I don’t have many memories of school.  I do remember in elementary school showing up for my baseball game only wearing socks.  I do remember in middle school always being reminded of homework and then trying to complete it on the bus.  I do remember day after day in high school running to my locker in a panic to get books and assignments that I forgot for classes.  All my life I have been forgetful.


One of the memories seared into my head as a child happened as I was leaving the bathroom at the Yale Bowl.  My dad looked down at me and said, “boy, you would forget that thing in the bathroom if it wasn’t attached.”


This morning a teacher walked in and asked if I had the schedule for the day.  After I said no, she reminded me that she gave me two the day before.  The kids know to never tell me anything and expect me to remember it.  At the end of the day, I can sometimes have a series of notes attached to my laptop that they placed there to remind me of things they told me.


I tell anyone who hands me a piece of paper that there is pretty much no hope that I will know where the paper will be the next day (yes, google drive is a savior to me).


I used to feel really bad about my forgetfulness.


I fell really bad when teachers bring up kids and talk about how they are disorganized, messy, and forgetful.  In the last few years I have entered the conversation by saying “I am that kid.”   If you could only see my view right now as I look down at my desk…


I have two filing cabinets in my classroom that are full.  Of what?  I do not know.


By most definitions of the word, I have had a successful life.  I have finally figured out some tricks.  The note system for my kids that are left on my laptop, finally utilizing Google calendar (most of the time), and of course writing notes between my thumb and index fingers so I see them when I drive, and if that doesn’t work I’ll see the note again when I eat.


I have a daughter who is forgetful.  She shared this with me tonight.


Writers are forgetful,
but they remember everything.
They forget appointments and anniversaries,
but remember what you wore,
how you smelled,
on your first date…
They remember every story you’ve ever told them –
like ever,
but forget what you’ve just said.
They don’t remember to water the plants
or take out the trash,
but they don’t forget how
to make you laugh.
Writers are forgetful
they’re busy
the important things.


And I have this note on my desk right now, if you have any idea why I am supposed to be calling my dad please let me know 🙂


My student teacher will be taking over all of my classes next week.  I’ll be posting this in our hallway tomorrow:


“Most inventors and engineers I’ve met are like me — they’re shy and they live in their heads. They’re almost like artists. In fact, the very best of them are artists. And artists work best alone where they can control an invention’s design without a lot of other people designing it for marketing or some other committee. I don’t believe anything really revolutionary has ever been invented by committee.  If you are that rare engineer who’s an inventor and also an artist, I’m going to give you some advice that might be hard to take. That advice is: Work alone.  You’re going to best be able to design revolutionary products and features if you’re working on your own.  Not on a committee. Not on a team.”
Steve Wozniak,  Co-Founder of Apple

I have a confession…when I was younger I hated group work.  I still do.  I prefer to work alone.  I prefer to stay up late working on a project after everyone else in my house has gone to sleep.  I turn up my music, and let my mind relax and flow.  I am actually typing this right now late at night while my house sleeps tight.  I prefer to curl up with a book or movie instead of going to the movies with friends, and the last thing I want to do is to attempt to get work done in a class of 27 people shuffling, moving, and talking…especially with a teacher interrupting every 5 minutes.

Sound familiar?

On February 17 Ms. Griffiths will be taking over all 5 classes.  She will be finishing the unit on Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.  During that time I would like to give some students the opportunity to work “quietly.”  You will have to cover the same material that the class will, but you can do it in your own unique way.  You can read a historical fiction novel, spend time with documentaries, Skype with people in the region, build with Minecraft or learn and explore in countless other ways that you choose.

During the five weeks I will ask for four things.  One traditional piece of argumentative writing (yah ccss!), one non-traditional method of sharing your learning (think play, poem, letter, video, painting, newspaper, finger puppet show, growing a potato that looks like Cuba, etc), something “revolutionary” that you can share with a wider audience, and keep a daily log of what you are doing including your notes, ideas, and sources. Each day you would work in the the 2 Floors Up room or the library.  On Monday’s and Wednesdays we will meet for a quick check-in, and on Friday’s for an extended chat on how it’s going.  

