5 Ways Kermit the Frog is a Great Teacher

A guest post from Play Like a Pirate author, Quinn Rollins

I am a huge fan of Play Like a Pirate author, Quinn Rollins. He is the perfect example of someone who has embraced his quirkiness and “inner freak” and taken what he is most passionate about and woven it into his teaching style with great success. If you haven’t read his manifesto on the incorporation of toys, games, Lego, Play Doh, action figures, comics, graphic novels, etc. into the curriculum…you need to! He also does incredible hands-on workshops for teachers about all of the above. He just recently smashed a Graphics Novels workshop at ASCD in Anaheim…you can contact us here to book Quinn and look at his topics. (Did you know almost all of our authors speak for us, as well? Look here for details!)

Here is Quinn’s fantastic guest post on Kermit the Frog!

It’s no secret that Kermit the Frog is one of my heroes. My Twitter handle is @jedikermit, my car’s license plate is KERMIT, my desk toys, framed photos and magazine covers and artwork–I’m a fan of the frog. This month is Kermit the Frog’s birthday (a matter of some dispute, but May 9 is cited most often these days), and it has me thinking about him. Like I wasn’t anyway.

Part of the reason I’ve loved him — and many of you have — is that he’s a great teacher. I first met him as a character on Sesame Street, not The Muppet Show or Muppet movies. And on Sesame Street, he was often the role of a grownup among more juvenile characters (you could argue the same for The Muppet Show, actually), teaching other characters and even real actual human children. There are five things in particular I love about How Kermit Teaches, that I think we can all learn from:

First and foremost may be Kermit’s Vision. It’s inclusive, it’s optimistic, it’s about using entertainment  and education to lift people up and make them happy. It’s a good vision. As teachers, if we don’t have an inclusive, optimistic vision, it’s difficult to do what’s best for our students…or ourselves. Kermit’s own vision is summarized best in the final confrontation between the frog and Doc Hopper in The Muppet Movie:

The second thing Kermit did as a teacher that impressed me is best demonstrated in the Sesame Street News Flash sketches – taking well-known stories and using them to teach. But not without twisting them. Sesame Street has always done this with fairy tales and pop culture, most recently with Cookie Monster’s Crumby Pictures. My personal favorite is the Sesame Street News Flash with Pinocchio:

Kermit has come to be identified with diversity and tolerance, thanks to the song “Bein’ Green.” It’s an interesting song, because he goes from feeling isolated and down on himself because of his color to finding pride and self-acceptance in it. There are other strong messages of inclusion throughout Sesame Street, Muppet, Fraggle Rock, and other Jim Henson-produced series and movies. But that all started with Kermit.

The fourth thing Kermit did was embrace technology. In the early 1970s, seeing Kermit draw in the air with his spindly little finger — I knew that Kermit wasn’t really drawing in the air with his finger, that it was some kind of technology I didn’t understand. But he did. And used it. For something as low-tech as a hand puppet (yes I know he’s a puppet)(I mostly know that), Kermit and his colleagues helping him out have embraced technology and how to use it with both education and entertainment.

The final reason I love Kermit as a teacher is that he’s not perfect. We think of him as sweet, kind, patient — and he is. But as a teacher, patience has its limits. With Kermit, patience had its limits. A beloved classic Sesame Street clip has him singing the ABCs with a little girl named Joey:

It’s adorable. Because look at that kid. And her giggles. And that little ghostly Cookie Monster. But that moment when he’s had it and leaves — we’ve all been there as teachers. Kermit (like most of us at some point) has had enough, and leaves. But then he comes back. He forgives her, she forgives him, and they move on. Here Kermit is able to give us a great example of how to lose your patience, and does it without burning any bridges. There are plenty of other times, where, not playing opposite an actual little kid, he takes it further. The frog loses his cool with Cookie Monster, Grover, Miss Piggy, Miss Piggy, …pretty much every character played by Frank Oz, I guess. Maybe they were having issues. In any case, sometimes Kermit loses his cool. But he always comes back to his friends. I like that he has flaws, but he doesn’t let them define him. Sure, he’s not infinitely patient. Neither am I. But I can still be a good teacher.
Quinn Rollins
Thanks to Quinn for allowing me to run this as a guest post. You can find his original post on his website here.
Be sure to sign up for his email list while you’re there! Grab Play Like a Pirate on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, as well! Thanks!

Go Small!

Tiny Shifts Can Create MASSIVE Change

Go BIG! Take a leap! Shoot for the moon! Jump in with both feet!

We hear this type of advice all the time, and quite frankly, I’m often somebody who gives it. It can be a motivational and inspirational message for some (hopefully!), and it may be just what they need to hear to make major breakthroughs in their life and career.

For others, it is perhaps overwhelming.

