I can’t save everyone…


I have a confession.  I am not a super teacher.  I can’t save everyone.  I hate that.  I hate that this year I started to blame the kids who are failing for their failures.  I hate that I found so many reasons for why I can’t save everyone. I hate that I started to label kids.  I hate that I blamed everything I could find to place distance between the failures and my responsibility.  I have blamed the lack of minutes in a period for why I could not get to everyone.  I have started to blame larger class sizes for the failures.  I hate that I blamed having to cover more material and be more “rigorous” for the failures.  I blamed the kids habits.  I blamed their parents.  I damn near blamed anything that could be placed between their failing and my responsibility for it.

That’s not like me…because…I have another confession…I think I am a super teacher, but super teachers don’t let this happen.  In the last few years there have been chinks in my super armor that have begun to appear…and one in particular has been this distance that I have been placing between kids who are falling behind and my ego.  It’s a newly formed habit that looking back now, started to appear with the stress on standardization and data.  The more I have looked at “data,” the more I have found wrong with the kids.  The more we have focused on data, grades, and standardization, the less I have focused on what is actually troubling the kid…and the reason they are failing.  I have replaced talking with the student and asking questions, with implementing modifications that are aimed at the targeted data areas, but not sure if they meet the need that created the data point in the first place.  Knowing what the kid has trouble with and why they have trouble with it are two different things.

Today I had the kids answer a few questions…one was “What is one thing you’d wish Mr. Bogush would do differently in the second quarter?”  One of my kids who is falling behind gave an answer that made my super teacher shield drop to the ground.  He simply said, “Talk to me.”

I printed off of all of my class rosters and placed a check next to each kid that I “talked to” today.  Go ahead try it.  If you do nothing else today, print off a class list and place a check next to each kid that you talked to today.  Not just a question and answer back and forth, but a few sentences either in or outside of class.  I wonder what that data would show over time.  I bet that the kids who aren’t doing so well would be the same kids missing checks next to their names on more than one occasion.

“If you talk to the animals they will talk with you and you will know each other. If you do not talk to them you will not know them and what you do not know, you will fear. What one fears, one destroys.” – Chief Dan George, Tsleil-Waututh Nation, British Columbia, Canada

I can’t save everyone, but I can sure as hell find time to talk to a few more.



  1. Are you sure you don’t spend time in my head? It sure feels like it sometimes 🙂 I recieved a tweet from a second grader that said, “Keep listening to your kids to learn more about them.” We need these reminders from children to keep our focus on what’s important because we are frequently overwhelmed and can lose our way. Thansk again for anotheer greta post.

  2. I am in love with this idea of the student list and checking off names of students I talk with in or out of class.

    I feel like I talk to all the kids, but I know that if I do the checklist, I will see otherwise.

    I hope to change that.

  3. As a principal, I’m thinking of trying the checklist to see who I talk to on my staff. Already guessing I can do better. Thanks for the idea.

  4. After reading this I thought immediately of the Reggio approach and the idea of “a pedagogy of listening”. Such wisdom in their approach!

  5. Beautiful reflection and so timely for me. You echo many of my own feelings here, and I think you’re right. I need to slow down and talk to more kids–all kids. Thank you for the reminder to care. I asked a friend whose kids had awesome test scores last year his secret; he said, “Read a lot. Write a lot. Care a lot.” What exactly are we caring about? Sometimes the wrong things

  6. Great post! We all get caught up in the “data” world. I moved yo the second floor this year and learned a great way to do ehat you mentioned. Each teacher does not allow the students to enter the room without a greeting of some kind. At first, it eas just a good morning. Now, I get a greeting, hugs, and far more real conversation. They know to keep it short but know if it is
    something important, they ask to speak to me later in private. I touch their chins gently and now they do it back. Keep in mind these are 7/8 year olds.

  7. “Knowing what the kid has trouble with and why they have trouble with it are two different things.” I wanted to sing when I read that. The ‘content is king’ world that requires data on every standard, benchmark, and indicator has pushed us away from knowing the whys about our students. It requires we know them on paper but not in person. Knowing them in person, and knowing them well, is the only way we can really help them learn.

  8. Leave to the students to knock us back down to earth. Every morning I stand in the doorway as my kids come in and shake hands with each one. A simple hello, a comment about an email, the new shoes they have on, a haircut, all help to start the day off right. Paul, just the fact that you are willing to ask your students what you should change is enough to make you a super teacher! Don’t ever forget that!

  9. I just disagree with this on so many levels. I don’t really know what age your students are, but I kind of think that at some point, SOME of the responsibility for learning really needs to come from the student.

    Likewise, labels and blame can be effective tools if used correctly. If Mary isn’t staying focused in class, well, what can I do about that? If there aren’t enough minutes in each period for me to have a significant conversation with each student, well, what can I do about that?

    1. Yes, students need to take responsibility for their own learning, but don’t use that as a crutch to not do everything you can to help them. We may not be super teachers, but there is no reason why that should not be our goal.

  10. What a brave post! I have been thinking for a long time that I need to make a list of what blaming kids looks like. Too many of the teachers I work with don’t think that they blame the kids, but that blame comes in different shapes and sizes, doesn’t it? How to begin…Kids are falling behind because
    ~they are late
    ~their attendance is poor
    ~they do not focus in class
    ~they do not produce any work
    ~they are not engaged
    ~they are not motivated
    ~….What else would you add?


  11. WOW – I just stumbled over your blog and am glad I found a fellow CT educator with a heart and a dazzling pen.

    These lines made me cry –
    “Today I had the kids answer a few questions…one was “What is one thing you’d wish Mr. Bogush would do differently in the second quarter?” One of my kids who is falling behind gave an answer that made my super teacher shield drop to the ground. He simply said, “Talk to me.”

    We, the teachers, have forgotten the 3 R’s – relevancy, rigor, and relationship. We, the teachers, have to rediscover that magical balance!

    Great to meet you…

  12. At the beginning of the year I have a notecard for each student that I use to note interesting tidbits I learn about them. It also serves as a reminder to reach out when I come across a notecard without anything written on it.

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