Friday, July 22, 2016

TLAP: Right Environment and Right Questions

I am reading and reflecting on the book Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess. The "pirate" philosophy is built on these things: Passion, Immersion, Rapport, Ask/Analyze, Transformation, and Enthusiasm.

Teachers can create a supportive environment that encourages students to be successful and connected to content. Dave Burgess mentions a few ways to build strong rapport with students, to know them--learn as much as possible about them, connect what you are teaching to what they are interested in, look for ways to connect current events to students' learning, encourage students to make connections themselves, spend informal time with students (in hallways, at extra-curricular events). Use humor to build a relaxed classroom atmosphere.

Here are some quotes about rapport:

  • "Ultimately we don't want to develop techniques to win behavior management battles, we want to develop techniques that allow us to avoid the battles altogether."
  • "If you're paying attention to what excites them, you can connect with them almost instantly."
  • Being available to kids says a lot to them about whether or not you are interested in them beyond your particular class."
  • "By working to create a safe and supporting environment where students feel valued, I earn their trust."
In reading this section, I noted that Burgess obviously teaches older students that I do. But as I look at the quotes above and think about other things he said, I can see how these ideas can apply to the early childhood classroom, too.

I want to build strong relationships with my kids. I want to understand what they enjoy and what makes them tick. I can connect whatever we're doing in the classroom to my students' interests. I can learn as much as possible about students and their lives, and remember that as I interact with them. I want a learning environment that avoids behavior battles, too, and helps kids feel valued and safe. Rapport is important no matter what age the student.

Ask and Analyze
In this section, Burgess focused on the creative process. As we are developing lesson plans and thinking about how to create an engaging, creative learning environment, we need to ask the right questions. Creativity is more than just a flash of inspiration; it's asking the right questions and allowing our brains to think about it. Asking the right questions help our brains tune in and focus on what we want to do. And we ask these questions as we are planning and developing lessons - not after, trying to force in those creative things. 

A question that I kept asking when I taught first grade was "How can we add movement to this?" This helped me see different ways to engage kids actively. My brain was always looking for different inspirations for movement - on blogs, in curriculum guides, in talking with other teachers. But I think I need to be more intentional about this. List some key questions and keep those in mind as I develop lesson plans.

I also appreciated Burgess's discussion on failure. He says, "If you haven't failed in the classroom lately, you aren't pushing the envelope far enough." This failure is really feedback - what worked, didn't work, needs adapting, etc. His analogy of a missile was enlightening to me. A missile continues to adjust its trajectory based on feedback related to the target; a missile is likely to spend more time off target than on target but it hits the target because of the continual adjustments based on feedback. Teaching is like that, too. Look at the feedback from students (by behavior or assessment) and tweak what you're doing. Pay attention to the class while teaching and make those adjustments as needed.

Burgess says: "[Any] endeavor that doesn't hold the possibility of failure can't accomplish anything meaningful." I'm embracing failure more and more. That's how I learn. And how they learn.

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