In “Teach Like a Pirate” Dave Burgess acknowledges two questions he uses during his seminars to get participants thinking about their lessons. The two questions are created to help his participants confront the, often harsh, realities of their daily lesson delivery. They’re also designed to get participants thinking about what their expectations or standards are for classroom possibilities.
Question One: If they didn’t have to be there, would you be teaching to an empty room?
It might sound harsh or maybe even a bit frustrating, but would your students even be in the classroom if they didn’t have to be?
Look, we’re not going to sugarcoat it: sometimes what we teach is boring. Not every single thing you teach is going to be inherently exciting. You’re not always going to be teaching a lesson about pirates, or reading some fantastic and engaging book, or teaching an equation that really wows. However, that doesn’t mean your lessons should suffer.
Dave Burgess asks you to consider whether or not your students want to be there overall. If they could skip, would they? If they have a doctor’s appointment, are they sad to miss your class or rushing to get back?
Once you come to terms with how your students perceive your lessons, you can start to improve them. You don’t have to hit it out of the park every single day. However, it helps to raise the bar a little bit. You should be striving for a classroom that your students actively want to be a part of. They should remember your class at the end of the year, and not want to miss daily lessons. Plus, when they’re more engaged, they’ll learn more and misbehavior will go down.
Just because a student doesn’t have a choice in what they’re learning, doesn’t mean they should be chronically bored by it. After all, when students are excited to attend a class, they’re more engaged, and when they’re more engaged they’re learning better.
Question Two: could you sell tickets to any of your lessons?
Dave Burgess acknowledges that the majority of people will answer “Well, no” to this question. But it’s a great thought-exercise to see how your lessons stack up.
Ultimately though, your lessons should feel special, inspiring, and worthy of purchase. You should have multiple lessons that really wow your students. It’ll be impossible to make every single day of your classroom worthy of high ticket-sales. However, sprinkling these days throughout your year will ensure that your students are getting joy out of their learning.
So ask yourself these two questions throughout the year. By constantly checking back in on your lessons you’ll help raise the bar on what makes a good lesson in your mind. In turn, your students will be happier, more engaged, and excited to learn what you’re teaching.