33 Essential Quotes from Teach Like a Pirate

See why this Dave Burgess classic is a must-read for educators.

Image credit: Pixabay

One of the amazing benefits of hosting the Teachers on Fire podcast is the opportunity to hear about the voices that are shaping the thinking and inspiring the practice of great educators around the world.

In 2018, I first heard about Teach Like a Pirate from Adam Moler, an early guest on my show. Like many, my first reaction was skeptical. Who was Dave Burgess? And why would I ever want to teach like a pirate?

As I hosted more guests and expanded my PLN, the endorsements didn’t stop. Eventually, I realized I needed to find out what Dave Burgess and his #TLAP community was all about.

And I’m so glad I did.

Dave is bold, engaging, and inspirational. Along with a host of practical ideas for learning activities, he challenges our assumptions, redefines our mission, and helps us dream again.

If your passion for education could use some ignition, Dave is your guy and Teach Like a Pirate is your book. If you’re ready to reimagine your mission in the classroom, read on.

33 Essential Quotes from Teach Like a Pirate

  1. 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. They are entrepreneurs who take risks and are willing to travel to the ends of the earth for that which they value. Although fiercely independent, they travel with and embrace a diverse crew. If you’re willing to live by the code, commit to the voyage, and pull your share of the load, then you’re free to set sail. Pirates don’t much care about public perception; they proudly fly their flags in defiance.
  2. I’m passionate about creating lifelong learners. I’m passionate about increasing the self-esteem and self-confidence of my students. I’m passionate about having students leave my class with a larger vision of what is possible for their lives.
  3. To keep your passion for teaching alive, find as many ways as possible to incorporate your personal passions into your work.
  4. Passion is all about being on fire in front of your class.
  5. People are drawn in and love to be around those who are passionate about their lives.
  6. Don’t let the current overemphasis on standardized test scores lead to the loss of the teachable moment.
  7. Creative ideas don’t come out of the blue; they come from engaging in the creative process. That critical process starts when you ask the right types of questions and then actively seek the answers.
  8. Creativity is rarely about natural brilliance or innate genius. Much more often creativity results from properly directed attention, laser-like focus, relentless effort, and hard work. Outsiders see the glorious results but know very little about the blood and sweat that happens behind closed doors. Creative genius is something people tend to romanticize, but the reality is not very romantic at all. Like any skill it takes practice and effort.
  9. Education can be used to uplift and inspire or it can be used as a hammer to bludgeon and beat down. We must collectively agree educating the next generation is worth the time and effort and that our students deserve to be uplifted and inspired.
  10. 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.
  11. The key to failing without quitting is to shift your paradigm to believe there is no such thing as true failure — only feedback.
  12. Spend more time on your passions, hobbies, and outside areas of interest and then seek ways to incorporate them into your classroom. Cultivate new hobbies and watch new areas of your brain explode in creative output.
  13. Grow! Try new things and do those bucket-list items. Notice the world around you and treat it like the bountiful supply of creative ideas that it is. It’s not just good for your life…it’s great for your teaching. Exploring the world and your passions allows you to bring a new perspective and energy into the classroom. It allows you to become a powerful role model for your students. We always say we want them to be life-long learners, so we must show them what that looks like.
  14. I believe the best books to read about teaching are rarely in the education section. I always have three or four books on my nightstand, a book in my car, one in my school bag, and several more on my phone. I consider it one of the most important parts of my job to constantly expose myself to the high quality thinking of other people.
  15. When I only focus on my teaching, I am not nearly as creative as when I find time to humor my strange obsessions.
  16. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking time spent developing yourself into a well-rounded person, above and beyond your role as an educator, is wasted or something to feel guilty about. It is essential and will pay dividends in not only your life, but also in your classroom.
  17. If you can’t explain why someone should pay attention to what you’re saying, maybe you shouldn’t be saying it.
  18. By lighting yourself on fire with enthusiasm, you can become a beacon of bliss amidst a bastion of boredom and banality.
  19. It doesn’t particularly matter what the subject is; our mission is to teach in such a way that who we are as human beings has a more powerful and lasting effect on students than what we say.
  20. As for the side dishes and dessert, those are the parts of your lesson only the uptight and misguided view as a waste of time. There is no award given to the teacher who fills every class period with bell-to-bell direct instruction. It doesn’t matter how much material you teach, it only matters how much is received.
  21. No content standard in any class at any level is more important than nurturing and building a love of learning. Designing a class that empowers students to become life-long learners, avid readers, and voracious seekers of knowledge, will have an impact that reverberates for a lifetime and beyond.
  22. Much of your success as an educator has to do with your attitude towards teaching and towards kids. The rest of your success is based on your willingness to relentlessly search for what engages students in the classroom and then having the guts to do it.
  23. Sometimes it’s OK to do things in class because it increases the fun factor and fosters positive feelings about school.
  24. We have unbelievably talented kids sitting in front of us and many are starving for the opportunity to display their creativity. We should do everything we can to provide them the opportunity to hone their artistic skills and create.
  25. After finishing a unit, I often provide a day for students to get into collaborative groups and create non-linguistic representations of the material. For example, I may ask them to create a visual depicting an event or concept. It can be a literal interpretation or a symbolic representation; I encourage my students to be as creative as possible.
  26. Whether you use it to create a mood or tie it into your curriculum, music is an element of presentational power that can help you transform your class.
  27. When used correctly, technology can enhance the effectiveness of your lesson, increase engagement, and even strengthen the relationships between the humans that comprise your class.
  28. Technology as a replacement for live interaction between teachers and students concerns me.
  29. Our economy no longer rewards people for blindly following rules and becoming a cog in the machine. We need risk-takers, outside-the-box thinkers, and entrepreneurs; our school systems do the next generation of leaders a disservice by discouraging these very skills and attitudes.
  30. To ascend to the level of greatness, you have to be on fire with passion and enthusiasm. Mediocrity is incapable of motivating. You just can’t be on fire about mediocrity. There’s no energy, no juice, and no fuel to ignite action.
  31. We’re skyrocketing forward into an educational landscape that is changing every day. In these exciting times, we must be ready to take on the challenge of redefining greatness for a whole new generation of teachers and students.
  32. We aren’t just teaching facts to memorize or skills to learn; we’re uplifting lives and helping students fulfill their human potential. We’re shaping the mothers, fathers, world leaders, entrepreneurs, and artists of tomorrow.
  33. “Starting” may well be one of the most difficult and under-appreciated skills of all.

