Thursday, April 11, 2013



I have spent the last several years reading a lot about teaching and education. To be honest, if I read this much in high school, I may have actually cracked four digits on my SATs. During this time, I have found books by Rafe Esquith and Rick Wormelli to be just what I needed to get rejuvenated about teaching. Recently, I have come across a book by Dave Burgess entitled "Teach Like a Pirate". This book has absolutely helped me regain my passion for the classroom.

Please do not misunderstand me. I love my job. However, we all run through peaks and valleys during the school year. Recently, I have definitely been in the valley. I do not know if it has been the cold weather in New Jersey this year or worrying about the looming state tests in a couple of weeks, but I have been dragging recently. I have been loooking for something to help push me towards that peak. I decided to be a "Pirate".

I have really enjoyed the beginning of this book. As a middle school math teacher, I completely agree with Dave's approach about "selling" lessons in the classroom. I am far from an entertainer, but I work hard at being passionate about whatever topics we are discussing that day. My "Pirate Moment" occured during a discussion today with my 8th graders about circumference of circles...

As we were reviewing some examples, I had a student raise their hand to ask about pi. Her question was, "Why is it 3.14"? I paused for a second and thought how can I answer this question while staying on track? I can not afford to stray because those state tests are coming up. Honestly, I have every day planned up to those tests to make sure everything is covered. It was then I took Dave's advice to let the learning happen.

So, I darted across the hall to borrow some string. I gave the spool to one student, a yard stick to another and scissors to a third. My instructions were simple: Measure out a line of string. With that, I had four or five kids out of their seats looking to help. Once that was done, I had them make a circle out of the string. I asked them to measure the diameter of the circle. Then, I had them divide the length of the string by the diameter. What did they get? 3.14

Again, I had them measure out a second, longer string. Again I had them make a circle with it and measure the diameter. Lastly, I had them divide the length by the diameter? What did they get? 3.14.
It was like a lightbulb went off above their heads. Nothing is better than hearing 8th graders moan because the bell rang to end the period!!

Looking back, I did not have to ask anyone to get up...all 9 of them were out of their seats, looking to get involved. To my surprise, so was the young man who I constantly have to "nudge" to keep awake some days. It was fun "swimming with" this group as they navigated themselves through the activity. Dave mentions several times in his book about the difference between being a "lifeguard" or a "swimmer" while having a classroom full of students.

I guess word got around that we did something great during that class, because my other 8th graders "complained" as they were leaving the building today that I did not try the circle activity with them. I guess I have my lesson for tomorrow...  

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