Maybe you don’t have any precise ideas, but are interested in learning how to make videos, skype with people, write a song, write a play, or create a website.  Bring me your ideas and we will make them happen.

If this sounds like something you would be interested in,

please speak to me…quietly ; )


Hey…my last post Almost 32 things you should consider doing in order to become the supreme teacher of the universe can be found right here.

Almost 32 things you should consider doing in order to become the supreme teacher of the universe

This year it has been difficult to find time to write posts.  Even before this year most of my posts are written in bits and pieces over time…it just adds to my “style”  🙂

When I do have an idea I usually jot it down somewhere.  My jots have been adding up, and most are somewhat random things.  Since I haven’t had time to write an individual post on any one of the ideas, a couple weeks ago I thought about throwing them all together into one post with some wonderful twittery title like “15 things you need to…”  Then I saw this tweet from one of the edutweetergodfathers:

Well now…

After thinking about what Dean tweeted I decided he meant people just weren’t shooting high enough.  So what follows is not just any list, but a list of “Almost 32 things things you should consider doing in order to become the supreme teacher of the universe.”  Each one I wish I could wax poetically about for a full post, but instead will just add a few sentences to what I jotted down on my pile of desk papers.

1-Get a good set of speakers

This fall I was at a PD session in which the presenter played videos, and the only sound came from the laptop speaker.  Ugg!  Your brain can deal just fine with bad video, but it cannot deal with bad audio.  Your laptop or cheap PC speakers are not good enough for that kid in the back row.  If they are expected to be processing what they see and hear but have to work extra hard to hear the audio something has to give.  My favorite are these which sit on my desk at home.  My second favorite are these which sit on my desk at school.  Both can easily fill a classroom.  My newest speaker that I use for conferences and grad class is this one.   It is a little bugger that has great sound.  Good for a small classroom when you don’t want to spend $100, Bluetooth compatible,  and it practically fits in my pocket.


3-Do something with your kids that has no connection to your class

Last month we did a movie night.  It is so neat to see the kids “acting normal” when they are not in class.  It simply reminded me that they are still kids, they are not academic robots.


7-Do something silly each day

Each Friday we do “Bad joke Friday”–that one will get an entire post soon. Another thing I do is put up a little whiteboard each day with something that will make them smile.  Usually, it has a couple brief announcements and something silly.  It is one of those things that I often regret starting, and every time I want to skip it and force myself to put it out I find it worth it! Here are a few examples:


10-Support another teacher who is not as lucky as you

Saw a picture on twitter of a teacher in a nicely carpeted room, all the kids on Macs, and all kids dressed nicely.  Don’t think people realize how desperate some teachers are.  My school is pretty average, and I have not had had any money to spend in at least thirteen years.  Check out other teachers Donors Choose and Kickstarter ideas.  When you see one of those tweets saying “Vote for me!” please check it out. Here is someone I had in my grad class who I am supporting because she’ll make a difference  I was recently on the receiving end of other people’s donations and it was amazing.  Opportunity for some good Karma!

12-If you struggle with writing, spelling. grammar, typing, (you know who you are) install Grammarly.

Honestly, I had long forgotten about Grammarly.  They emailed me asking me to try it out again, and I figured with my writing skills it can’t do anything but help.   I have noticed that it has improved my writing and cut down on how long it takes me to proof and edit since more mistakes are caught.  Also, as someone who misspells A LOT of words, it fixes misspellings with one less click than other editors. If you use Chrome, installing the extension is simple.  My daughter used it for a paper and she loved it.  We found ourselves having a discussion about grammar, uses of commas and overusing certain words.  Will it make me a professional blogger?  Doubt it, but I think it will simply help my writing become more professional which certainly can’t hurt when trying to express my thoughts more clearly.  In this post, I learned when to use seems vs seem 🙂

