Teach Like a Pirate: I is for Immersion

Before I read this chapter, I thought about immersion in general when it came to my teaching experiences. I thought about the ways I had immersed my students in past lessons, and of the lessons where I failed to do so. Whenever I think of immersing my students fully, I think of my favorite social studies lesson that I ever taught.

I had found a unit hook for the American Revolution online. I loved the premise behind it, and worked to make it a reality in my classroom. To kick off the unit, the teacher was to let the principal in on the action. The principal would enter the room and explain to students very sternly that there was now a 5 cent tax on all paper. Students had to pay to turn in
homework, had to pay to take home school papers, had to pay to receive them, etc. As soon as the principal finished there was to be a quick exit. If any student asked questions, the principal would sternly say “No questions” and leave. If done correctly, the students would be in an outrage, and the teacher would guide them to vent their frustrations and develop persuasive letters to give to the principal. The year I did it, my students were so outraged that they not only wrote the letter, but they also made a video explaining their
outrage. Instead of letting the “trick” go on for about 30 minutes and then discussing the connections to the Revolution and the Stamp Act, it went on all afternoon. That’s how immersed they were.

There were other lessons that came to mind, but the Immersion chapter in Teach Like a Pirate wasn’t so much about immersing the students in what they were learning and doing, but immersing myself right along with the students. Then came the tricky part of reflection: the part where I realized that hey, I’ve not always done that. In some cases, I’d had a rough day or was sick, but in many other cases, there was no excuse or reason I could
put forth. I simply hadn’t put myself in the moment fully. My mind was elsewhere, or I had been trying to do other things at the time. When it comes to these excuses, I had failed my students.

Immersion is putting yourself fully in the lesson. Your attention is meant only for the lesson and the students, and isn’t elsewhere. There are no extra papers being graded. There’s no sitting on the sidelines, or answering work emails. For that moment in time, your attention is undivided. My students never mentioned it, but I’m sure they noticed. They had to notice the difference between the lessons I was really into and active with, and the ones I was not.

I thought about this quite a lot today, and realized that it is a very valid point, both in education and in my own personal life. I can think back to my spring break period. My girlfriend came in to visit, and was here from last Wednesday to this Wednesday. When she’s here, I find myself using my phone less, and definitely away from my computer most of the time. My attention is us, and being together, as I know I’ll have time after she goes
back home to do my usual activities. There is definitely room for improvement. Isn’t there always, though?

If I end up back in the classroom next year (depending on what kind of job I end up with) this will be a key focus area for me. It’s one thing to reflect and realize that it’s a mistake I’ve made in the past. It’s a whole other ball game as to whether I work to actively correct it. Time will tell!

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