Episode 62 – Beth Houf

62 - Beth Houf

BETH HOUF is a mom, middle school principal, passionate leader & learner, and forever teacher. She’s also the co-author of Lead Like a PIRATE: Make School Amazing for Your Students and Staff. Interact with her on Twitter @BethHouf and engage with ideas from her book at #LeadLAP.

Follow Beth.

Episode Summary

Beth is the principal of Fulton Middle School in Fulton, Missouri. She serves about 600 students in Grades 6, 7, and 8. After fifteen years of teaching and leading in elementary contexts, this is her fourth year at Fulton MS. Beth also serves as a facilitator with the state department’s regional leadership academy, and she mentors new principals in Missouri leadership program.

Beth began her administration career in the pressure-packed atmosphere of No Child Left Behind. School test scores were low, requiring the school to issue letters to families in the community saying that the school was a failing school. What a culture-killer! In response, Beth worked hard to move the needle and improve test scores, instead of putting her focus on building school culture. She worked so hard, in fact, that she began to approach a state of burnout, and found herself considering leaving education for a career in nursing. Then in 2014, she attended the NAESP Conference and met Jay Billy, who showed her how to engage better and smarter with other education leaders on Twitter. He also encouraged her to connect with Dave and Shelley Burgess, and Beth soon saw the value of TLAP principles in education leadership.

