Steal Like a Teacher, a primer


January 19, 2013 by sz

stealteacher[graphic by D. Theriault]

I can imagine your questions.

Steal like a teacher? What kind of name is that Ziebarth?. Are you encouraging illegal activity? Are you suggesting I plagiarize?

Yes. A fun one. No, never. Nope.

I stole the name from a book called Steal Like an Artist written by Austin Kleon, a self-described “writer who draws.” His book is a manifesto about making art, one that explores they myth of originality. In it he quotes poet T.S. Eliot:

“Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different from that from which it was torn.”

I’d like to believe we’re all mature teachers, in one sense of the word mature or another, and so I propose we do as Eliot has observed. Steal. Steal from each other. Steal instructional strategies, classroom management tricks, procedures, lessons, projects, ideas, goals.

Stealing takes borrowing up to the next level. When you steal something, you make it your own. Tweak it to fit your personality, your students, your classroom, your curriculum. Find something good, find something that works, and steal it.

(For example, I’ve been stealing from this Kleon character for years: see my Novel Blackout Poems. Scroll to the comments at the end of the link.)

A couple dozen of us have been sneaking into each other’s classrooms for the past year and doing just that. We’re looking for good teaching practices and taking them back to our classrooms and making them ours. It’s called Instructional Rounds, but Stealing Like a Teacher aptly describes the spirit of the process.

Recently, I stole a lesson from Theriault and we’ve been brainstorming how to improve the lesson, how to fit it into my classroom needs. Not only does it give me and him something else to talk about besides food, our students are benefiting. Just today we heard from a third party teacher how excited one of my students was about this lesson, how much she was getting out of it. Theriault and I were beaming.

Once you get out and nab a trick or two from your colleagues you’ll see what I mean.

Beginning second semester I have the privilege of being your partner in crime. This is where I’ll share ideas I find. This is where you can share ideas YOU find. This is where we can steal from each other. It’s for the kids!

I look forward to hearing your ideas and questions. And oh yeah, I’m available 3rd and 4th periods to be your accomplice or act as lookout while you sneak away for an instructional pilfering session of your own.


5 thoughts on “Steal Like a Teacher, a primer

  1. I WANT IN. I want guest blogging or login access. You rule Sean. #edustealing

  2. who made that sweet image?

  3. dukelyer says:

    In my writing lessons I take the works of great local and international writers, pull apart their sentence structure and word/phrase choices and my students write in the style of William Carlos Williams or Gavin Bishop. They talk of writing a Frank Sargeson or Roald Dahl line of Poetry because we know who they are and we ‘Steal’ from them as they are authors and poets that we aspire to be or be better than.
    I applaud your cause. We need to acknowledge where we get our ideas and give credit to those that inspire or challenge us to do better.
    I hereby pledge to continue to steal, but I will steal honourably.

  4. I enjoyed reading this… so true. We all grow as educators when we “borrow” from each other. More of us need to collaborate to make this amazing profession better.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: