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12 June 2015

Learn Like a Pirate-Got Concerns?

This-my friends-is an understatement. To say that I find committing to a student-led classroom absolutely terrifying does not even begin to cover it. I've actually caught myself beginning to sweat when I first starting contemplating the idea.

Seriously people...I was sweating like a gal who just ran a marathon. Except without that feeling of accomplishment. Unless you count the king-sized Hershey bar with almonds I finished off in under 3 minutes calm myself down. (It's the small victories.)

Okay, so obviously I have a problem. And that problem would be a control problem. (The eating a king-sized Hershey in under 3 minutes is a gift.) See...I like being in control. Of everything. It spans across my home life and work. I thrive off of it.

Why would I ever let it go? (Cue Elsa.)

Alright, alright. If you read my synopsis of Chapter One from last week, then this should be old news to you. But for those of you just now joining in, I have admitted to my problem and have committed to change. Why?

Because I want what's best for my students. Don't we all?

But I was scared of what might happen. All the doubts and questions flooded into my mind. Worse-case scenarios. What ifs...

Until I read Chapter Two.

Chapter Two laid it all out for me and dispelled EVERY SINGLE CONCERN I had coming into this. I'm not kidding-every single worry that popped into my mind had an answer that made me feel a thousand times more confident in my ability to make this happen.

I don't want to rehash the entire chapter, but I do want to point out my top 3 concerns, share some of the advice Paul Solarz, the author, provided, and give my thoughts:

  • My students can't do this. Start small. Give simple jobs. Get them to do single tasks without reminders from you. Slowly build in more responsibility. (I was thinking there would be this massive dump of responsibility on the students. Just like most procedures and activities in the classroom, I need to allow students to build that "stamina" and gradually release them.)
  • I don't want chaos. I have students who will ruin it for the class. Solarz discovered that problematic students can do amazingly well in student-led classrooms. He lists power and attention as the two main reasons students misbehave in the first place. A student-led classroom allows them to have both! (This actually makes total sense to me. It's hard to explain, but I want to say I've heard something similar to this before, like allow purposeful disruption. Ultimately, it will still take regular feedback from me and good modeling to limit inappropriate disruptions.)
  • I can't fit it all into our curriculum. We'll never get through everything. Solarz suggest we begin by tweaking lessons so that students take on a more active role and teachers take on a more passive role. (We tweak lessons all the time. My thought is if I have to slowly build responsibility for the students, then surely I can slowly build into this idea.)
Chapter 2 goes on to discuss the additional positives of a student-led classroom like increased retention, more time for student feedback, and additional benefits for your teaching career. Seriously-if you get the chance-read it! (And don't forget to check out some additional thoughts by following the links below!)

But-before I head out-I want to leave you with my favorite quote from this chapter...

"Any progress you make toward empowering your students to become active leaders and doers, rather than passive followers who don't know how to think for themselves, will benefit their education." Paul Solarz, Learn Like A Pirate

No matter what happens, I know we will all be better because of it.

Have a great weekend!


  1. I LOVE it Lori! I have to admit - I thought you were going to drop out of the book study when I started reading your post this week, but I was thrilled when I read that your worries had been dispelled! Very powerful writing & I can't wait to read your post next week! :)