A mutual friend posted a picture on Facebook: a kids’ school spring musical, led by a teacher wearing a pirate costume.
This picture made me smile for many reasons:
- A very, very long time ago, I was a student at that same school, and I performed on that stage in several musicals and plays. For years, the smell of a certain face powder reminded me pacing behind that stage, being so sick to my stomach with nerves the year I had the lead in one particular play.
- Years later, though still a very long time ago, I was a teacher at that same school, and I watched some of my favorite students perform on that same stage. And, on that stage, I was once told by a dear student that I had bad coffee breath.
Such great memories.
But the very best part about that picture was the music teacher. His name is Wes, and this is his second year teaching at this school.
And back in the late 1990’s, Wes was my student, and I was his fifth grade teacher at that same school.
I commented on Facebook that I wished I had gotten to see the performance live. A friend commented back: “Hurry! The evening performance starts at 6:45!”
It was 6:15, and I was just finishing dinner with my kids. “Want to see a pirate show with some kids?” I asked them. They were all for it, so we took off and got to the school just as the students were filing on stage.
The performance was great, and my kids loved the pirate theme and the dancing fake parrot and the songs. I spent most of the show watching and laughing at and being proud of Wes, as he led those students with tremendous enthusiasm and gusto.
At the end of the show, after a great many parents and students had thanked, congratulated, and had their picture taken with him, I finally got a chance to talk with Wes.
We talked about the school, and we talked about the show. We talked about how his year had been.
And then, talking about being a relatively new teacher, he said something like, “When I walked in here this morning, the superintendent and some administrators were standing in the aisle, and I wasn’t sure how it would go if I walked in dressed like this. But sometimes you have to take a risk…”
I stopped him right there. “There’s a book that you have to read,” I told him.
I was introduced to Dave Burgess’ “Teach Like a Pirate” this winter through Twitter chats (#tlap) and loved it immediately. It’s all about how, as teachers, we need to be willing to take risks, to make mistakes, to be creative and enthusiastic, and to follow our passions and to share these with our students. Because these are the things that make school a place where kids want to be, and that become the lessons they never forget.
I ordered a copy for Wes that night, because a risk-taking teacher dressed like a pirate deserves one. And I’ve also ordered copies for the kindergarten teachers at my daughter’s school as end-of-the-year gifts and for the first grade teachers who may have her in their class next year.
Because I think she, like every student, deserves to have an enthusiastic, risk-taking, passionate pirate teacher.