This is the latest in a series of blogs by partners of the Fluency work.
By Eleni Nardone
I know that I am passionate about teaching. I feel it inside of me each and every day when I am lucky enough to go to work and, simultaneously, love my job. I see this passion inside of so many of the amazing educators that I work with and in every single person that I have been lucky enough to meet within The Fluency Project. However, recently I read Dave Burgess’ book TEACH LIKE A PIRATE, and it left me wondering- What else am I passionate about?
The word PIRATE in Burgess’ title is actually a very clever mnemonic device that explains his philosophy of teaching, and I have to say, after reading his book I couldn’t agree with his philosophy more! The mnemonic device he uses is:
Within this blog post I would like to focus on the P(Passion) and E(Enthusiasm) sections of the PIRATE mnemonic. In his book, Burgess explains that, as educators, we can feel different types of passion for different aspects of teaching. The three types of passion that he describes include Content Passion, Professional Passion, and Personal Passion. The Personal Passion section of the book leads with the question Completely outside of your profession, what are you passionate about? It was then that Burgess’ point hit me! As educators, when we lead with passion AND enthusiasm, I think we would all agree, we receive the best results. If we can incorporate the things that we are passionate about OUTSIDE of school into our lessons, there is absolutely positively NO WAY that we cannot be enthusiastic about what we are teaching. Every year we try to figure out our students’ passions and incorporate them into our lessons (and of course we still will do that!), but why not incorporate our own, as well, and let them learn a little about us through our personal passions while learning content concurrently?
So, what did I do? I made a list! I forced myself to sit down and really think about my passions outside of school. I forced myself to write them down. I forced myself to be intentional. My list looks something like this right now:
DIY Home Renovations / Interior Design
Then, I looked at my 4th grade standards and wondered, “where can I fit my personal passions in?”. I will admit I was skeptical at first, but by just writing these things down, ideas immediately started to flow! Seriously... Make. A. List. It was magically freeing. For instance, I can use photography to take pictures OR have students take pictures to use as a prompt for our mentor sentence each week and create the sentence together or have students create their own versions of a sentence based off of the picture! I can use my passion for running by taking my class outside to do an activity to discuss relative sizes of measurement within our Measurement and Data unit. I can use my passion for DIY Home Renovation by having students create their dream house using a design program to learn about area and perimeter. I can use my passion for football by using analogies to discuss gaining or losing a fraction of a yard on the football field to teach adding and subtracting fractions to/from a whole number. I can use my passion for baseball to talk about angle measurements and the angle in which a ball was hit during a game. I can use my passion for music to teach metaphors and similes by strategically selecting and playing songs that contain these types of figurative language and having students identify them from the lyrics. I can use my passion for travel by taking my students on virtual field trips all over the world. All of these thoughts occurred to me because I decided to write my passions down! I have even started playing around with some ideas for another personal passion of mine- shopping on amazon! Ha! If I am being completely honest, I know for a fact that I will be more excited to teach these lessons than some of the other lessons that I teach because a true part of me will be reflected in them! Not only will we be learning together, but my students will be learning about their teacher, which will enhance the single most important factor in education within our classrooms- relationships.
In conclusion, Dave Burgess wrote, “By lighting yourself on fire with enthusiasm, you can become a beacon of bliss amidst a bastion of boredom and banality. Your attitude carries with it your single most powerful tool to influence your classroom.” In addition, he states, “It’s fun and exciting to share what is uniquely “you”.” It is when we mix our personal passions with our content that we will truly be able to be authentic in our enthusiasm. I would like to end by saying... trust me, in no way am I an expert in incorporating my personal passions into my classroom and in no way am I pretending to be. I have not done it intentionally yet. However, what I can tell you is that I am SO sincerely excited to try.
Eleni Nardone graduated from West Virginia University in 2018 with a degree in Elementary Education and certifications in mathematics, science, and pre-kindergarten. In 2020, Eleni graduated with a master’s degree in Literacy Education. She began her career at Warwood School as a mathematics interventionist and is currently a 4th grade teacher at Middle Creek Elementary School. Eleni is a member Cohort 3 of The Data and Technology Fluency Project with West Liberty University and the CREATE Lab (situated in Carnegie Mellon University).