Do Pirates and Teachers Go Together?

51c7vKRzfFL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_Just finished reading Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess and am feeling energized and inspired! He sets out to get his readers to become more “passionate, creative, and fulfilled in your role as a teacher” and he accomplishes that tenfold. Though he teaches High School History classes there are many aspects of his message that will connect with elementary teachers as well. Some of my reflections or quotes from Burgess are listed below:

1.) Burgess writes with many analogies, metaphors, and personal stories that make this an easy read.  I love when he compares teaching to his favorite Christmas carol, The Little Drummer Boy.  The little boy had no material gift to offer, so he used his talent to play his drum as best he could. Throughout his book Burgess encourages (and gives you ways) to be the best teacher you can be.  He writes , “Forget about all the things you can’t control and play your drum to the best of your abilities.” (p. 152)

100logo12.) The author shares his failures as well as his successes in the classroom.  Not all lessons will go according to what you had hoped, but that’s no reason to quit or become negative.  “If you believe everything you do has to work one hundred percent of the time, you are less likely to take risks and step out of your comfort zone.” (p. 157.)

41DoLGFMcWL._SL500_AA300_3.) I love the point Burgess makes about ‘effort’ in his chapter entitled “Ask and Analyze.” Much of what he said reminded me of Peter Johnston’s book Opening Minds. He fills that chapter with quotes from people (Michelangelo and Maya Angelou) who say their greatness came from lots of hard work! Great teachers aren’t just born that way.  They work at it –continually learning by reading or going to conferences, using trial and error to perfect their lessons, learning from colleagues, and so on. One of my favorite quotes from the book is, “Education can be used to uplift and inspire or it can be used as a hammer to bludgeon and beat down.  We must collectively agree educating the next generation is worth the time and effort and that our students deserve to be uplifted and inspired” (p. 41.)

pirate_hook4.) In the second half of the book the author shares his many “hooks” that motivate and engage students.  My favorites were the ‘real world hook,’  ‘life-changing hook,’ ‘hobby hook,’ ‘prop hook,’ and ‘board message hook.’ I probably wouldn’t use his ‘contest hook’ since I’m not keen on competition in elementary grades.  Where there are winners there are also too many losers.  Burgess also shares many examples of using art, music, drama/reenactments, storytelling, and cooking in classroom lessons.  I know many primary teachers (myself included) who already value these ideas and use them daily in their classrooms, so those readers will feel validated and encouraged.

5.) I had to chuckle when he talked about technology and how it can have its place in the classroom, but he doesn’t hail it as the ‘be all and end all.’ “Using it (technology) in new and creative ways is a natural, positive progression that should be encouraged.  But I fear many have become almost cult-like in their allegiance to it” (p. 132.)  I know a few of those folks (HA HA to some of my Twitter friends!)

I have many more notes and underlinings in my book, but I thought I’d mention a few to see if others want to delve in and read this book this summer.  Let me know what you think.


  1. I too have read his book and found it, not only engaging, but inspiring as well. It has so much to say to beginning teachers, as well as those like me, who have pursued their “passion” for many years.

  2. I just got the book and didn’t read all of your thoughts cause I didn’t want to loose any of the inspiration I am finding in the book. Right now as I get ready to set up my classroom, I am thinking of how to “light my fire so others will want to come and watch me burn. I teach first grade and they are always ready for excitement. It is just hard to keep that going all day long, five days a week. I am rethinking about my passions and how to incorporate them more into other subjects other than reading and language arts. I am needing a new lighter for math and science and social studies. I think I have just been approaching it from the wrong angle. It’s time to create!

  3. Pat, I just finished this book as well and found lots of useful ideas. Loved the hooks and can see their value. I work mainly with struggling readers and know engagement is a huge issue to their progress. Using some of these hooks will “reel” them in, I think!

  4. I love how you always connect things to Peter Johnston who is such an inspiration for me. A lot of bloggers have been reading this Pirate book this summer which is tempting me to grab it. I’m interested to read about the hooks. Thanks for sharing.

  5. I also read this book this summer and loved it. One of my favorite statements in the book- “Creativity is rarely about natural brilliance or innate genius. Much more often creativity results from properly directed attention, laser-like focus, relentless effort, and hard work.”

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