14-Let your kids be messy learners

I cannot help notice how as we push for more self-directed learning each thing getting pushed keeps getting codified.  It seems as though every great thing from PBL to Genious Hour to Mystery Skype now comes with rules that you can implement in order for kids to be successful.  Try Mystery Skype with no rules and let your kids flop miserably and then watch them figure out how to do it better.  It is not the teachers job to make them successful.  Gahhh!  As soon as something get mentioned on twitter within a year there seem to be all sorts of charts, rubrics, directions and exemplars on how it is supposed to be done.  “Let them fail” is all the rage yet the failure they are experiencing seems far from authentic.  Fear of failing is not the kids problem, it’s a teacher problem.  Sometimes it might take an extra day for them to finish, sometimes the final product is not what you would have made or directed them to, sometimes it means glitter all over the floor, and sometimes it just looks like they are playing.  Embrace the mess.  Have trust in the power of play.

18-If you blog or use social media start sharing what you are doing

I would love to start a new hastag #shareyourbest  I know, some people will have a problem with the word best, but anyway…    At some point stop retweeting, stop tweeting out articles that talk about what teachers should do, stop blogging about what you hope to be someday, just stop it and blog/tweet/youtube something that you do that is awesome.  #shareyourbest  If teachers deserve respect, let’s see why you do.  It does not have to be a massive project.  It can just be something small that you do every day.  Share, share, share.  It is our obligation to do so and brand ourselves as superior to the edreformers idea of what we should be doing and who else should be doing it.  I believe so strongly about this.  Don’t have a platform to share?  Write me.  I will share it here anonymously or with your name. I did tweet out the other day asking teachers to share and received exactly one response…thinking we can do better.


21-Pick one unit and do not have a test at the end of it

Think about it.  You finish a unit.  You then review.  Why?  Because the kids don’t know the material otherwise you would not have to review.  Then they go home and study.  Why? Because they don’t know the material.  So in one night they go home, study, spit it out the next day, and a few days later it’s gone.  Why are you giving the test? To see what they know.  After an entire unit why do you not already know what they know? And come on, you can pretty much predict what each kid is going to get anyway, so just give them the grade and skip the big process.  Try Project Based Learning for one unit (if you are really cool and hip you can call it Problem Based Learning or Inquiry Based Learning, just look out on the internet there are now rules for how to implement it successfully).   For one unit let there be some self-directed learning, let there be a way for kids to share what they learned without a test.  The best assessments aren’t the ones from which you learn what the kids know. The best assessments are the ones from which the kids learn something new.  Who could possibly get excited about a unit knowing that it’s climax will be a test?  Do something different.

A Civil War Letter from Moran Mustangs on Vimeo.

22-For you mysteryskypers and anyone else who video conferences–get a good mic and webcam

Remember, good video is a plus, great audio is a necessity.  If you do a lot with live streaming or video conferences invest in a mic and webcam.  If you use your laptop webcam all anyone sees is up your nose.  If you are using your laptop mic then you need to be right in front of it to be heard and can’t have a class interact with the guest.  With microphones you get what you pay.  I recommend any Blue Mic.  Snowballs are awesome and can be found under $50.  I bought a Yeti used that I just simply love.

Once you have a mic get a better webcam.  There are models in all price ranges.  The one that I have can also be used as a video camera and capture anything we are doing in class, used as a document camera, take still images, and when needed it has a built in mic.  At the time I purchased it, it was the only webcam  that had the ability to be mounted to a camera tripod.  I have had nothing but success with it…and it has survived many middle school hands.


