In this episode, Dave talks about the Teach like a PIRATE framework and how valuable frameworks can be for our busy lives as educators. His pare down pointer is about taking advice and tips from all walks of life to improve our day to day experience.
Dave Burgess is an award-winning educator, highly sought after professional development speaker, and the New York Times best-selling author of Teach Like a Pirate. As president of Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc., he has disrupted the educational publishing industry by releasing over 180 groundbreaking titles from innovative educators from all over the world.
Find information about Dave and Teach Like a PIRATE below.
Podcast: The Dave Burgess Show
In this episode, Dave talks about the Teach Like A Pirate framework and how valuable frameworks can be for our busy lives as educators. His pare down pointer is about taking advice and tips from all walks of life to improve our day -to -day experience.
Dave Burgess is an award -winning educator, highly sought after professional development speaker and the New York Times bestselling author of Teach Like A Pirate. As president of Dave Burgess Consulting Incorporated, he has disrupted the educational publishing industry by releasing over 180 groundbreaking titles from innovative educators from all over the world.
Welcome to today's episode of the Minimalist Educator Podcast. We are excited to have with us today Dave Burgess, who's famous for Teach Like A Pirate, so we're gonna be talking about that with him today. Welcome to the show, Dave. Hey, thank you so much for having me on the show.
I'm excited to be here.
I know that there are tons of teachers around the world who have read your book, Teach Like A Pirate, and so if you can tell us before we even get into that, can you tell us kind of where this idea for Teach Like A Pirate came from?
Yeah, so, you know, I had been teaching in my classroom for several years, and then one day I got asked to do a workshop by my department chair, and I said yes, and I said yes to a full day workshop, in fact. And I had never done a workshop before in my life.
Most people are smart and they choose like a one hour session or something like that. I said yes to a full day six hour workshop for the peers in my district. And like I drove away from that meeting like, oh my God, what have I just done? I don't have anything. God, I don't have anything prepared for this. And so what it forced me to do, though, is to become really super intentional about my teaching and to think about what is it that is like kind of my magic recipe?
What is my secret sauce? Why am I successful with students in my classroom? And it's like I always encourage people to do workshops, like, you know, sign up to do a workshop in your school district, if it's local, whatever, national, because when you sign up to do a workshop and you know that you're going to be standing in front of your peers and you're going to be sharing what is like uniquely your thing in the classroom, like a man, it really makes you think about what it is that you do, thinks about your practice.
Like why? Why do I do this? And why does this work and not this? And so as I was going through that process, I realized, you know what? I think for my subject engagement, like a big part of what I do is student engagement. I better be pretty engaging. Like if you're going to give a workshop on engagement, that's a lot of pressure. You're telling people, you are standing in front of them saying, here's how to be more engaged in your classroom. Well, you better be pretty engaging what you're doing that. And so I wanted teachers to actually feel what it was like to be drawn in by the ideas appearing in the workshop as if like they were the students of my class. I wanted them to actually feel it. And so I wanted to have it and I wanted to have a theme and pirates appealed to me because pirates are unconventional. They're willing to reject the status quo. They're willing to sail into uncharted waters with no guaranteed success. The risk is rebels, mavericks.
I wanted them to embrace that spirit of being a pirate. And then it was also a play on words because this is all about how you could hook your students and pirates are known for their hooks. In addition to that, like I'm abnormally obsessed with acronyms. I like to turn everything into an acronym. And so I turned the page sideways, wrote the letters down the page and tried to come up with an acronym. And I knew I wanted to talk about passion and enthusiasm. They were at the beginning and the ends of the word, like the cornerstones of the whole thing. And I knew I wanted to talk about building rapport and relationships with the kids. It's sort of being the heart of teaching. There were the R was sitting in the center. And so that's kind of where it all started.
That's awesome. Thanks for sharing that story, because I knew little bits of it, but I didn't know the whole thing. And something a lot of thoughts came to mind when you're just sharing that.
But before we get a little bit more into your acronym and your framework, you had mentioned the intentionality behind, like when you were asked to create a workshop, you had to be super intentional. So what were some of the things that you really had to think about then?
And you alluded to this, like, OK, if I'm going to teach engagement, I have to be engaging. But what were some of the processes or thoughts that you had to work through to make sure that that's what you were bringing into teachers and in your classroom even? Yeah, so a couple of things I can say about this. One was, so I did, I brainstorm, I just got paper out and listed, like what are the most successful things I do in my class? What are those moments in my class where I really feel like everyone's just locked in and time just disappears and we're just fully immersed in the moment and what are these moments, what are these elements?