It’s easy to look at all the amazing and innovative developments in education that have taken place over the last few years and to get a major case of “analysis paralysis.” Where do I start? What do I tackle first? How can I make all of these changes all at once? How can I possibly learn everything I need to know to do this? The year has already started, how can I change course mid-stream? What if students flounder under all this new freedom and autonomy? Am I qualified to lead my students in this new direction?

The struggle is real! I get it…I really do. We see rockstar teachers on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and presenting at conferences who have created UNBELIEVABLY empowering classes for their students and it is easy to feel like what we are doing is less than adequate. It’s hard to live up to the Pinterest boards and still keep some sort of balance and sanity. How did they get this awesome????

The answer may surprise you because they often fail to share the most critical part of the journey. The struggle. These classrooms are the product of what is usually a continuous search for new and better. A mindset of being willing to make small shifts and adjustments in order to test out and experiment with innovative new practices. You are just looking at the end result and feeling overwhelmed but not seeing that each step along the way, when broken down, is very approachable. All of this stuff is doable!

Makeover shows are wildly popular because they show the before and after…PLUS  the journey to transformation. It is in that journey where the real fun and adventure lie…that’s the part that pulls us in. If only a teacher who has traveled this path of classroom and pedagogical transformation would share their whole story and break it down and just be fully transparent.

It has happened!

Joy Kirr is an unbelievably amazing 7th grade teacher from Illinois who has been prolifically sharing her ideas and resources for YEARS! Many people who have wanted to jump into the Genius Hour world, for example, have successfully done so using her curated resources. She has truly empowered her students and has designed a learning environment that is not only highly successful…it is flat-out inspirational to behold.

She is that rockstar teacher we were talking about earlier…except that wasn’t always the case. It was a process of making many very small and gradual shifts, all totally doable, over a period of time. We have convinced Joy to swing open the doors of her classroom…the doors of her career…and openly share these shifts and how they have changed her as an educator and, more importantly, changed the class experience for her kids. We have just released her long-awaited book project, Shift This: How to Implement Gradual Changes for MASSIVE Impact In Your Classroom. This is powerful stuff! Classroom set-up and environment, grading practices, homework, class work, student-directed learning, Genius Hour…it ‘s all here. You will be fascinated by her journey and also inspired to take your own.

When educators who are connected to Joy on social media found out this project was happening, the response was almost universal. “Yes! I want that…she has helped me many times and deserves more recognition for how long she has selflessly served the community.” I hope you will support this new project, follow Joy if you aren’t already, and tap into the #ShiftThis hashtag on Twitter to continue the discussion.

Thank you!


PS: Support Joy by buying Shift This on Amazon or at Barnes & Noble. For bulk orders contact WendyV.dbc@gmail.com


“How Do They DO That?”

A Challenge for Your Students

I love street performers! Busking is a true example of #TLAP’s (Teach Like a Pirate) two essential questions:

“If they didn’t have to be there, would you be teaching to an empty room?”

“Do you have any lessons you could sell tickets to?”

You have to build your own audience from scratch by hooking people in who had no intention of seeing a show and are usually on their way to do something else. You have to keep them riveted and engaged because anyone can leave at anytime. Then at the end, you have to pitch them and convince them to reach into their pockets and pay you for a show they already got to see for free. That is tough work…they earn every penny!

I have studied busking and have done it several times in my life. Originally, I performed as a “popper.” I would wear an Adidas sweatsuit, a Kangol hat, and traveled with a boombox. I stood motionless like a statue until the beginnings of a crowd would form and would then begin popping. Later in life, I dabbled in busking as a magician. You find out very quickly what it takes to engage an audience when you are working the street. Not recommended for the faint of heart or the thin-skinned.

There are many types of street performers ranging from musicians, artists, magicians, jugglers, contortionists, acrobats, skateboarders, break dancers, etc. They are usually going to perform a “show.” Another type of street performer entertains by literally doing nothing! Human statues fall into this category…not as easy as it looks!

I was in London last year and was highly intrigued by the buskers who seem to defy all laws of physics. You can look at them from every single angle and as close as you want…you still see nothing! How do they do that???? As soon as I saw them, I knew it was a great challenge for students.

I immediately see science!

Put some of these pictures on the screen and have students brainstorm possible solutions. I would start by not allowing them to look it up but to rather engage in collaborative discussions. Have them generate theories and maybe even sketch out possible solutions. Discuss the physics involved and what it is that makes the illusion so compelling.

I think kids would love to explore how this is done. There are many resources online that show how to make these illusions…I’m guessing they will go straight to them when they get the chance!

How about challenge them to design one? What would be the coolest costume and set-up to be highly engaging and draw people in? What is the most deceptive and yet doable position? Sketch it out! Hey…maybe they can build it? Are the materials and construction too expensive? What about a scaled down model with an action figure? 

Let me know how the discussions go and I’d love to see some of their ideas! Feel free to post in the comments and/or tweet to @burgessdave and #tlap on Twitter. Enjoy!


PS: There are even 2 person versions like below!