• Andrea Paulakovich

#DBC50Summer 1/50: Teach Like a Pirate

Updated: Jul 10, 2018

Tonight I participated in the #tlap Twitter Chat. If you have not had the pleasure of joining in, you are definitely missing out on innovative ideas, positive educators, and amazing connections.


Prior to tonight's chat, I had been following the Tweets of Alicia Ray @iluveducating. She began to write about her journey to read all 50 Burgess Consulting books and to write a blog about what she learned along the way. Each time I read her post, I kept thinking..."I want to write with you!"


During tonight's #tlap chat, the question was posed: "What education book will you read this summer to grow professionally?" Here was my response...




Alicia Ray responded with, "That is SO awesome!!!! I'd love for you to blog about it and we can share!" Immediately...I perked up and began furiously typing my response. I had a smile on my face as I responded..."I LOVE your idea, and I LOVE collaboration! After tonight's chat, I will write a blog about Teach Like a Pirate and share with you! :)" It is now 9:15pm and my two-year-old is snoring away on my lap while I begin to share my thoughts on Teach Like a Pirate.





Like Alicia, I have a unique story on how I was introduced to the pirate himself. Our district was lucky enough to have Dave Burgess keynote at the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year. His message was filled with passion and enthusiasm. You walked away on fire to transform teaching and learning.


Since my passion is for helping others, my mind was spinning on how I could use his ideas to improve professional learning for educators. As the year progressed, I became overwhelmed by my caseload. I was supporting 40 educators at our new Project-Based High School. Trying to juggle my weekly schedule, intentionally planning differentiated coaching sessions, leading Professional Learning for district Professional Development days, designing sessions with my colleagues for our Advanced Teaching and Learning series, finishing my administrative license, learning that my daughter has life threatening allergies and asthma, and my son announcing that he was going back to college. Each of these events enveloped me like a tornado. Although my tenacious appetite for learning kept me reading relentlessly and stalking Twitter chats, I felt empty at the end of the day. I found my drive to implement ideas from his book on the back burner.


This probably sounds like I am making an excuse but this was my reality. Around November of 2017, I asked a colleague to borrow Dave's book, Teach Like a Pirate. I needed to re-read the book and be reminded of his relentless drive to hook teachers and create classrooms where students are running in to see what will happen next.


After diving in and exploring the endless treasure chest of ideas, I asked my administrative practicum supervisor if I could write a book for my year long project. I would use ideas from Teach Like a Pirate to lead professional learning with educators, develop coaching sessions that provided choice and voice, and offer a variety of formats for educators to explore and learn. Each of these ideas, inspired by the Spirit of a Pirate, hooked my colleagues and immersed them in their own professional growth.


After finishing my research, and book, I submitted to my professor for feedback. Here was his response:




As someone who LOVES to share, share, share, I began thinking...how could I share this beyond the walls of Olathe, Kansas? My intent is not to become rich or famous, or focus on Andrea Paulakovich, my intent is always to HELP. I truly have a deep desire to improve teaching and learning and my mind is like a hamster wheel. When others sleep, I create. I write. I read. I learn. The video below features Will Smith and I can directly relate to two of his comments:


1) "I am not particularly smart or talented. Where I excel is in ridiculous, sickening work ethic."

2) "You have to spend hours and hours of beating on your craft."

As I continued to learn and curate resources, I stumbled upon Dave Burgess website. As I began reading his blog, I started thinking...what if I pitched an idea to Dave and Shelley Burgess. Was this a CRAZY idea? Yes!!! However, when you are passionate, you don't allow anyone or anything to stand in your way. You don't allow others to laugh at you and tell you that your dreams are ridiculous or you will NEVER publish a book. You believe in yourself. You believe in your mission. My mission is to improve teaching and learning by sharing the amazing ideas, resources, and insights from educators I have curated over the past 15 years.