I started to put them all down and then try to see if I can come up with some common themes, some patterns around them, but then more importantly, those are things that I do. And so I wanted to trace back and not just say what I do, but like where did that idea come from to begin with? And so that was the key kind of breakthrough for me, was trying to make it so I don't want them, I don't want this to just be a list of a bunch of cool things that I've done. I want teachers to be able to come up with their own cool things that match for their curriculum and their personalities and their style of teaching and their strengths. That's why the centerpiece of the book became questions. So the book has kind of broken into three sections. In the center, the largest section of the book is there's a all in all, there's like 170 different questions under 30 different categories under there.
Because I know that it wasn't good enough. I wanted them to be able to look at their curriculum and use my questions that I had thought about when I designed my lessons and use those with their curriculum. And so that's why I think the book came out 11 years ago and it's still selling quite well, still successful, district schools are still using it now.
But I think that's the reason why. Because even though time has moved on, now when people ask those questions though, they're answering those questions in whatever the current year is the current time. And like, if we think of something like AI, well now that's a possibility for something that they might use in the classroom, but it can be still generated from that same question that I asked back in 2012.
So questions became the centerpiece of the Teach Like A Pirate kind of framework. Yeah, just like Tammy when you said intentionality, I was like ding, ding, ding straight away, absolutely. And that element of, if you're gonna be out here being the expert per se, you wanna be able to talk the talk and walk the walk and really lead people through that process.
Yeah, so for those of us who it may have been a minute since they've read it, or maybe they haven't got to Teach Like A Pirate just yet, can you tell us a little bit of the acronym, what it stands for? Yeah, so the P is for passion. I'll go through each one and then happy to answer your questions on any of them. So the P is passion, the I is immersion, the R stands for rapport, the A is for ask and analyze, the T is transformation, the E is enthusiasm. Each one of those to kind of have a little bit of a element that is something that I think is like central to kind of the Teach Like A Pirate philosophy around education. I think having this like an acronym, right?
It guides us to, it's a framework, right? So we're not using something that's restricted in time. You mentioned like the use of the questions that you developed are, they're evergreen, right? You can use them forever.
I think that is super important when we're thinking about what we're doing in education because there are so many time locked things and there's not enough of that sustainable practice or sustainable thinking or like the, we're not always future thinking even though we think we are, but we're really not.
We're very reactive and responsive, which is, we have to be, but also like, it seems like back in 2012, you were like, you were the future thinker. Like I need to help guide teachers to be engaging. So like what's gonna do that, ask them questions.
And I think that's one of those things that, we're still developing as educators over time, right? Like we know the value of questions, but are we always asking the right questions and how do we be a good question asker?
I'm like rambling a little bit because it's like my train of thought here, right? But that, going back to something you said before is like that creativity piece where teachers can then, you can start with a question and that can lead teachers into this creative process of developing, lessons activities, engagements, experiences, based on their curriculum.
So do you have, which to me feels simple and it feels good and like a happy place, but it's kind of scary for teachers too, because you know, a lot of times you're given a program book and it's like, here, teach, pick some stuff out of here.
But can you talk a little bit about, like maybe some tips for teachers about how to even start on the process? Or like, would you just work through the acronym or like, do you, you know, is there a starting point?
Sorry, that was a lot of words. Yeah, no, that's okay. So the acronym is kind of the mindset that you're gonna go into it with. And so you don't necessarily, won't like necessarily sit down and work on the acronym, but the acronym is kind of in the backdrop of like how you think about education and your mindset.
But then that's what that, that center section of the book is really the sit down and work part. That's the part that I see highlighted and tabbed and, you know, post it, note sticking out at the top and stuff like that. That's the real actionable stuff. And the questions are critical. And here's why. I'll give you a couple of quotes first. So Anthony Robbins put it this way, questions are the laser of human consciousness. So he said it, and then E .E. Cummings said, always the beautiful answer who asked a more beautiful question. And it's critical because there's this paradoxical thing about creativity. Most people think that freedom leads to creativity. Often it's the opposite. Constraints and restrictions lead to creativity actually. All right? Like if we know this with students, if you say to a group of students, hey, for this next project, you can choose any topic in any format.
Go, you know, what would happen in your class or chaos will happen or nothing or they'll be kind of like this, like, they'll just be frozen. Same thing with a teacher. If I say to you, I want you to design a wildly and outrageously creative way to open your class next week.
Where do you even start with that? That's overwhelming. But if I say, I want you to design a wildly and outrageously way to open your class next week, but here's the restriction. I want you to pretend that on this day, you have laryngitis, you can't talk at all.
