I have just started reading Teach Like a Pirate: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator by Dave Burgess. http://amzn.com/0988217600. I’ll admit, I didn’t actively seek out this book. I joined a group on Goodreads called TeacherReads and this was their first book up for discussion.
I started reading it last night, and will join the discussion when it begins next week, but I had to write about it now because I have never had such an emotional response to a piece of non-fiction, professional writing in my life. Big call I know, but the chapter entitle ‘Rapport’ early in this book just made me agitated.
Burgess subscribes to what I like to call the ‘razzle dazzle’ approach to teaching. In my faculty, we have debated this often. When I arrived at my current school, one of the senior teachers had a sign on his classroom wall that said “Education is NOT Entertainment”. I tended to disagree with him. I believe that most teachers are extroverts and if they aren’t they have to work a little harder to ‘sell’ their wares in the classroom. There has to be an element of entertainment in what you do to get your message across and maintain the focus of a relatively large group of individuals. There are teachers that take it too far though.
As I read this chapter on rapport, I felt that Burgess was one of those teachers that steps over that invisible line where the ‘teaching’ or ‘performance’ is all about the teacher and has very little to do with the student. In my mind this is attention seeking behaviour on the part of the teacher. And just like in school when I had one of these teachers, the message that he is trying to deliver is lost on me because of the emotional, visceral, cringe response I have to this level of performance. My brother, who is a painter, keeps telling that this is the point of good art/performance – to illicit an emotional response, but do I want that in an educator.
As I drifted off to sleep last night, I was left thinking about my emotional response and as I deconstructed, I was able to separate my emotions from the message, and I quite like the essence of the introductory class activities Burgess used. Did it need to have the one man show acting out a plane crash, enacting spluttering, drowning and swimming to be as effective? I used to think not.
However, as I write this, I wonder would I be discussing it in such detail if I had not had such an emotional response to it. Would I have taken the time to deconstruct it on such a deep level? Has Burgess elicited a level of higher order thinking from me that may not have happened without my emotional response to his razzle dazzle? Isn’t this level of thinking ultimately what he is trying to get from his students.
Teaching is not entertainment … is it?