Monday, July 13, 2015



I read Dave Burgess's Teach Like a Pirate last August, shortly before the start of our school year, and I have been singing its praises ever since. I even wrote my first ever blog post about it! I've had one of my best years yet in the classroom, and I attribute the success of this year to a renewed passion for my students and my growing connections on social media.

In January I started participating in a Twitter Teacher Book Club (#TBookC) which reads one book each month and discusses it over the first three Thursdays of the month (9 PM EDT; this month's read is Deborah Schoeberlein's Mindful Teaching & Teaching Mindfulness). The insights, connections, and meaningful changes to my teaching through participating in this book club are too enormous to count!  After leading many professional development sessions for my colleagues this year both during our weekly collaboration time and through hosting voluntary Tech Tuesdays, I started thinking about how I could pull off a book study for our staff.

At our high school, it wouldn't be easy. I was thinking about starting this after spring break, in those busy weeks where we all feel the pressure of the end of the school year, the preparation for standardized testing, and the weather warming up enough we don't want to be cooped up in the building any longer than possible! Add to that the many teachers coaching spring sports and/or with their own children involved in playing spring sports and a school musical, and I knew we would be lacking on both motivation and time to complete a book study! I needed to get creative if I wanted this to happen!

First, I needed to motivate my fellow teachers to participate. Many of them had heard me talk about how much I LOVE the #tlap philosophy and how much reading it has motivated me to reclaim making teaching fun for me and my students, so they were pretty familiar with the idea. I also cleared offering Professional Growth Points for participation with my principal, but I knew many older teachers in my building with lifetime licenses would not be motivated by that offer. Fortunately, Dave Burgess was announced as the keynote speaker for the summer technology conference our district is co-hosting this year, which generated more enthusiasm. Add to that my principal's offer to buy the books for us, and I knew I could convince a crew to embark on this book study with me!

Next, I needed to address our varied commitments and hectic schedules. Adding a weekly meeting to everyone's schedule wouldn't work out, so we needed to be able to connect online and after hours. I decided on two formats to interact, Blogger and Twitter. Blogger is so user friendly, and I knew my colleagues would have little trouble commenting on an initial post and responding to each other. Twitter, however, was another story. Only one of the teachers who signd up was experienced at using Twitte rto chat and make connections, so I decided to offere a voluntary Tech Tuesday session to help teachers create accounts, lose the eggs, and practice tweeting in a safe, supportive environment. I also offered to host the chat right after school the first few times and offer teachers the chance for face-to-face support in my classroom. During the first chat, all but the experienced user came to my classroom; by our last chat, only three teachers cme to my room, and they could handle Twitter by themselves but felt more comfortable in my room, just in case!

To wrap our study, I asked Dave Burgess to Google Hangout with our group, which he kindly agreed to do (Thank you, Dave!)! My colleagues were so inspired and impressed with Dave's passion and enthusiasm that they ALL signed up to attend our July conference to hear him keynote the event!

PhotoOverall, I'm counting our first EVER voluntary book study a success! Teachers ended the school year on an uplifting, inspirational note and were excitedly discussing how to incorporate "hooks" into their lessons, bith in the last few weeks of school and for the next school yeartechnology conference will take place next week (July 21 #IntegratED), so I'm hoping the PIRATE energy will be rekindled just in time for our back-to-school planning! I look forward to discussing hooks and #tlap as the year begins and to collecting evidence of our group putting the PIRATE philosophy in action, connecting with each other and our students as we make a difference! I'm hoping to lead at least one book study next year as well!