In a previous post, I wrote about a wake-up call that rang deep in my heart and soul last year. I shared why and how I refocused my purpose as an educator. One effective strategy that I used was connecting with great teachers, both near and far! I’ll share more about my dear near friends soon, but I want to focus in on friends that challenged and cheered me on through their publications.
While recovering from a serious illness, I was given the gift of time. So what’s a teacher to do but curl up with some good books? I perfected my guided reading knowledge by rereading “The Book Whisperer” and “Reading in the Wild” by Donalyn Miller, as well as other titles by my favorite reading gurus. I have deeply appreciated the time and research these experts have poured into their material as they mentored me from afar.
There are two individuals who particularly inspired me this last
year during a tough season. The first is Dave Burgess. I downloaded Dave’s book Teach Like a Pirate last summer while reading Donalyn Miller’s books. I’ve always have had a pirate spirit within! My favorite movies have been “The Pirates of the Caribbean” and I’ll have to admit that I’ve dressed as a pirate a time or two, so I was immediately interested. When I read the book last summer I felt challenged and refreshed. It was one of those reads that stirred excitement to get back to my students. However, that excitement was quickly tested with a challenging situation that monopolized my time, energy, and passion. From the onset, I was quick to realize that I needed to have a plan to stay positive and hold to my passion for teaching. During the summer, I had written passion statements at Burgess’ recommendation in his book. When I had really bad days, I was able to reflect on what I had scribed with a clear mind. This helped me reconnect to my calling as an educator. If I had not previously done this, I’m not sure I would have had the energy to summon my teacher spirit on my own.
TLAP also inspired me to return to what I know is effective teaching. Burgess recommends many hooks to excite, invoke, and involve students in the content we teach. I have held true to kinesthetic, auditory, and visual learning hooks, but I felt that I was leaving so much more on the table. I kept thinking there is a better way to infuse creativity with true problem solving into my lessons. I had done it before, but a few years ago there was a catch phrase that made the loop in educational academia which affected my practice as an educator. This word had a huge impact on my lesson planning. That word was R-I-G-O-R! Please note, I emphatically believe that we should design lessons with rigor in mind. I also believe the hooks that Dave Burgess recommends in his book will add high levels of rigor to our curriculum.
I don’t hear this word as often as I use to. Perhaps it is finishing its course through the circuit. In my opinion, there is a fundamental misconception among teachers. Unfortunately, in my experience, rigor had been interpreted as creating assessments that asked hard questions in preparation for a standardized test. I felt forced into a mold of teaching to a test. This is not rigor! I have come to a conclusion that designing lessons which give students a choice to create and problem solve is among the most rigorous lessons. Dave gives dozens of ideas on making lessons not only exciting and engaging; but yes, rigorous too.
I highly recommend Teach Like a Pirate. I have become so impassioned by this book, that I have shared it with many of my colleagues. I decided to lead PD by the Pool this summer using this book! Cool, huh? That is the beauty of technology. We are using Edmodo as our platform to connect from our living rooms, pools, and beaches as a school. I am making new connections and learning with my colleagues throughout our building. I would not necessarily have to time to get together with these fabulous teachers without finding them online. I have realized that there are educators near and dear who have felt the same waning of passion and enthusiasm due to the increasing demands of new standards, new tests, new evaluation systems, etc. But- we are recovering by reading Dave Burgess’ book this summer and chatting online. I look forward to sharing with them throughout the year in real time; it will be a new support that I didn’t have last year. Many thanks to Dave Burgess! Find him on Twitter @burgessdave! He’s only a tweet away!
My cup runneth over with new relationships near and far. I have another connection to whom I want to blog about. I’ve read this educator’s books and she has inspired me for years through her website and publications. Most recently, she talks to me each week giving me truths through her new podcast called “Truth for Teachers.” Stay tuned later this week to learn about this special mystery person who has kept many educators organized, energized, and filled with hope!!