With a skip in my step, I sent an email to Mr. Burgess asking how you go about pitching an idea for a book. After receiving a scheduled date for a Google Hangout, I was beyond excited. The day arrived and I spent an hour learning from Mr. Dave Burgess. Little did he know, but my legs were nervously shaking under the table. I was in disbelief that Andrea Paulakovich was talking directly to the Lead Pirate himself. During this amazing hour, my hamster wheel started turning. The book I had written for my administrative practicum, while intended to support teaching and learning, lacked my personality, my stories. I briefly shared a bit of background with Dave and he said Dave Burgess Consulting would expect to hear my voice in the book. As I left the Google Hangout, I was beyond excited. It was as if I had just met Mr. Mickey Mouse and finally visited Disney World (side note---I have over 100 Mickey collectibles and I have never met THE Mouse :( ). I called my husband and asked if he would mind if I rewrote portions of my book before heading home. Of course, he supported another crazy idea from his passionate wife. I spent the remainder of that evening rewriting portions of the book to include my personal stories and to show my creative passions.


I submitted my book proposal and then felt my creative juices sky rocket. One week later, I pitched an idea for a PopUP PD entitled "Inspiring Purpose, Passion, and Play" to my supervisors. With their approval, I sent messages to Dave Burgess, Tara Martin, and Jimmy Casas, among many others. Within a matter of days, all three agreed to participate. I was beyond excited.





Are you wondering, "What is a Dream Director Experience" and "Where did you get this idea?" The idea was sparked while I was attending a ReThink Education Conference at the Kauffman Foundation Center in Kansas City, Missouri. The Future Project led a session entitled "Dream Director Experience." Here is an overview:


Who attended? Teachers, students, businesses, community members


The room was set up in mini circles. We were welcomed and asked to find a seat. After sharing a brief introduction and explaining how The Future Project was started, the presenter, Kat Evasco, asked for all the students in the room to come to the front. The students were asked to introduce themselves (age, school, and why they attended) and then assigned to each group. Kat asked each student to lead the group in introductions. My group was lead by Jason, an ROTC junior from the Missouri School District. He asked each of us to share our names and what we were passionate about. After introductions, we were lead in the following activities:

1) The student leader had each of us share a limiting belief about education.

2) We were challenged to turn our limiting beliefs into empowering beliefs.

3) We were challenged to dream up ideas for one of our proposed ideas. How could we bring the idea to fruition?

4) We were given 10 minutes, $10,000, and six months, to design a project that would be lead by students.

5) The students each had one minute to pitch their ideas to the Sharks (the Future Project creators).

6) The Sharks provided feedback to each student.


After attending this life changing conference, I began to work on the PopUP PD session. I asked my fellow Secondary Instructional Coaches if they would be onboard. We met as a group and I pitched the idea. They were excited to bring this idea to fruition and beyond stoked that Dave Burgess, Jimmy Casas, and Tara Martin, would be joining us via a Google Hangout. Since none of us had been in a group Google Hangout before, we spent time learning how to set up a group and share the link. As a group, we each have talents/strengths. Here are the amazing ways each of us contributed:

1) Angel created beautiful table lanterns that had biographies for each of our Shark Tanks. The table lanterns sat in the middle of the table at our PopUP PD session. The purpose of the lanterns was to introduce our teachers to these amazing leaders, provide their Twitter handle, and share a must read book list.

2) Ryne helped ensure the technology was working and helped with behind the scenes technology (sound, set up, etc...).

3) Robin curated our PopUP event via videos and photos.

4) Jennifer ensured we had the room set up, proper amount of food ordered, and talked directly with the manager at Austins.

5) Mindy, Ryne, and myself led a "practice" session with the 9th grade students in our Future Educators program. Mindy and Ryne acted as the Shark Tanks and provided feedback to the students.

6) We all worked together as a TEAM to design the presentation slides, activities, and feedback form. As a team, we wanted to ensure teachers walked away reinvigorated and excited for the 2018-2019 school year.


