Wednesday, June 5, 2013

What if Classroom Attendance Was Optional?

What if attendance to your classroom was optional? Would students still come to your class? These questions were inspired by a recent post by Ryan McLane, "Teach Like a Pirate Day". Ryan's leading question was, "If your students didn't have to be there, would you be teaching to an empty room?" This question was prompted by the book, "Teach Like a Pirate", by Dave Burgess.


The premise is that students would not attend their classes. Instead, students would look over a menu of learning "experiences" and attend whatever they find interesting. The offerings were interesting, fun, engaging, mysterious, and challenging. The results at Utica Junior High were impressive. So much so, students and teachers responded by asking, "Why can't every day be Pirate Day?" One student offered to pay money to attend a "Mystery Skype" session, which was full. Would students pay money to attend a meaningful learning experience? It certainly seems so.

Why should schools consider trying "Teach Like a Pirate Day"?
  • Educators can teach what they are passionate about. Thus, providing an enlightening and invigorating break from standardized tests, common core, and benchmark assessments.
  • Students can pursue their interests and become reacquainted with the concept that learning, particularly learning together, can be very enjoyable - dare I say, fun!  (Utica reported a 98% attendance rate with zero discipline referrals.) Classroom management is a popular discussion topic in our professional development circles. Exciting, engaging experiences will certainly help reduce distractions and off-task behavior.
  • Instead of just pockets of innovation, this format helps introduce and cultivate an organizational mindset that supports a school-wide culture of learning and innovation. ( +George Couros ) 
  • The notion of a learning community where all stakeholders are engaged and participating in learning "experiences" is encouraged and reinforced. A school-wide hashtag, blog, or wiki could provide an opportunity for the learners to share their experiences and reflect upon what they learned - thus, expanding the bounds of time and space. A one day event such as this has the strong potential to establish new learning relationships, inspire further inquiry, and highlight passion-based learning "experiences".  (+Angela Maiers) #spark



We are piloting a Student Advisory at our high school next year. This homeroom session would provide the perfect venue for planning and organizing a "Teach Like a Pirate Day". I plan to persuade our administration to give this a try at least once next year. What advice do you have for making this event a huge success?

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2 comments:

Karl said...

We did a half day at downers grove north like that. Teachers did breakout sessions. I did magic. They also brought in people to do workshops. It was fun.

Robert Schuetz said...

Thanks for taking time to read and comment Karl. I think that this would go over well at PHS. I plan to propose and plan this with our leadership team.