So it has to be completely silent. Well, now what are you gonna think? Oh, okay, let's see. Maybe I could open it with charades. Maybe I could do like a charade. Maybe I can use Pictionary, like do something on the board and then they have to generate the kind of thing like this. Maybe I can use those placards that they use in those like biographies or in the viral videos where they move, like keep dropping the placards and then new words on each one and they're revealing a sentence. They're kind of strangely engaging in their silence, right? Maybe I'm gonna have a big musical. So all of a sudden you start to think about different ways that you could use silence in an engaging way, right? And so, but it was the question that led you down that path. And so I'll give teach groups of teachers, I call them like teach like a pirate extreme hook challenges. Like, you know, I'll say like, hey, listen, there's an infestation at your school site. You know, they've had a tent the building and you can't get inside for any reason, but they don't wanna lose the attendance money.
So they contracted with a warehouse outside of town, right? And you get to your warehouse room, it's empty. There's nothing inside, concrete floors, concrete walls. There's no windows, no furniture of anything. The only thing inside is the box in the center of the floor. As you make your way to the box, you look down at your watch, there are 90 seconds to the kids arrive and your whole teaching days depending upon what's inside this box. You open the lid and find it filled to the top with nothing but Legos, all shapes, colors, sizes and Legos. How are you gonna teach your curriculum today using nothing but Legos? No, you have 90 seconds. And then the teachers connect and they collaborate. And they have these incredible conversations and they're laughing and they're having fun, thinking about how they could teach with Legos that content that they have on the table for this week, right? But here's the thing, you're never gonna go home and say, oh my God, I think I just got a Lego teaching idea. But if you ask that question, that gave your brain a path to go down and that restraint, that constriction that I placed on you allowed you to have all these creative thoughts about how you would deal with that situation. But it was the question that led you down that path, okay? And so like I look at the brain very much like Google. Like if you go to Google and you just stare at it and you're just looking at that search bar blinking, like it's a pretty ridiculous website actually, right? It only works if you put something into the search bar. And by the way, the quality of the results that you receive will be determined by the quality of what you put in that search bar. And what I think teachers put in the search bar are the questions. That's what takes us down and leads us down these paths of creativity. And so it takes a teacher who says, I'm just not gonna, I can't come up with these ideas. I'm not creative. Oh, really? Okay, I want you to think about your lessons this week. How would you teach it with Play -Doh? And then all of a sudden that teacher just said they weren't creative is like coming up with a Play -Doh lesson for Friday. And so that's the way that it works. Well, that's very cool.
Apologies if you can hear some rain and thunder behind me, but apparently summer in the Netherlands equals thunderstorms. So bear with us there. No, I love that. That is awesome. And just thinking about the pirate acronym as a framework, when we're talking about minimalism and education, we often talk about the Triple P, standing for purpose, your priorities and paring down.
And we really picked the Triple P to be just something really quick that teachers could hold onto in their super busy lives, their super busy brains. Was that part of your thinking as well with the acronym or did you have other motivations behind choosing an acronym?
Yeah, absolutely. Acronyms are very helpful, useful. I'm into mnemonic devices and anything that makes something more readily usable and easier to accept, to be more accessible in the moment. And people sometimes poo poo these strategies. Like, oh, this acronym stuff is a fluff. They think that it's a gimmick or a gimmick is the word sometimes you see thrown around. Well, you know what, if a gimmick helps me remember something, I'm more than happy to use a gimmick.
And if you think about some of just really common acronyms or mnemonics, for example, they just make life easier. How many times in my head have I gone righty -tidy, lefty, loosey? Of course I have, right? Fall back, spring forward. I use that all the time, right? And if you go, I have this thing in one of my workshops about mnemonics, which I kind of lump in the same category as acronyms just because it's just something that makes something more accessible, easier to process, which I think is useful. Where I'll ask someone, I'll say, hey, raise your hand if you know the alphabet.
And all these people will raise their hand, like, okay, I'm going to test you. And I'll choose someone and I'll say, okay, here's the important thing, though. You only have 10 seconds to say it. Okay. And then I'll say, audio marks get set. Oh, and by the way, it has to be backwards. Bro, right? And then you'll see them and they'll just have like a stunned look on their face and occasionally they'll get out like a Z or something like that. And so, and then I'll say, whoa, hold on.
Think about how cool the brain is. Like this is like the brain is absolutely completely fascinating. How can we know something so perfectly, but we can only access that in one direction. We can't get in the other direction. And do you know why that is? It's because we learned it using a mnemonic device. And what was the mnemonic device? It was a song. And you probably learned it in the, also, you probably learned it in preschool or kindergarten. And by the way, how many of you in here study the alphabet, like practice the alphabet and like nobody raised their hand, right? But you all know it perfectly today based on something you learned in preschool. That's the power of a mnemonic device. That's the power of the kind of techniques and strategies that I want to like use with my students in my classroom.
