My Lead Like a PIRATE Foreword

The leadership manifesto the educational world waited YEARS for!

The response to Lead Like a Pirate by Shelley Burgess and Beth Houf has been astounding! This is the 5th book in the “Like a Pirate” series and we couldn’t be prouder of the impact it is having on the lives of educational leaders everywhere. As we head into a major book study on it (Details below), I wanted to share the foreword I wrote for the book. I wouldn’t change a word!

Here it is!

“As I have crisscrossed the globe presenting the Teach Like a PIRATE program, one thing has become abundantly clear. The effectiveness of the people who trim the sails and set the course in schools can have an exponential impact on their system. Although it is true that a captain is nothing without a crew, the strength of the person holding the compass and gripping the wheel can make or break the success of the journey.

The problem is, when compared to books centered on teaching and learning, powerful books on leading are in short supply. The EduPIRATE movement has been gratifying to be a part of, but I have lost track of how many times I have been asked, “When are you going to publish a pirate book for educational leaders?” After years of development and planning, months of writing and rewriting, and many intense moments of deep personal reflection by all parties involved, I can finally answer that question.


And it is a paradigm-shifting, culture-reshaping, life-transforming manifesto of the highest order. It will change you. More importantly, implementing the treasure within will change your system and allow you to create schools that have both staff and students knocking down the doors to get in.

Much of the real power of the book comes from how Shelley and Beth, both incredible leaders in their own right, have melded their individual experiences, unique strengths and talents, and personal insights into a unified synergistic masterpiece of extraordinary clarity. You will walk away from the experience of reading this book inspired, motivated to take action, and fully prepared with the ideas, skills, and the mindset necessary to make the amazing an everyday reality on your campus.

Do you remember the passion and enthusiasm you felt when you entered this profession? Remember that aha! moment you had when you realized that learning and fun could go hand in hand? Remember how your entire day could be made just by seeing that light bulb moment of understanding on a child’s face? Remember how fulfilling it was to creatively design and then courageously implement powerful learning experiences in your class?

As a pirate leader, all of that can still be yours. And now you can create a culture where the best parts of education are the norm for your entire crew and the students you serve. This book is the compass to take you there. Enjoy the voyage!”

There it is! Pick up the book HERE on Amazon or HERE at Barnes & Noble.

Follow all the Lead Like a Pirate action at #LeadLAP on Twitter and be sure to go to to read their blogs and sign up for the mailing list. They also do INCREDIBLE PD for leadership groups and conferences.

PS: Join us for a powerful Twitter book study of Lead Like a Pirate with Jay Billy and Nili Bartley starting June 3rd! The schedule is below! Please share with the educational leaders (and future leaders) in your life!

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