23-Give your kids a question and do not have them answer immediately

Kids are too busy in school to think.  We give them a problem, question, worksheet and BAM they are expected to start working  immediately.  When was the last time they were given a problem or question and allowed to ponder and day dream.  Each year I actually have to force kids to not get to work immediately.  Day one of any research is usually a “no write” day.  they are not allowed to write anything done.  Just explore, make connections, or sit and think.  An application for a grant came in my email box last week.  I am still not exactly sure what I am going to submit.  If I was a student I would have been expected to hand it in 45 minutes later.   Try it.  Give them whatever you would normally give them, but don’t allow anyone to write for just ten minutes and see what happens.  And watch this:


26-Do the work you are making them do

I have a policy.  My kids never do anything I have not recently done.  I have two history degrees and I have been teaching social studies for 24 years–so I like social studies.   If I wouldn’t be excited about doing the assignments I give to the kids why would they be?  Stop teaching and be a model.  Writing teachers who don’t write.  History teachers who don’t research.  Science teachers who don’t do experiments.   How can you stand in front of kids teaching them to write and talking about its importance if you don’t write?  How can you talk to the kids about how to research and write a thesis if you do not?  Sorry, but having done it in college is not good enough.  If you want to be taken seriously by the kids you need to practice whatever craft you are imploring then to do along with them.  Get dirty with them, and shake like they shake. If you are going to require them to do a presentation, you better not spend days telling them how to do it.  On the day your kids need to stand up and do it, you better walk to the front with them.  Don’t tell them how it’s done, do it with them.

27-Get a good camera for your class

Get a good camera for your class.  Sorry, but there is really no cell phone cameras that can do what a good DSLR even on auto mode can do (iphone 6 and Samsung Galaxy 5 and Note 4 owners are allowed to make faces here).  Yes, they are more money, but if you have a Smartphone in your pocket you can afford a decent DSLR.  Want to save money? Buy one that has been refurbished–all my tech gear from cameras to my personal computer was purchased refurbished.  Take lots of pictures and videos of your kids and share share share.  Share with other teachers and most importantly share with their family.  I love sharing pictures of kids doing things that parents never get to see.  Sure you may send home pictures from the “big” project, but parents never get to see their kids in the hallway, sitting at lunch, or going to their locker.  Pictures of them doing the little things make a big difference. Throw them into a video with a song and you have gold.  Get a camera, place it in a spot the kids can access, and they will do the rest. Under $100, a bit more and just awesome.

28-Stop reading about education issues for a bit

Read something out of your discipline and let your mind wander.  I picked up a book on crisis negotiation a couple years ago and it changed my teaching.  And this fall I was at a conference and the speaker mentioned that when someone was trying to figure out what all the creative types had in common at Apple the only thing they could find is that they all read science fiction growing up.  With that in mind my wife gave me a fiction book at Christmas.  It was the first one I read in 20+ years.  My mind wandered to places it hasn’t in a long, long time.  Next in my stack is a best selling science fiction book from China.


29-Stop filling the garbage can

Next time you sit down to plan a unit, think about where the final product will ultimately end up.  If it is the garbage you can stop planning.  Need an audience for your kids work?  Contact me! paulbogush1@gmailcom We’ll watch videos, examine posters, read stories–anything!  We can share through snailmail, email, video, or live.

30-Share a piece of yourself…

The next time you start class after reading this, sit down in front of the class and share a story about yourself with your kids.  And then ask them to do the same.  The first words out of your mouth each day tells the kids what is the most important thing in the class.  Don’t let it be “take out your homework.”  Tell them a story.  Share a piece of yourself.  Be bold. Be authentic. Be you.

31-Add a little heart to your class.

l believe that great classrooms can change the world.  When classrooms include powerful  stories, when those stories are told with heart the way they deserve to be told, kids thought patterns can change, they can be moved, fires are lit, and they will be inspired. Great classrooms just don’t just focus on content. They use the content in their course to deliver a story that has heart.


And last but not least, a big reminder I need this year…

32-All teaching is a call to action.

If your students are not moved to action by your unit, then what was the point? The only reason to teach is to change the world. If you don’t believe that…

What could possibly be your reason for teaching?

“I’m so proud…”

So often as teachers we get stuck focusing on the day-to-day minutia of our jobs.  Paperwork, behavior issues, grades…

We get stuck on the problems in front of us and forget about all the cool things the kids have accomplished.  It is easy for teachers to focus on everything that is wrong with their classes and forget about all the great things that are occurring.  Especially those things occurring in small increments over time.

