When I first began teaching in elementary school, I came up with a fun and exciting, dare I say classy, theme: The Polite Pirates. My students would experience adventures in learning, sucking the marrow out of lessons! But, we would also learn all about how to conduct ourselves as ladies and gentlemen.
As I explained the theme to my students, several ideas began to weave their way through my classy talks. Eventually, these tapestries fashioned a tale, and The Polite Pirate story emerged.
In Chapter One we learned about a tremendous storm that broke apart several ships, leaving all kinds of people stranded on an island. This was originally written many years ago, and I was aiming at symbolizing the new arrangement in my classroom of small pockets of pupils that had come from varying classrooms. (My school has four 2nd grade classes.) Read at the very beginning of the year, it is meant to help students feel comfortable being thrown together with new peers.
This year, however, the idea of survival is in the forefront of everyone’s mind. I had reposted Chapter One, mentioning how clearly Coronavirus symbolizes the horrible storm from the story! I look forward to sharing the rest of the tale and encourage my students to adapt to the shifting sands of a world in survival mode.
Chapter 2 is all about the captain of pirates who, like everyone else on the island, lost his ship and has to depend on limited natural resources for survival. Captain Iron Knee is unique. While everyone else is bustling about, making shelters, building fires, collecting edibles, he seems to just sit around! At first this is disconcerting to the other survivors. Not only is he a pirate captain, but a lazy one to boot!
This chapter is about prejudice. When we pre-judge people, we could very well miss out on great friendships, learning, and even survival. My recent post “Combat Prejudice by Turning Your Mind into an Entire Judicial System” was a prelude to the reading of this chapter. Before you meet Captain Iron Knee, it will do you well to possess a robust analytical interior judicial system. Chapter 3 explores some valuable character traits that will hopefully sway the jury in favor of the captain. Here, you simply see him by his actions and countenance. Don’t judge a book by its cover.
Chapter 2: “The Captain”
Although no one knows exactly when or how it happened, one by one individuals and groups of people began to join the one surviving captain, a pirate captain. Was it simply because he had been a captain, or was it his strong yet sensitive, commanding yet understanding, magnetic personality? Even though his countenance was as severe as the storm they had all just survived, everyone felt comfortable around Iron Knee.
The captain with the iron knee, could not move around as well as the other survivors. He had gifts and talents that others did not have, however. This old, seasoned, world-traveler was not only a leader, but he was also a reader.
Captain Iron Knee didn’t just look at the back of cereal boxes during breakfast. He read books of all kinds, all of the time.
Due to the amount of reading the captain practiced, he was very knowledgeable about many subjects. No problem seemed to faze him.
“What do you mean there isn’t any food?” he would bellow. “Look here. This whole island is teeming with food. You just need to know what you can, and what you shouldn’t eat.” It was the knowing part that made the captain so valuable to every single survivor. He seemed to know everything.
When the survivors of the great storm initially began fending for themselves and started making shelters, looking for food, and figuring out fire, many did not like the looks of the captain. He seemed to just sit around and tell others what to do. It became apparent after the captain’s ragtag crew made a roaring fire to roast a meal in front of a well-constructed hut that the captain was not a loafer. He was a leader.
One by one the other survivors ventured over to the pirate crew and asked the captain a question or two. Each person was pleasantly surprised at how polite the pirate captain appeared.
He may have looked gruff, but his demeanor was kind and even caring. He was very helpful, albeit through knowledge as opposed to actually making a hut or fire for them.
The tremendous respect that his crew showed him impacted how the survivors viewed the captain, as well. They all but bowed whenever they approached the captain. At first, the other survivors thought that it was because the captain demanded this attitude of his crew the way other pirate captains had been known to scare their crews into submission. But, it was his kindness, how much he clearly cared for each, and his incredible wisdom that afforded him this esteem-able station as leader… First of just his crew, and then the whole island.
No person ever referred to the captain as anything other than his full and respectful name, Captain Iron Knee. They even said it differently from other names. In the same way that survivors would talk about the storm that marooned them on the island with hushed tones and awe, people spoke of the captain with honorably low voices. Everyone knew that without him they would have been doomed from day one.
People had questions for the captain, but no one ever questioned him. Although no one ever saw him get angry, everyone knew it would not be nice, to say the least. In fact, when a problem seemed to thwart the wise captain, and he could not quite figure it out, his eyebrows would furrow and eyes narrow.
It could have just been coincidence, but whenever this happened, dark, gray clouds would begin to creep over the mountain and invade a crystal clear sky. As the captain’s frustration rose, rain would fall.
The time that showed everyone’s respect most was during the evening campfires. Captain Iron Knee did not do all of the talking.
Others told stories about what they had done, either on the island or before being shipwrecked. When the captain did talk, the trees stopped swaying in the wind to listen to his wise words. Birds would flock to neighboring branches. The sea would calm and the fire would postpone its crackling. Even nature seemed to hang on the captain’s every word.