Hey, everyone. Welcome to the effective teaching podcast. I’m your host, Dan Jackson. And today I’m going to be sitting down with Dave Burgess. He’s an absolute legend to talk to him about some strategies and tactics that he likes to encourage us to use, and the, he uses himself to help students become lifelong learners. So let’s head into that interview right now.
Thank you so much for coming and joining me today to talk about, uh, you know, your passion for education and also to help our students become lifelong learners.
Absolutely. My pleasure to join you. Thank you so much for having me on the show.
So, Dave, can you just tell me what is, uh, maybe one or a couple of strategies that you think are really key for our classrooms and for us teachers to be doing, to help our students to foster that lifelong learning?
Yeah, so I think it’s one of the key things is sowing relevance for students. And so the question is always like, why do I need to know this? Kids asked that all the time, like, why is this important to me to know, why do I need to know this? And if our answer is, if our best answer is it’s because it’s on the test, then we have a problem, right? And so, uh, I think we need to do a better job of showing the relevance of content and curriculum to kids and how it’s going to impact their life and allows them to create a little ownership around it. And I think also offering choice and allowing students to go down some of those rabbit holes of self-interest and they find something that they’re interested in and, uh, rather than just moving onto the next thing, allowing them to go to dive down deep into subjects that they’re passionate about. And so I think offering choice is a big part of this too.
Okay. So how do you go about doing that with the classrooms that you are when you’re training teachers these days? I think how do you go about helping them to embed that choice and to make sure that they’ve got a better reasons for why they’re teaching?
Yeah, so I think as far as the choice is concerned, it’s, uh, like, especially in S in assessment, for example, um, one of the things I usually tell teachers is like, let’s be more concerned with the learning and less concerned with how they show it. So more concerned that they’re learning this stuff, but last answer on what the, how they choose to demonstrate that knowledge. And so offering a wide variety of ways that they can do that. And it doesn’t have to just be a, that written test, but maybe they want to do a project. Maybe they want to create a video. Maybe they want to do, uh, some sort of performance, you know, maybe they want to write a song with lyrics that are related to it or whatever it might be, but opening up this possibility of choice in how they demonstrate their knowledge, uh, I think is one of the key components.
So yeah, so we’re focusing on how we do assessment different than we are. We’re focusing on the fact of you’re looking at the learning and not just on the end product. How do you do that then with it not being assessment? How do you with just your day-to-day activities that you do in your classroom? How do we help our students to actually develop this lifelong learning attitude?
Yeah. And so I have this, I have this, uh, uh, analogies, sometimes I use it’s called the, the, the gift shop. And so I’ll kind of go through this for you and see if this kind of like demonstrates how I, how I look at, um, how we can look at work. That’s either sometimes classified as homework or work that’s outside of class or not direct instruction. And I classify it, I call it the gift shop. And so if you go to a modern day theme park, um, there’s these fancy rides, they’re exciting. They get people really pumped up, right. And maybe there’s the Jurassic park ride and maybe a medieval times ride, maybe there’s, uh, you know, some sort of a, um, you know, whatever, I suppose the drastic park, right? There’s, there’s all these dinosaurs as wild as fast. And at the end of the ride, the ride stops.
They lift the little Delt off of you or lift the bar. And where do they empty you? Where do they put you? Well, in a modern day theme park, it’s always the same place. They empty you into the gift, shop the back of the gift shop. And now with your kid, you have to walk through the entire gift shop, which has been female to do that, to that ride. And what does your kid want that moment? He wants all of it, right? So now you just stop the dressing part, right? There’s T-Rex there’s and there’s dinosaur sets and there’s books and DVDs about dinosaurs and everything is dinosaur related. You get off the medieval times rhyme and there’s books about castles and Knights and their swords and their shields and little helmets that you can enter. The kids can put on and all this different stuff.
And they want all that. Even here in San Diego at SeaWorld, there’s something called the shark encounter. You don’t have moving sidewalk and they take you through a glass tunnel where the sharks are swimming all around you. Right? And my son is like, oh my God, look how many teeth they have like, oh, they have Rosa teeth. What happens if they bite you? Right? And then as soon as the moving sidewalk, he ends, where do you find yourself gift shop shark, tooth necklaces, DVDs about sharks, books, about sharks and what my son was at that moment. All of it. Why? Because he just saw sharks. That’s why, and he’s pumped up and fired up and wants to know more about sharks right now. That’s how we need to look at school and learning. We want to create powerful learning experiences for kids by what we do in class.
And then don’t just kill it with the work that you send home or the out or the non direct instruction work. Don’t just give them a worksheet packet that destroys their love of learning, empty them into the gift shop of how they can go further. Oh, now you’re excited about this. Here’s some projects you can do. Here’s some additional resources about that. Here’s an avenue you can explore further down this path, right? And so again, it’s always goes back to creating those powerful learning experiences for kids, getting them fired up about our content and curriculum, and then not destroying it, but rather emptying them into that gift shop and how they can go further and deeper into what we’re studying.
Yeah. Now for a teacher, they come up with that many different ideas, I guess, for one subject that often my teachers will struggle with that. And I remember in your book, you have your story that you talk about with, uh, the six, the six words that, um, you say, you mentioned all your keynote talks these days. Um, yeah. And that was essentially, I wasn’t saying that, you know, it’s easy for you because you’re creative. How do I, how do you help teachers who think they’re not creative to come up with a gift shop array of activities that their students are actually going to want to engage in once they’ve gotten that first taste of the, of the content or the idea, or, uh, of what they’re being, what they’re actually learning that day.
Yeah. And so for me, the key to creativity is questions. Questions are the key to creativity. If you want to change a teacher’s classroom, change their questions, change the questions they ask when they’re designing their curriculum and their lessons and the choices and all that stuff. So that’s why the center piece of the teach like a pirate book is the 170 different questions in 30 different categories that you could ask about your curriculum to try to brainstorm ideas of how to make it more engaging and to draw students in almost magically or magnetically into what you’re doing in the classroom. And so there’s this paradoxical thing about creativity. Um, a lot of people think that freedom leads to creativity. Often it’s the opposite constraints and restrictions lead to creativity. Like if you say to a teacher, Hey, I want you to design a while the outrageously creative lesson for next week go, well, where do you even start with that?
You know, you get, um, there’s no path even go down, but if you say, I want you to design a wilding and, uh, outrageously creative lesson for next week. Oh, um, you know what it must incorporate Play-Doh I must have a hands-on activity would play it up or something like that. Well, now the teacher has a path to go down and they go, okay, all the different ways I can use Play-Doh in the content that I’m studying next week, or what can, what can students be creating? What can they make? Um, and so it gives paths to go down and then within those constraints and restrictions, you see great creative output. So sometimes we, we know this is true of students, by the way, if you say to a group of students, Hey, uh, for this next project, you choose the topic and you choose the form that you want to do it in and go, well, students are paralyzed by choice. They don’t know where to go. So sometimes you have to give them some paths to start down, uh, in order to do that. So that’s the same way with teachers is I have a series of kind of brainstorming questions, which help them, uh, generate a greater creative output.
Yeah. Yeah. It’s true. Just generally in history too, once people are actually put in those intense places where they have to come up with ideas and come up with them quickly. Yeah. That’s when we come up with the solutions to those problems that existed, because we don’t have another choice. We have to come up with that solution.
Yeah. Well, I think that we just had a perfect example of that in this past year with the pandemic. Um, and, uh, unfortunately there’s still a great deal of tragedy wrapped into what’s happened around the world, but also you’ve seen an unbelievable burst of creativity, uh, with a lot of, and a lot of educational spaces because due to this disruption, people were forced off of those status quo paths and had to, um, immediately come up with something different. And you’ve seen a great deal of creativity and collaboration and the effort to do that. And so, I mean, that’s a perfect example. There was a major, uh, you know, global constraint and restriction and, um, I think it did in many cases generate quite a bit of creativity.
Yeah. Yeah. Well, definitely a lot of pivoting happening, not just in teaching, but across the whole business world as well. Everything really had to pivot and turn. I’m sure you probably had to change a whole bunch of stuff for what you were doing.
If a teacher is listening to this on Sunday nights, just before their week starts for, um, going into school, what, what should they start? What would the teachers do tonight, or maybe tomorrow morning to make sure that they’re getting started on this process to helping our students become lifelong learners?
Yeah. So a couple of things. One, I have a question that I ask all the time, how can I use that? And so whenever you’re looking around the world and you see something that is drawing people in, uh, you should always ask, how can I use that whenever you see something go viral in your student population, rather than me and upset by it, ask yourself, how can I use that? What is it about that this draws students in? Um, and how can I use that in my classroom? So our, our Buckminster fuller has a quote that I love. He said, don’t fight forces, use them. And I think that’s super important. And so always look around the world of the, how can I use that mindset. Um, and then I think the other thing I could just to give you like a real tangible example from teach like a pirate, uh, uh, I believe with something that’s called preheating the grill.
So I never, I don’t, I don’t put my steak down on a cold grill. I preheat my grill. Like if you drop your steak on a grill and nothing happens, but if you drop your steak on a preheated grill, what happens? It sizzles, right. I want my content to sizzle when I drop it. So I always preheat the grill by building that mystery, curiosity, buzz and anticipation before I start. So if a teacher is listening to this, thinking about what’s this an easy way to start, think about what is it that I could do to build up some mystery, curiosity, buzz, and anticipation around what we’re going to do. Like, what can I say today to get them excited about coming back tomorrow? What can I put on my board when they walk in that makes them immediately have a question of like, oh my gosh, what does, like, what does that mean?
Like, what are we doing? What, what is that all about? What can I have on display at the front of my room? You know, a box with a question mark on it that says don’t open until 10, 15 or something like that. And the kids were like, what’s in the box. Like, well, I guess we can’t find out till 10, 15. Well, when that clock starts to take from 10, 14 and 10 15, what are you going to have? You’re going to have kids on the edge of their seats. Right? Cause the grill is like, how does it could possibly be? And when you open that box and reach inside, you better believe every single eye in the room is going to be on you. Right? And so these are all elements and things that we can do to preheat that grill
And build up that mystery, curiosity, buzz, and anticipation. Thank you so much today for joining me for this podcast. I’d appreciate it. You’re a very busy man. And I just want to thank you a ton for coming and sharing your wisdom with me. And also with my listeners, it was an absolute pleasure to be on the show. Thank you so much for having me. It was great to connect with your listeners. Well, I hope
We really enjoyed that interview. I know I got heaps out of my time with Dave and I’m sure you did too. If you enjoyed it, I would love for you to leave me a review to let me know your thoughts on that episode. And I hope that you’ll also come back and join me next week. So make sure that you subscribe to the podcast in order to do that. Now, if you would like to grab the show notes, the transcript that you want to go and check out Dave’s book, teach like a pirate, or you just want to connect with Dave head over to the show notes page, which is at teacherspd.net/86. And you can access all that there. And also leave me a comment where I can respond to you and engage with you as well. I would love to get to know you better and I hope I’ll see you again next week. Bye for now.