Recently I sat down with my superintendent to discuss making a video that would introduce the budget at the town council meeting.  He started talking about everything going on in the district, and I could not help thinking that every teacher should be listening to what I was hearing.  I realized that I was so hyper-focused on my class that I was missing out on what the district was accomplishing as a whole. At some point he simply said, “I am proud of what we are doing.”  That became the focus of the video.  He went out with a “camera man” and took video clips that were then given to me for editing.  There were 187 clips to go through to make into a 3 minute video and I had only a weekend to do it!

After making the video below I realized immediately that I will copy this style and do this with my kids at the end of the year.  It would be a great way to reflect on what they accomplished in class.

Deadlines kill innovation…

I just read an article from Fast Company entitled “4 Myths About Apple Design, From An Ex-Apple Designer.”  I could not help make the connection between the culture of “schools” and Apple’s culture.

It was based on an interview with Mark Kawano who was a senior designer at Apple.  In the article, he dispels four commonly held beliefs about Apple Design.

I’ll let you make the connections with these excerpts:

Myth #1    Apple has the best designers.  

“It’s actually the engineering culture, and the way the organization is structured to appreciate and support design. Everybody there is thinking about UX and design, not just the designers. And that’s what makes everything about the product so much better . . . much more than any individual designer or design team.”

It has often been said that good design needs to start at the top—that the CEO needs to care about design as much as the designers themselves. People often observe that Steve Jobs brought this structure to Apple. But the reason that structure works isn’t because of a top-down mandate. It’s an all around mandate. Everyone cares.

“It’s not this thing where you get some special wings or superpowers when you enter Cupertino. It’s that you now have an organization where you can spend your time designing products, instead of having to fight for your seat at the table, or get frustrated when the better design is passed over by an engineering manager who just wants to optimize for bug fixing. All of those things are what other designers at other companies have to spend a majority of their time doing. At Apple, it’s kind of expected that experience is really important.”

Kawano underscores that everyone at Apple—from the engineers to the marketers—is, to some extent, thinking like a designer. In turn, HR hires employees accordingly. Much like Google hires employees that think like Googlers, Apple hires employees that truly take design into consideration in all of their decisions.

“You see companies that have poached Apple designers, and they come up with sexy interfaces or something interesting, but it doesn’t necessarily move the needle for their business or their product. That’s because all the designer did was work on an interface piece, but to have a really well-designed product in the way Steve would say, this ‘holistic’ thing, is everything. It’s not just the interface piece. It’s designing the right business model into it. Designing the right marketing and the copy, and the way to distribute it. All of those pieces are critical.”

Myth #3 Apple Crafts Every Detail With Intention

“It’s almost impossible to come up with really innovative things when you have a deadline and schedule.”

“It was more having a small team and knowing what people had worked on, and the culture of being comfortable sharing.”

Myth #4 Steve Job’s Passion Frightened Everyone

“The reality is, the people who thrived at Apple were the people who welcomed that desire and passion to learn from working with Steve, and just really were dedicated to the customer and the product. They were willing to give up their weekends and vacation time. And a lot of the people who complained that it wasn’t fair . . . they didn’t see the value of giving all that up versus trying to create the best product for the customer and then sacrificing everything personally to get there.”

He had trouble understanding people who didn’t want that same thing and wondered why they’d be working for him if that was the case. I think Steve had a very low tolerance for people who didn’t care about stuff. He had a very hard time understanding why people would work in these positions and not want to sacrifice everything for them.”

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P-Day Intro

My kids and I do a version of what is popularly called Genius Hour or 20% Time except we call it P-Day.  The P stands for Passion.  It is a way to inject 50 minutes of student-driven learning into school.

If you have never heard of Genius hour it is easily Googalable.  Joy Kirr has a nice selection of resources here. I have written about our P-Day here and reflected on last year’s here.  More and more educators are touting P-Day, Genius Hour, 20% Time,  and other incarnations of self-directed learning.  This is not an original idea that was sparked by Google, 3M, or Federal Expresses programs with their employees or any one teacher.  Some days I think it is downright silly that giving kids 50 minutes, 2% of the week in school, to self-direct their learning  attracts any attention and that I am even writing a blog post about this great “innovation.”  There are entire schools that operate like 20% Time 100% of the time, and there are plenty of homeschoolers, unschoolers and other learning opportunities for kids that provide them with the opportunity to make every hour of their life a Genius Hour.  I think it shows where we are in education that if you tell other teachers that you are giving kids 2% of the week to explore their own interests you are seen as an outlier. It is just the way it should be.  A little disclaimer, I have some first-hand experience with kids that self-direct their learning 100% of the time  🙂

This year I became a 7th grade teacher and whoa Nelly the transition was a bit rough so I put introducing P-Day on hold for a bit.  Then the other seventh-grade social studies teacher decided to do it with us–Whoa Nellie again, an entire floor of P-Dayers! And then I had a student teacher start with me….but finally this month we kicked it off.  I wanted to record the class because I think it would be interesting to see how people introduce it to their kids.  Below I have a video of the slides along with my audio.  I don’t allow kid to make excuses before presentations, but I will break my own rule.  I put off recording my first three classes, screwed up on the fourth and somehow by the time we started the fifth I only had thirty minutes.  The presentation was a bit rushed and not as detailed as the others, but it is a good idea of how we intro it.   I did stick in the “P-Day Pitches” that were not done in this class, but were shown the the others, and the end is cut off 🙂 The slides can be found here. The audio in the video below kicks in after 5 seconds.

Call it whatever you’d like, giving kids a chance to self-direct their learning is necessary.  If you try it and it “fails” that is just proof that they need more time doing it.  You don’t need to start doing it for an entire year.  I started by just taking the day before Thanksgiving vacation.  we called the day 45/45.   everyone got 45 minutes to explore anything and 45 seconds to share what they explored.  From there I did every day before vacation, and during block schedules we even moved up to 60/60 days 🙂    Eventually we did it for longer stretches.  One marking period, two marking periods, and now we do it for three marking periods.  Some years there have been blocks.  Single parents have ended it three different years, and each class takes to it very differently.  I don’t have kids who just sprint to exploring and making things. Sometimes I look at what other teachers have written and wonder are those kids real? 🙂 Most of mine have no real special interests.  Most just sit for weeks.  Most are slow to realize that they can in fact self-direct their learning.

Doing this type of thing with your kids should come with a warning label — **Your results may vary** — especially because the biggest catalyst in doing something like this is you.  The students need to see you model self-directed learning.  It is not something you direct.  It is not something you “teach.”  It is something you model.  You need to lead by example.  The kids will always be who your are, and not who you want them to be.

Learning should be consensual…

On the first day of my grad classes we do a funky intro ice breaker.  Students pair up and google the person next to them and introduce them solely based on what they find on the internet.  Afterwards each person gets to ask me a question.  This is one of the questions that was asked in my last class:

I have to admit, I had never heard of the book.  And a couple weeks later she gave me a copy of the book to read.  Here is a confession, it has been probably 20 years since I have read a fiction book, but since it was being given to me from a student, I could not just ignore, I had to read it.

I did put it off for a few weeks and then decided to read it last week.


The description of the exchange in the the first chapter literally happened to me two days before reading it.  The second chapter described an exchange that nearly literally happened in my class the first day of school, and it continued on like that chapter after chapter until ______ (can’t tell you, it would spoil the book for you).  The book was an incredible view into the heads of my students.  It was a reminder to me that every exchange I have with them has an impact and contains a “lesson.”  It reminded me that it is truly the little things that matter most.  It reminded me that they will be who I am and not who I want them to be.   It reminded me to model being the person I want them to be, instead of trying to teach them to be.  It reminded me that in great classrooms learning is consensual.

Personalizing learning.

Individualizing learning.

Standards based learning.

Project based learning.

Flipping the learning.

