Saturday, September 20, 2014

We Did It and It Was Awesome!

At the very first staff meeting of the year I told the staff that we were going to have our first Teach Like A Pirate Day on September 19 in honor of International Talk Like A Pirate Day. Some of the staff had already read Teach Like a Pirate: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator.  Many staff had not read the book, so I introduced the the concept of TLAP and talked about the three different types of Passion that Dave Burgess, the author, discusses in the book; Content Passion, Professional Passion and Personal Passion.

As I presented this idea and some of the new, risk-taking, outside the comfort zone, ideas, and   
concepts I envisioned for our school, I could see that I had raised some eyebrows.  Many of the staff were genuinely intrigued and excited. Some looked at me like the crazy man I might be (By the way, I was dressed in full pirate regalia at the time). Others just looked at their watches, waiting to get to their classrooms so they would be ready for the children to arrive the next day. I did not let this deter me as I continued to work to inspire my staff toward developing life changing lessons. Mr. Burgess says in his book, "Light yourself on fire with enthusiasm and people will come from miles around to watch you burn!" I was hoping they weren't just sitting there roasting marshmallows as I burned for almost three hours. 

At the next staff meeting, I talked about TLAP day and I explained for our first try at this, we would use an early dismissal schedule and do our TLAP activities for the last hour and a half of the day  on Friday, September 19 (I have a vision of a full day of student inspired TLAP activities).  Since there were many questions, I decided to give the staff some direction and I told them to come up with an activity that demonstrated one of their personal passions. Since I know some of my staff fairly well, I was able to give some examples of things they might decide to do with the students. I also told them it was okay if they wanted to do it by grade level, either each teacher coming up with half hour activities or the entire grade level doing one big activity with different facets.  Each grade level met and discussed their ideas and plans.

The beginning of the school year can be stressful and trying new and different things that you are not completely sure of can cause some more stress. I had teachers tell me that it was too much.  That they liked the ideas but they were overwhelmed.  Some just looked at me with that look that says, "Is he kidding?" I considered cancelling, thinking that it might help to lower the stress levels, however, I had this vision of something amazing and I couldn't postpone it.  I had seen what other schools had done and I was convinced we could have that at my school.

Yesterday came.  The morning went by quickly and, with the early dismissal schedule, classes were a
little shorter. Lunch came and went and I could feel a little buzz in the air.  Maybe it was just my excitement, who knows?  One teacher asked me to take her class for 15 minutes so she could set up her classroom for the activities. She didn't want them to see it.
There was excitement and it wasn't just me.  Awesome!

When time came to start the TLAP activities I made an announcement to introduce the Pirate activities and then it happened.  BOOM!  Students everywhere, engaged in fun and exciting activities.  Teachers sharing their passions with the students and students totally engaged and enriched through the many experiences.  Teachers laughing, smiling, and interacting with children in totally different ways than usual, while students are still learning. Dave Burgess was right, "When you interact with someone who is fully engaged and filled with passion, it can be and overwhelming and unforgettable experience." The staff was fully immersed because it was their passion.  The students loved seeing them interact in this new and exciting way.  

Comments from students in the stairwell and from parents afterwards:
"That was awesome!"
"This is the best day ever!"
"My child had a lot to tell me when he got home and he never talks about school." 

Thank you to the Slackwood Staff and community for always thinking about "Kids First." You made this day AWESOME!  The video will be out soon and I will share it with the world because it is AWESOME!

I can't wait until the next time.... Or wait, maybe we can do this everyday.  That's the idea anyway. Hmmmmm.