Wrapping Up and Ramping Up
By Lisa Berghoff, MEd
Well, January is over and many of us have let our New Year’s resolutions fall by the wayside. The good news is that if reading, connecting with other educators, or joining a new Twitter chat were on your to-do list for 2015, it’s not too late! With January behind us and our new #TBookC chat around the corner, I thought it would be a good time to reflect, touch base, and give a wrap-up of all of the discussions that occurred in January and hopefully entice you to join us in February. Our first month was so fantastic and I feel like we’re just getting started.
#TBookC is the teacher (Twitter) book club for teachers. It is the brainchild of Lindsey Lipsky (@LindseyLipsky) and is co-moderated by Lisa Friedman (@JewishSpecialEd) and myself (@LisaBerghoff). The plan is to read a new book each month and have twitter chats to discuss what we’ve read, make connections, and drink wine. Ok, it’s not quite that kind of “book club”, but you’re welcome to open a bottle during our chats if that’s how you roll.
Our January Pick
If you’re an educator and you’ve spent 10 seconds on Twitter, then you have no doubt seen all of the permutations of Teach Like a Pirate, or #tlap out there. For our January #TBookC first pick, we decided to jump in the pirate waters, don our eye patches, and see what all the fuss was about. We read Teach Like A Pirate by Dave Burgess and I’m happy to say this book did not disappoint. We divvied up the book into 4 sections for our Thursday January #TBookC chats and crossed our fingers that other educators out there would want to join in the conversation. Reading in smaller sections definitely enabled us to delve more deeply into the text and be thoughtful about how Dave Burgess’ ideas relate to what we see in our work with students and teachers.
Planning a Twitter chat was actually more involved than I had anticipated. The process of planning our first #TBookC chat was truly collaborative and I was thrilled to be a part of it. With Lindsey Lipsky at the helm, Lisa Friedman and I joined in on shared Google docs, GoogleHangouts, twitter messages, and emails in an effort to generate questions that would spark real conversation and thoughtful connection. I realized that the creation of our first chat was actually an amazing model of a fantastic #tlap lesson for me. I was jumping into uncharted territory, establishing rapport with my teammates, tapping into creativity and pushing my thinking. We needed to plan to ensure our participants would feel welcome and want to engage.
The participants for the January chats were wonderful and we were so honored to have Dave Burgess and his wife, Shelley Burgess, joining in on our discussions. Their comments and contributions greatly enhanced our chat experience. It was the first time I had ever discussed a book while the author was chiming in! We also had teachers, administrators, and even some university students who all found common ground with this amazing read. Many thanks to the participants who shared their creative ideas, epic fails, and thoughts and ideas regarding “piratehood” in education. The connections that I have made just in our first month alone have been so fantastic and I continue to learn and share resources with many of them.
The first half of the book is Dave Burgess’ “manifesto” on teaching. His passion and enthusiasm definitely seem to leap from the pages and I found myself reaching for highlighters and sticky notes as I read. There were many aha! moments reading and it’s hard to read this book and not feel pride in what we do everyday as educators. Dave uses the acronym PIRATE to explain each facet of being an amazing teacher and he gives many personal examples of what that looks like in the classroom. Throughout our chats, we shared many of our own personal anecdotes that show how this plays out in our various educational spaces. The second half of the book is full of “hooks” and strategies that can be implemented right away into any classroom. I was actually surprised to learn that Dave is a high school teacher and happy to be reminded that even high school students should be experiencing curiosity and a love for learning. The chat participants also shared some of the new things we are going to try and the back and forth exchanges definitely helped me flesh out how this was going to work in my classes.
After reviewing the archives, here are the big takeaways from #TBookC’s Teach Like A Pirate “discussion” …
- Teaching is all about relationships. We need to work to establish positive relationships with our students as well as with our colleagues if we’re going to be amazing teachers. Part of establishing relationships has to do with giving all of ourselves to our students. They know when we’re faking or not giving them our full attention.
- Staying in our comfort zone is NOT where it’s at. As educators, we expect our students to try new things, experience failure, and learn from their mistakes every day. It’s important that we do the same and do it out in the open so we can model the important learning that goes on when we push ourselves.
- Creativity is not a magic pill! Everyone can be creative but it shouldn’t be expected to just happen overnight. We need to be thoughtful and set up a method of nurturing creative ideas.
- A combination of high expectations and fun can, and should, be happening at the same time in our classrooms. Just because you are incorporating art into your math lesson, does not mean you are lowering standards. In fact, often utilizing creative activities actually raises the bar for students and forces them to think and explain themselves in different ways.
Be passionate about teaching and learning and surround yourself with others who are also passionate. Don’t let yourself get hung up in the politics and educomplaints of the day. Be daring, be caring, and find others who are too. They will make you better at your craft, which will make kids better learners, which is what it’s all about!