Lead Like a Pirate was first born out of Beth’s passion for the principles taught in Teach Like a Pirate, by Dave Burgess. After she began building a workshop that would apply the #TLAP principles to leadership contexts, Dave and Shelley Burgess encouraged her to put her ideas and content into print. As she wrote Lead Like a Pirate, one of Beth’s main concerns was to ensure that other administrators didn’t have to experience the levels of fatigue and burnout that she once experienced. Yes, there will be times when we get discouraged or down, but she doesn’t want education leaders to feel like they are all alone or don’t have a support system. Beth wanted to archive best practices and resources but also start to build an active community of education leaders.

When she’s not focusing on education leadership inside and outside of her own context, Beth loves to read. In particular, she loves to do online read-alouds, book talks, book tasting, and any opportunity to connect books with kids and light their passion for reading.

Beth sees improvement as a daily process. She starts each day by reading a blog post — her favorite is one from Rich Cryz (@RACzyz). She also tries to stay current in leadership practices within and outside education and takes in professional development whenever she can. She welcomes free opportunities like #DitchSummit with Matt Miller, and although she’s not currently contemplating a PhD, that’s a possibility in her future. She also talks about her efforts to further promote and amplify the voices of other culture-builders, including Lead with Culture by Jay Billy, Lead with Literacy by Mandy Ellis, and Balance Like a Pirate by Sarah Johnson, Jessica Johnson, and Jessica Cabeen.

Beth enjoys traveling, experiencing other cultures, reading non-fiction, and sampling wines. She traveled to Alaska in October and was blown away by the phenomenal educators there who face overwhelming obstacles. Beth also enjoys sampling and learning about new wines. The best trips are the ones that combine education and pleasure. And when her boys hit on a new area of passion, she finds extra motivation to get involved herself.

Beth starts each day by getting up before anyone else to just relax with coffee and the news. Just the act of sitting quietly for 30-40 minutes gives her to calm she needs to start her workday in a good head space. She also leans on social media to improve parent engagement and involvement, so she makes sure she is taking pictures and video whenever she can as she gets into classrooms. She finds that the best documentation of learning happens right then, in the moment. Beth also calls herself a mobile principal. She carries her backpack with her wherever she goes so that she can get work done wherever she is and not remain tied to the desk in her office.

Beth’s Quick Picks: Voices and Resources That Shape Her Practice

On Twitter, Beth points first to a couple of hashtags – #FMSTeach and #LeadLAP. She also recommends following co-author @Burgess_Shelley and publisher @BurgessDave and @DBC_Inc.

Beth’s edtech recommendations focus on effective visual communication. She points out Quik, Canva, Poster My Wall, and Smore. Follow these great platforms on Twitter @Quik_App, @Canva, @PosterMyWall, and @SmorePages.

In books, Beth just finished The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook–What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us About Loss, Love, and Healing by Bruce D. Perry and Maia  Szalavitz. She also recommends Reclaiming Our Calling: Hold on to the Heart, Mind, and Hope of Education by Brad Gustafson. Follow these three authors on Twitter @BDPerry, @Maiasz, and @GustafsonBrad.

Looking to add some more great education podcasts to your podcast deck? Check out Cult of Pedagogy by Jennifer Gonzales and Aspire: The Leadership Development Podcast. Follow these educators on Twitter @cultofpedagogy and @Joshua__Stamper.

Beth is admittedly not a YouTube subscriber, but she does mention the Fulton Public Schools channel. Check it out here: Fulton Public Schools.

When she is able to find a little Netflix time, Beth has been enjoying flashbacks from The Nineties.

We sign off on this conversation, and Beth gives us the best ways to follow her online. Find her On Twitter @BethHouf, on Instagram @BHouf, and check out Lead Like a Pirate on Amazon.

Follow Beth.

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