Tools of the Trade: 10/18 Resource Highlight #TLAP

Good afternoon Chrome Warriors! We hope you’re finding ways to make October your most out-of-the-box month of teaching yet! In order to bring you more ways to expand and innovate your teaching practice, we’re focusing this month’s resource highlight on Dave Burgess (@burgessdave) and his “Teach Like a PIRATE” practice.Since it’s release in 2009, Burgess’s “Teach Like a Pirate: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator” has been praised as an innovative read for teachers looking for more ways to connect with their students. Burgess’s PIRATE manifesto encourages teachers to take a risk and “sail into uncharted territories”--to try new methods without a fear of failure. PIRATEs bring ideas of Passion, Immersion, Rapport, Ask & Analyze, Transformation and Enthusiasm to their classrooms and subject matter. The book’s second half provides practical ways to implement his energized methodologies with a list of classroom hooks.

Burgess is undoubtedly a pioneer in education. What started as his speaking series has transformed into his book, and a community of educators who are passionate about passionate teaching. TLAP has also spawned an online presence, with teachers tweeting (#tlap) their forays into..piracy?

“If you haven’t failed in the classroom lately, you aren’t pushing the envelope far enough. ‘Safe’ lessons are a recipe for mediocrity at best.”

Check out this video of Burgess at a TEDx conference to see him practice what he preaches (and there is no other way to put it--Burgess describes himself as having an “evangelical zeal” to spread his message about effective presentation, and it’s more than evident in his onstage presence): David Burgess at TEDxLitchfieldED (Note: audio quality can be spotty at times)

In the presentation, Burgess employs timing, mystery/magic, jumping, movement, shouting, whispering, props, speed, and audience participation to demonstrate a magic square. He touches on what he believes to be the three circles of teaching--content (“If you don’t have content, you’re either a babysitter or entertainer.”), techniques & methods, and the third, critical yet often ignored circle that’s at the heart of his work--presentation.

When he presents his magic square a second time, he does so without the same gusto and “party tricks” that captivated the audience the first time around. And while the content is the same, the enthusiasm is clearly extinguished. “That is not the same lesson, it’s not even close to the same lesson, is it? One thing would put you to sleep, and one thing drew applause. It’s presentation, it’s the third circle that matters sometimes.”

Burgess urges the audience not to fall into a creativity trap--believing that some people are creative and some are not--that you’re born with it or you’re just out of luck. On the contrary, he says, creativity is available to everyone.“The creative process is nothing much more, I believe, than the process of asking the right questions...It’s questions that lead to the presentational touches to your lesson, that draw people in,” says Burgess.

And that’s why he believes we need more pirates in our educational system. “Teachers who are willing to take a risk, teachers who are pirates, people who are willing to sail into uncharted territory, and uncharted waters with no guarantee of success.”

If you believe teaching to children and not to the test is education at its highest potential, than TLAP is for you. As Burgess says, “education shouldn’t be about raising statistics. It should be about raising and fulfilling human potential.”

Visit for more information, and let us know in the comments what makes you a pirate!