There was a lot of talk about pirates in the early days of Apple Computers. Steve Jobs encouraged Apple’s development teams to be like pirates, to be rebellious and to “think different”. The Macintosh development group at “Bandley 3″ famously worked under a pirate flag (with an Apple logo for the eye patch) while developing the breakthrough Macintosh Computer. It helped them to “…preserve our original (rebellious) spirit even as we were growing more like the Navy every day”.

Why pirates? In What Would Steve Jobs Do? author Peter Sanders explains that Apple teams that thought like pirates were “…more likely to embrace change and challenge convention.” Jobs wanted Apple to innovate and change the computer industry, and a key part of that was working outside the system, like “pirates”. This important element of Apple’s early rebellious culture was captured in the biopic “Pirates of Silicon Valley”.

There’s a growing emphasis on innovation in education. Educators are searching for new ideas and practices that will make a difference and push student learning to a new level. A key asset in this effort is the work of Edu-Pirates, educators who are willing to “embrace change and challenge convention” within our educational institutions.

The culture of education is famously resistant to change and local school boards and districts are much more “navy” than “Black Pearl”. To promote innovation in education we need to nurture and recruit “Edu-Pirates”. But first, we must agree what they are.

Portuguese buccaneer Bartolomeu Portuguê the first “Pirate’s Code” in the late 1660’s. In the same spirit I offer:

The Edu-Pirates Code

  1. Students First: No matter what education policy requires or dictates, student learning comes first. It may be something as small as choosing to connect with students rather than immediately taking attendance or something as big as refusing to administer a harmful standardized test. To an Edu-Pirate student welfare and learning matter most and they will gladly suffer ‘the slings and arrows of annoyed administrators’ to honor that.
  2. Be Passionate:Edu-Pirates are 100% committed to the idea that education matters. Education isn’t just a job, it’s a life or death mission. A quest. To borrow a phrase, Edu-Pirates teach like their hair’s on fire.
  3. Sail With a Crew: It takes a collective effort to hijack a large, slow-moving vessel like education. Edu-Pirates see the value of efforts to affect change in all areas and support them. They share ideas, discuss, move other projects along and look for common ground with others.
  4. Never, Ever Quit: Edu-Pirates are rarely appreciated within education and battles are often long and difficult. An Edu-Pirate abides. They remain committed and creative no matter what. Perseverance is all for an Edu-Pirate. They may lose the battle but remain focused on winning the war.
  5. Fortune Favours The Bold: Operating outside a bureaucracy is liberating. Problems are solved quickly. No need to stop and check the rules to see if you’re allowed to do something. An Edu-Pirate takes initiative, acts in the best interest of students and would always rather “ask for forgiveness than permission”.
  6. Discretion is the Better Part of Valour: It’s good to be bold but know your limits. You can’t help your crew if you get thrown in the brig. Take risks but carefully consider the consequences. Make sure you’re serving the bigger vision and the needs of your students. There’s a difference between being bold and foolhardy.
  7. Hide in Plain Sight: A good Edu-Pirate is practiced at operating ‘under the radar’. To a casual observer they may look and act like other educators. But a closer look shows that they think and act differently than those around them.
  8. Share Your Treasure: Steve Jobs believed that a good pirate needed to bring interests and experiences from other fields into their work. A wide range of other interests makes your work richer. His interest in Zen Buddhism, travel and calligraphy influenced how Jobs saw technology and gave him a unique perspective. Edu-Pirates have rich interests and good stories to tell. They bring those experiences and interests into their education work.

So what do you say mateys? Do you have what it takes to sail under a skull and crossed #2 pencils? Do you agree with Steve Jobs that “It’s more fun to be a pirate than to join the navy”? If so you may want to sign up for a tour of duty as an Edu-Pirate. There’s a crew setting sail every morning in classrooms everywhere. Welcome aboard!