reach today’s learner and provide a ‘this century’ classroom then what are you waiting for?

  1. Ask a question that has many answers or no answer at all.
  2. Give your students the reins for one class period. Give them the topic or learning objective, then ask how they would like to learn about that topic. They might suggest a game, project or exploration with technology.
  3. Allow your students to choose how they will be assessed for one topic. They might suggest a project, game or another method.
  4. Ask your students what they really are interested in learning and for the day, allow them to interview an expert in that field online. Your students can search for the e-mail address, blog address, Facebook account or Twitter handle of that person. For example, a student might be interested in skateboarding. Have that student connect with Tony Hawk on Twitter or another famous skateboarder.
  5. Tell your students everyday for a week that you are glad to be their teacher. Do this by greeting them at the door with a smile, handshake or high five.
  6. Conduct a class in a different environment, such as outdoors or in another part of the building.
  7. Stand for an entire classroom period. Break students into groups or pairs and move around constantly, asking them questions or taking notes about the way they learn.
  8. Play a fun game in your classroom. Find a way to incorporate games and play to teach your subject matter. Scavenger hunts, board games and video games have all been used to teach various subject matters.
  9. Contact each parent and share with them specific ways their children made you proud of them.
  10. Have your students work together in performing an act of kindness for either a charity, organization or other students. This could be as simple as creating books and reading them to younger kids or volunteering to clean up the campus.