Book Reflection: Lead Like a Pirate

"Everyone wins when highly effective leaders bring their passion to work."

Beth Houf and Shelley Burgess, the authors of Lead Like a Pirate, explore what it takes to be a Pirate Leader. The first chapter of Section 1, specifically focuses on PASSION.

What is passion and why does it matter?

Passion can take on many forms: personal, professional, content. As we discover what drives us, it helps "...determine the direction we point our compass." Once we understand our passions, it is vital that we are transparent and share with all stakeholders. One challenge in this chapter is to share your passion with your staff. This critical step provides transparency and authenticity as a a leader. Furthermore, it provides a twofold benefit:

1. " the moments that are particularly tough, or when you are dealing with issues that you are not passionate about, you can draw energy to press forward from a content, professional, or personal passion."

2. "...being in tune with and vocal about your passions can help those around you to better understand you."

It is not only important to know your passion, we also "...need patience if we want to initiate positive change. Once we light a spark, we need to give it time to catch." We can't just expect change to happen overnight. We can use our passion to chart the course and use our passion to recalculate when off course. It is not only important to understand our own passion, it is imperative that we survey our staff for their passions. Beth and Shelley provide a "Top 3" activity in chapter one. This simple, yet profound activity, can be used to reveal the passions of your staff. It acts as a staff builder and allows teachers to tap into their passions. "The point is to get to know what drives the people around you. And if you're a leader, the point is to help them tap into those passions and use them to make school amazing."

My Connection, My Passion

Like Beth, I would define myself as an educational freak. I love anything and everything related to improving teaching and learning. I spend hours reading daily and then narrowing down the content into manageable chunks for my colleagues. I love to create, design, and develop new resources that support teaching and learning. Over the course of two nights, I designed 101+ Instructional Resources to support a group of teachers that needed readily accessible ideas. When I noticed that new educators to our district didn't understand the language of our appraisal process, I designed a Padlet that included a SMORE for each Educator Standard Indicator. Each SMORE provides a definition for an "accomplished" educator, guiding questions that can be used to reflect on each indicator, and resources to help you if needed. As I worked with new educators, I realized that the appraisal process can sometimes feel like a one-shot wonder, a dog and pony show. As a means to provide purpose for this somewhat mundane task, I modeled reflection by designing my own Google Site where I reflect on my own professional learning and growth.

When I am not sitting with a cup of coffee and complete and total silence (ok...sometimes I turn on my favorite K-Love songs while working), I am working with groups of teachers, district colleagues, or in one-on-one coaching sessions. During coaching session, I had teachers that needed help with long-range plans for Economics, AP Government, Pre-AP English II, Spanish I, Business Law, and Chemistry, and I was beyond elated when they asked me to help design long range plans (aka experiences), project-based learning, cross-curricular connections, or model lessons. I didn't care what the content was, I was passionate about designing experiences that would engage students and provide differentiated opportunities to meet all student's needs. My passion would keep me up into the wee hours of the morning to design Think Tank challenges, a Kindness Challenge driven by student voice and choice, creating a SMORE with Teach Like a Pirate HOOKS to support students as they mastered presentation skills, brainstorming formats for a Chemistry Family Night, or scouring Twitter and my professional learning network to find ideas to support teachers. While some may call me crazy, this is my passion.

Why does immersion matter when navigating the C's of Change?

As a PIRATE leader, you need to have a "...deep understanding and continue to grow in depth." Are you dedicated to walk the walk? Are you ready to dive in?

Immersion begins with pulling up your sleeves, digging into data, and getting to know all stakeholders. This can sound like an unrealistic request; however, when you "...immerse yourself in the work that has the highest impact on increasing student learning and building a rich, powerful, and positive culture..." it can turn into a goal that will point your compass in a direction of change. By intentionally devoting "...time and focus to the right things" you will "...ultimately propel yourself forward."

As we chart the course, and immerse ourselves into work that will impact students and build a positive culture, we must consider our role. Are we going to be a Lifeguard Leader or a Swimmer? As a Lifeguard, we sit in our towers and act as managers. We ensure our "operation" is running smoothly; however, we lose pulse of the kids trapped under the rafts or lose sight of our most important job, the swimmers. When we lead as a Swimmer, we roll up our sleeves and dive into the deep end. We work alongside the swimmers. We are immersed in learning.

As immersed leaders, "...people won't try to hide their weaknesses from you; rather, they will seek you out as someone who can help them learn and grow." Together, we create an environment where people feel free to take risks. We open the door to a focus that propels the ship into uncharted waters. Waters that offer treasure chests of opportunities. Opportunities to navigate the seas of change by immersing as a TEAM and re-organizing our time to leverage systems, elevate impact, activate our team, and delete, delete, delete.

How do you organize your time?

Beth and Shelley share the acronym LEAD to provide tips for organizing your time so you focus on getting back time and and immersing yourself in the work that has the highest impact.

Leverage Systems: Are you always dealing with discipline?