That's the power of what it is that I'm trying to impart to teachers and educators as I go around the world. Like, yeah, maybe you might think it's a gimmick, but it's a gimmick that works. It's a gimmick that makes information more readily available to you, right?
Then I'll usually add in, I'll say like, by the way, if you would have known in the mnemonic device to say it backwards, you would have been able to go. ZYXW, VU, TESR, QPU, and MLKGHG, FED, CBA. Let me slow that down for you. ZYXW, VU, TESR, QPU, and MLKGHG, FED, CBA.
Now, admittedly, I'm a freak, okay? But I'll say, but if we have a little bit extra minute, a little bit extra minutes at the end, I'll teach you in the mnemonic device where you'll be able to say it backwards just that fast and it'll only take me a couple minutes to teach to you.
That way, if you ever get stopped by the police and they say, say the alphabet, you can say backwards or forwards, mother. Okay. That's so awesome. I feel like these kind of devices, whether they're mnemonic or acronym or whatever we're using in classrooms, sometimes we overlook them, right?
We get lost in all of this stuff. It's like, oh, I have all this content to cover. So I'm just going to do like a quick and easy, but also understanding that I want to make sure that kids are understanding concepts as well, right?
I love that as a way for teachers to be creative and just think out of the box and. maybe even prioritize, right? Like what's really important in what I need to do. And your Lego example, I feel like can help teachers focus on a priority because we talk a lot about prioritization and how things get bogged down and when we look through our priority list, things that shouldn't be priorities, we think they are, but they're like those quick and easy, like check off things.
But if you want teachers to really engage your students, which is, you know, should be a teacher's top priority because we want them to learn and remember, that's something they can do. So that was a really fun example. I think we are, I mean, we could talk for a long time about all of these amazing ideas and things that you're talking about, but we'd like to keep our episodes, you know, kind of minimized in like bite -sized short PD chunks.
So as we wrap up this episode with you, Dave, we asked our guests for a pair down pointer. So what would you offer for the pair down pointer for our listeners today? Okay, so I think that sometimes educators feel guilty at time they spend outside of education.
It's kind of like, here's the thing, we work at a job where we could never be done. Like when was the last time you heard a teacher say, I've actually got everything all set for the next couple of weeks, like it's never happened in the history of the world, right?
There is always something more that you can do. There's always going to be something more you can do. And so, and we know how important what we do is, that's a dangerous combination because it makes many people feel guilty about time that they spend outside of education.
Like when can I, I don't even have time to do all this stuff. I'm supposed to do, how can I get involved in this over here? But when you take that time to honor your outside passions, when you take that time to develop new outside passions and interests, it's going to always come back and inform your teaching.
Because it's giving you creative ammunition from other areas of life to bring back into your school system to bring back into your classroom. See, Teach Like a Pirate is a very strange book. I'm going to tell you something strange about it.
There's not a single other education book reference inside of it. Not because I don't like education books. I published over 180. I love education books. It's because that's not where it came from. It was from the outside drawn in.
It was my unique background. Things that I like as my background in as a coach, my background as a magician, my background as a marketer and entrepreneur, my background as an emcee, my background as like all these different things came together to create my teaching style.
But Teach Like a Pirate is not about you teaching like me. It's about you taking your strengths, your talents and your voice and weaving it together with some of the human nature engagement ideas of teach like Upiart to create the best you.
And so time that you've spent outside of education is not just good from a self -care standpoint, which is what most people focus on. That it's like, you know, we want to unplug and focus on intentional self -care. And that's all very true.
But it's also going to be incredible for your teaching and for your life as an educator, because when you live a more well -rounded life, when you read wide and live wide, that allows you to have that all that diverse experience that you're going to be able to funnel back into your creative teaching and creative like views on education.
Don't just unplug and engage in the rest of your life for self -care reasons. It's going to be good for your educational life too. That's awesome. I love that. I think we can sometimes get caught in this silo of the education world, but there's so many other resources out there that we can be referring to and helping.
Tammy, I'm convinced now we need to come up with a triple -P song or a jingle or something to get everyone remembering. Yes, right. Thank you so much for joining us today, Dave. We have really enjoyed that. And as Tammy said, we could keep talking to you for hours, but we'll let you go.
Again, thank you so much for joining us today. Hey, it was an honor to be on your show. And I'm excited that you had me and thank you so much. Today's episode was brought to you by Dave Burgess Consulting. Increase student engagement, boost creativity, and transform your life as an educator. Find out more at DaveBurgess .com.
Be sure to join Tammy and Christine and guests for more episodes of the Minimalist Educator Podcast. They would love to hear about your journey with minimalism. Connect with them @PlanZPLS on Twitter or Instagram.
The music for the podcast has been written and performed by Gaia Moretti.