Teach Like a Pirate, by Dave Burgess


Dave Burgess has put together a fun and inspiring book that will teach you to teach like a pirate — not a thug, but a Douglas Fairbanks-style exciting pirate.

The first section of the book examines the characteristics required to teach like a pirate: passion, immersion, rapport, analysis, transformation, and enthusiasm.

These characteristics are presented with questions (“Do you have any lessons you could sell tickets for?”) and stories. There are a few practical suggestions, such as taking up the GTD habit of ubiquitous capture, but mostly this section is about inspiration and exploration.

Part II

Part II of the book is called “Crafting Engaging Lessons.” Once you’re inspired and have thought through the “why” of your teaching, you’re ready to plan some awesome lessons. 

Burgess provides a great list of presentational hooks for your lessons. With many specific examples and questions to ask yourself, he sets up enough thought provoking ideas to see you through the semester.

Some of the ideas may not work in your classroom — you may have rules against taking students outside, feeding them sausage to introduce The Jungle, or showing up in costume for the day.

But many of the ideas are easy to fit into any classroom. What could you write on the board before students arrive that would intrigue them and get them thinking about the subject you’re going to present? Is there a physical object that could concentrate attention in preparation for the lesson? Can you bring a global perspective into the classroom?

Part III

Part III of the book is a pep talk. The whole book is pretty peppy, but Burgess knows that there will be readers who will decide before trying any of his ideas that their students won’t participate, or that they would feel undignified if they tried to teach with passion.

As I read this book, I thought about a former colleague of mine. She told me that high school students had these lofty goals, and those goals were unrealistic. “They all think they can be doctors,” she said with a bit of a scoff. “They can’t.” Most of her students, she said, would have boring, unsatisfying jobs. That’s what she prepared them for.

She also tried to make them develop more realistic goals.

If that doesn’t sound like what you want to do as a teacher, Teach Like a Pirate will make an inspiring addition to your bookshelf.

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