Within this chapter a familiar story plays out...the principal spends hours dealing with discipline issues and is left with little time to focus on what truly matters. How can this change?

1. "The first step toward developing a system is to better understand the problems."

2. As a staff, generate a list of the issues from the teacher's perspective, office perspective, and principal's perspective.

3. Work collectively to create a system that addresses the issues.

4. Stay consistent in implementation

Elevate Impact: What mundane tasks take up your time? What tasks are less than desirable?

We are all responsible for a task, an activity, a supervision, that we probably find less than desirable. BUT...what if we flipped the script on our thinking? What if we turned mundane tasks into opportunities to enhance our culture?

Activate a TEAM: How do you utilize teams within your building? Who makes up each team? Are students a part of a team? Check out Lead Like a Pirate to see how Beth started a Tech Team made up of students.

Consider this..."People are less likely to tear down systems they help to build."

Delete! Delete! Delete!: What can be removed from your schedule? Who else could help in your endeavors? Analyze how you spend your time (check out the sticky note activity at the beginning of this chapter) and then reorganize so you are immersing yourself in work that has the highest impact on increasing student learning and building positive school culture.

It Starts with Trust

"If we want meaningful change, we have to make a connection to the heart before we can make a connection to the mind." -George Couros, The Innovator's Mindset

As a PIRATE leader, every move you make is pivotal. "To be a PIRATE leader, you need to have a heightened awareness of what trust is, how you earn it, and how you can lose it." Within this chapter, Beth and Shelley provide two essential components of earning trust:

1. Character

2. Competence

Character means you have integrity in your words and actions. You are the same PIRATE whether you are leading a group of 200 or sitting down to lunch with a group of two. You choose to spend your time getting to know people and allowing them to get to know you. Together, you reveal a true commitment to a shared vision through a culture built on trust. Are you wondering how you build rapport? This chapter offers a plethora of ideas and strategies you can implement to begin this process. Here are just a few...

1. Staff Retreat/Social

Beth describes an event so engaging that I couldn't write down her ideas fast enough. Here is a sneak peek of her amazing ideas (of course, you have to buy the book to discover more):

--Tropical pirate adventure land

--People, Not Programs

--A game of "Have You Ever"

--Mission Possible: Lunch! (Pizza Crew; Sensational Sides; Sweets for the Sweet)

--Selfie Scavenger Hunt


2. Pokemon Go Staff Social

Pokemon GO was "....was all the rage in the summer of 2016." Or maybe you are currently battling ____________. Regardless of your struggle with Netflix in the classroom, the battle against games, or the obsession with Instagram or Snapchat, take time to explore Beth's fun-filled ideas to embrace the negative press or the hype to ban the technology for all students.

3. "Year of Learning" Blog

Shelley sold me on this idea (another thanks goes to George Couros for sharing the idea) for creating a blog that focuses on the "Year of Learning." It would provide a platform to build relationships across the system. Each day a new post would be published and teachers, students, admin, classified staff, etc..., would anticipate another celebration of the question: "What are you learning today?"

4. Staff Appreciation

Beth and Shelley both share a variety of ideas to celebrate staff. Here is just a peak into their amazing ideas...

--A week of pirate fun to celebrate you!

--Buying P is for Pirate for each staff member and personalizing a note on the page in the book that best represents him or her

--Personalized notes for everyone in the district.

---Annual raffle --- "free" day off from work

How could one of these ideas help you earn trust? Build rapport? It is important that we remember that real progress will only come when we work as a team with a focus on a shared vision and we have built a foundation of trust.

"Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers."

- Anthony Robbins

"If we want to get out of ruts, engage students and staff members alike, spark innovation, and build a culture of inclusion and excitement, then we need to make sure we're asking the right type of questions."

Do you ask questions that: Invite curiosity? Encourage more questions? Help find meaningful and relevant answers? Check out how Beth and Shelley revived traditional questions and turned them into transformative questions that can spark innovation, invite curiosity, encourage more questions, and find meaningful answers.

Traditional Question: "What will we do on the first day of school this year?"

Transformed Question: "What can we do on the first day of school that is so wildly engaging and fun that our students are knocking down the doors to get in on day two?"

Traditional Question: "What are your goals for this year?"

Transformed Question: "What magic do you want to create in your classroom this year? How can I help?"

Traditional Question: "What strategies will you use to engage students in your lesson?"

Transformed Question:

1. "What could you do to create a 'buzz' about next week's lesson so your students are excited and engaged before they even walk in the door?"

2. "What will you do during your lesson that will inspire students to bubble over with excitement when parents or friends ask them, "What did you do in school today?"

