#teachlikeapirate*

*Part of my job as a learner is to know how the kids are doing it. My teenage daughter hashtags everything. It is how she quotes and promotes different sayings. Thus- the title. If you are interested in downloading the book Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess, check out BookRix where you can get a free ebook copy.

One of the best parts of my week is when I’m with kids and in classrooms. For the past few weeks, I’ve been offering an ASRP (After School Recreation Program) for 5th graders. Our goal- to create a weekly news program written and produced solely by fifth graders for the whole school to see. This concept replaces an idea we used to have, a weekly newsish video with grade 5 as “hosts”. The difference? This is much, much harder to get off the ground because I’m asking the kids to do all the work. I’m just there as a facilitator. However, it is also an incredibly authentic learning environment, where magic might just happen.

Not only have I never done this, we don’t have any formal tools. Not a concern for these kids. “Do you have an iphone Mrs. Munnerlyn? An ipad? A computer?” they asked me. “We can do this!”

The students and I determined we want this to be a show with real news events, not silly stories. I manage their time (start this, end this) and officially sign off on their ideas. That’s about it. The kids are off running to learn: pitching topics, writing stories, and filming outside on the stairwell where we will hang up a sheet so it doesn’t look like school.

Their learning is hidden in the excitement, the engagement and the fun they are having. But here is what I can tell you professionally is occurring: cooperative and collaborative groups are happening authentically, students are finding answers to their real problems, and they are using technology as they might in the real world. Those who are writing stories want them to be right. They are pouring over their words and editing for clarity so the audience understands. Feedback is part of the natural, necessary process; with a constant question from one 10 year old to another being “What do you think?” and the other answering honestly and with a vested interest in helping his fellow reporter improve. It is everything you would want to see happen in school.

So, I can’t help but ask myself: Why don’t we do this more often? Why doesn’t school seem more like real life?

Well the truth is, it is getting harder to do so when we walk the tight-rope of defining, tracking, and determining growth on finite standards and skills for all subject areas. While I believe in using standards to measure both student achievement and our work as a school, I don’t find them to be… fun. Standards don’t get me out of bed and make me want to be with kids.

To me, the big work for educators moving forward isn’t identifying the standards, finding ways to track them, or to report on them at pre-determined intervals across the year. The real work is for us to find ways to keep the excitement and the passion in what we do while being able to measure how our kids are improving.

Without the passion, why are any of us here?

#teachlikeapirate

(Crossposted on www.literacybytes.com)

Photo credit: http://rovingfiddlehead.com/kidlit/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Pirate-Ship0001.jpg

About Jen Munnerlyn

Jen Munnerlyn is the Elementary Principal at the American School of Warsaw. Her international experience began back in 1980 when her parents first started teaching overseas. Jen blogs about her own experiences as a Third Culture Kid, the adventures of being the mother of a TCK, and about elementary education in an international school setting. Her picture book The Adventure Begins, about the first day at an international school, is a favorite among adults and students abroad.
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