After developing the session to inspire purpose, passion, and play, we determined that teachers would have the opportunity to specifically focus on the first five days of school. Prior to the PopUP, we sent out a survey asking how teachers would rate themselves in terms of innovation (1= What is innovation? 5=Call me Dave Burgess). This information was used to group teachers prior to the evening. We wanted to ensure that each team included teachers that embraced innovation and teachers who were unsure of the meaning. We set each table with the lanterns, menus of the night's events, and photo props they could write on. Teachers began the evening with a Twitter Challenge to make connections with their teammates. After teachers filled their plates with appetizers, and made connections, we briefly discussed our goals for the next hour and then asked teachers to brainstorm what they typically do the first few days of school. We then showed a video of students from across the district as they explained what they would/would not like to see on the first days of school. Teachers were then asked to stand up. Together, we inhaled the future and exhaled the past. This activity was brief, but intended to help us focus on the positive. Listening to the students open and honest feedback could have been a little difficult or hard to swallow, so we wanted to keep the evening on a positive note.


The next portion of the evening is outlined below:

1) As a team, you have five minutes to brainstorm ideas for the first days of school. How can you engage and empower a culture of possibility?

2) As a team, you have fifteen minutes to design the first days of school to engage and empower a culture of possibility. Here are the requirements:

--Focus on one of your ideas.

--You have fifteen minutes.

--The entire team will pitch the idea to our Sharks at 5:20pm.

--You will have one minute to pitch your idea.

--The end goal is for your idea to be selected for publishing.

WARNING: "We often come up with better versions of what already exists."

3) At 5:15, we asked all of the teachers to stand up with their photo props from the beginning of the evening. During the Twitter Challenge, they had to write down one word to describe someone/something they are passionate about. I explained that Dave Burgess, Tara Martin, Jimmy Casas, and Kat Evasco would be appearing on the big TV at 5:20pm. We would welcome them with the song, "I am so excited" and we would all wave our passion props and dance to greet them. Yes, we all did actually stand up, dance, cheer and rile ourselves up for this amazing group of leaders to join our evening.

4) Each team pitched their ideas to the Shark Tanks (Jimmy, Dave, Tara, Kat).

5) The Sharks provided feedback to each team.

6) After our Google Hangout with the Shark Tanks, we gave away prizes to the teachers and ended with a heartfelt "THANK YOU" and a survey to glean feedback.

If interested, here is a direct link to the visual slides we used: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/11yO5F0hUKHRrGplvI_tmOGnthIt6Klgs5bg4Prb6L5U/edit?usp=sharing


This inspirational evening was sparked by a conversation with the AMAZING Dave Burgess. Each and every single idea you read about was developed from ideas in Teach Like a Pirate, or from the inspirational talk via Google Hangouts. If you have not had the opportunity to read his book, you are truly missing out on an opportunity to spark an idea, to discover a hook that could revolutionize your classroom, or light a fire that will encourage you to design lessons, professional learning, or reignite your own passion for teaching and learning. Click here and purchase his book today!




"If you haven't failed in the classroom lately, you aren't pushing the envelope far enough."


"Light yourself on fire with enthusiasm and people will come from miles around just to watch you burn!"


"Never before have we needed more of an emphasis on the development of creativity, but schools have gone the exact opposite direction in an effort to make the best test-taking automatons possible."


"Our economy no longer rewards people for blindly following rules and becoming a cog machine."


"We need risk-takers, outside-the-box thinkers, and entrepreneurs..."


"An enthusiastic teacher can learn technique, but it is almost impossible to light a fire inside the charred heart of a burned-out teacher."


"When you interact with someone who is fully engaged and filled with passion, it can be an overwhelming and unforgettable experience."


"Education shouldn't be about raising statistics. It should be about raising and fulfilling human potential."


Teaching is "...about transforming lives."


"Pirates are daring, adventurous, and willing to set forth into uncharted territories with no guarantee of success. They reject the status quo and refuse to conform to any society that stifles creativity and independence".


"Professional passion is an absolute treasure chest filled with everything we need to steadfastly refuse to enter the classroom with anything less than a burning hot passion for the awesome job and responsibility that lies before us."






When we share what we learn, we grow together. Let's take time to create a 60 second or less video sharing your favorite quotes, biggest takeaways, or how you have implemented ideas from #tlap in your classroom, school, or district.


Questions to consider:

1. How has Dave Burgess redefined teaching and learning for your students?

2. How are you thinking outside the box thanks to the Pirate?

3. What hooks are you using to engage students?

4. What type of experience are your creating?


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