As PIRATE leaders, we need to develop guiding questions that are transformative in nature. These questions, and their subsequent answers, can be the compass that helps guide the ship. The feedback we receive cannot crush our spirits or take us off course because we are PIRATE Leaders. And PIRATE Leaders, "...don't throw their hands up and quit" when the going gets tough. "They dig deep to get to the root of the issue and they actively seek solutions." As Dave Burgess shares in Teach Like a Pirate, "There isn't failure, only feedback." We need to seek feedback, crave feedback, and use feedback. We need to ensure that our entire team can explain the "Why." When we ask transformative questions and analyze the responses, we are shifting from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. We are navigating the seas of change with clarity and the capacity to grow. We are moving from "...good questions that inform, to great questions that transform."

"Transformation is much more than using the skills, resources and technology.

It's all about the habits of mind."

-Malcolm Gladwell, keynote, INBOUND 2014

"We have to be relentless each day if we are going to take traditional education to new heights for our staff and students." As PIRATE Leaders, we are willing to take risks and explore uncharted waters. We stake our flags into tasks that will make a significant difference. Throughout this chapter, Beth and Shelley share ideas that will have you revising or refining how you will courageously set sail for transformation.

How are you implementing one or more of the following?

--positive referrals

--making a notable contribution

--transforming student's lives

--providing a clear vision

--creating a healthy sense of urgency

--skillfully managing and leading change

As a PIRATE Leader, you "...believe in the moral imperative of providing students with an amazing set of educational opportunities." You are clear in defining these types of opportunities and then you seamlessly orchestrate the experience.

Taking time to read and then re-read this chapter will provide ideas to transform extended learning times, academic extensions, or advisories, into a time that is differentiated and driven by student data. Data that is gathered digitally, updated daily, and utilized to rethink interventions.

"Serious learning can be seriously fun." -Quinn Rollins, Play Like a Pirate

How do you captivate your teachers? Your students? How do you encourage outside the box thinking? As the PIRATE Leader, it is you role to champion for each student and to be the cheerleader for your school. Throughout this chapter, Beth and Shelley share ideas for amping up enthusiasm. Here are just a few sneak peeks into the wildly courageous and exciting ideas:

1. How do you ring in the New Year?

Do you roll out the red carpet and wear your favorite tux or prom dress? Does your entire staff stand outside and greet each student with smiles and music as they enter the building? You will definitely want to read more about this amazing idea.

2. Karaoke Friday:

Are teachers lined up in the halls during passing periods? Singing? Dancing? Playing guitars? This idea had me grinning from ear to ear. I couldn't stop thinking..."I want to be a staff member at Beth Houf's school!"

3. How do you turn mandatory content into engaging experiences?

How could you flip a training on blood-borne pathogens into an EdPuzzle and send out six weeks before the school year begins.

These is just a sliver of the appetizing ideas Beth and Shelley share within this chapter. My favorite quote, by far, is "We don't always have a choice in the day-to-day work we do, but we definitely have a choice in the way we do it." How will you turn a mundane task into a transformative experience that will leave teachers excited, engaged, and empowered?

"The type of treasure you seek as a PIRATE leader

defines the True North of your educational compass."

Set Your Compass

This section of the book is filled with treasures from Beth and Shelley that reveals the thoughts, ideas, and guiding principles that define them as leaders.


Treasure #1: Developing a Vision Collectively

Ask each team member to answer this question individually, "What is the most important work you are focused on right now as a school team to improve student learning?" Each and every person reads their answers out loud. The principal shares last. This activity provides a jumping-off point to discuss the school's vision and the clarity in which it is communicated.

A Compass to Point You in the Right Direction:

1. "If a man does not know to what port he is steering, no wind is favorable to him." -Seneca, Epistle LXXI

2. "Never let an opportunity to make a reference to your vision, focus, or goals pass you by."

3. "If you are going to find educational treasure, you need to identify what matters most...."


Treasure #2: Avoid the Blame Game

Did you know that the blame game is toxic. exits all over the nation! Did you know it prevents growth. The blame game creates a system that is "us" vs. "them." Instead of "...channeling collective energy and directing it to something positive, people committ to fight against each other." How much sense does that make?

A core value we need to hold near and dear to our hearts, " the idea that we are all on the same team." As PIRATE Leaders, we need to tap into the unique potential inside each and every one of your staff members. When the "...utmost effort is spent to bring forth this potential..." we have achieved success.

A Compass to Point You in the Right Direction:

1. ""When we learn how to work together versus against each other, things might start getting better."

2. " is a critical part of your job as a leader to help bring out the best in your people."

3. "Be relentless in seeking out and nurturing each person's greatness."


Treasure #3: Harness the Power of Teams

How can you harness the power of teams and become the summarizer and synthesizer of collective thoughts and ideas? How can you become the guide on the side who asks clarifying questions and encourage everyone to voice their opinions?

10 Tips for Teams That Tick

(below is a tickler to the amazing tips ---do you want to read in its entirety? Check out pages 86-88 in the book.)

1. Start with a Purpose!

2. Develop shared norms

3. Start meetings with celebrations

4. Agendas.

5. Share the wealth!

6. Team timeout

7. Share minutes from the meeting

8. Use structures and protocols to allow everyone to contribute</