There are many things we can/should/would/could be doing as teachers.  How many things do we do with the consent of the kids?  Is learning in your class consensual?  Is it self-directed?

We want kids to do epic things.

We want them to write.

Create. Innovate. Collaborate.

We want them to produce products that make a dent in this world.

Do we ask them for their consent?  Or demand it.

I have been reflecting on the things that are important to me that “I know” and that “I can do.”  .  In each case before I learned them I did something first.  I said “show me.”  Someone telling me to “do this” is a turn off.  That is probably why for most of school I was just waiting for the chance to escape.  School was a box.  I was constantly being told to do this, learn this, behave like this, and someday you can leave the box and be successful.  I was told if I did things right I could eventually leave the box and do epic things.

What always struck me as odd is the very people who wanted me to become a better writer never shared their writing.  The people who wanted me to be a scientist never shared what they were researching.  Schools that said I could do epic things in the future just made me sit in a row every day.

Your kids do not want to be taught.  They want to be moved.  Teachers think kids learn from their teaching, but they learn a lot more by watching what is being modeled for them.   They listen to  and watch everything that you do.  Sit at lunch with a group and get them talking about the adults in their life, they can spot a hypocrite a mile away.

You could make the very best set of directions, the very best rubric, your kids can do flipped classroom and spend every Friday doing Genius Hour, in the end they will simply imitate what they see–they will act like you.

I think that we often forget that every exchange we have with kids is a “lesson.”  Every time we pass them in the hall, and each time we share with them about our lives in the classroom is a lesson.   Most important is every time we share with them what we are learning and each time we show them examples of the innovative, creative, and yes sometimes even epic things that we are attempting to accomplish.  Kids will be who we are and not who we want them to be.  My father did not tell me to play baseball, he took me outside and let me play with him.  He did not sit me in front of a book that showed me how to use tools,  he brought me under the car with him.  I got dirty with him, beside him.

With the new year rolling in, teachers will usually spend a few minutes reflecting on some goals for their students.   How many of those goals include you getting dirty with them?  What will you be doing with your kids?  More teaching?  or will you start modeling?  The big question for 2015 is not will you teach your kid to be a writer, historian, scientist, artist, or even simply a kind person, the question is will you be that person with them.

Will you be their model?

Or will you be their teacher?

Remember kids don’t want to be taught, they want to be moved.

Be the person you want your kids to be.

Did you miss my last post?  It’s right here 🙂

Put a little heart, into your classroom

I am a first year teacher…well at least I feel that way.

I taught 8th grade 19th Century United States History for 25 years.   That’s a long time.

This year I had the opportunity to move to the seventh grade.  I am now a 7th grade geography teacher.

Something was missing from my class in September.   It took me awhile to figure it out and then it hit me.  People.  People were missing from my class.  People and the stories that come along with them.  Stories that are told with heart and hit a kid where they won’t forget.  I am working on fixing that problem.  It is important that I fix that problem and bring people, back into my class.  Without “people,” my class lacks heart.

l believe that great classrooms can change the world.  When classrooms include powerful  stories, when those stories are told with heart the way they deserve to be told, kids thought patterns can change, they can be moved, fires are lit, and they will be inspired. Great classrooms just don’t just focus on content. They use the content in their course to deliver a story that has heart.

Lessons with Heart from Paul Bogush on Vimeo.

The video above was inspired by this one from Story and Heart.  We made ours to remind all teachers that powerful stories about people are vital to any classroom.  Making the video was quite a process, and I wish we could start from the beginning and do it all over after what we learned.  It was made during 10 minutes of lunch, a few minutes after school, and squeezed in at various other times over the course of almost three months  We learned so much about lighting, focus, and recording audio and can’t wait to put all that we learned into our next video.

We did receive permission from Story and Heart–a big thank you to them.



Here is the transcript to the video:

I believe that great classrooms can change the world.  When classrooms include powerful  stories, when those stories are told with heart the way they deserve to be told, kids thought patterns can change, they can be moved, fires are lit, and they will be inspired.

 Great classrooms just don’t just focus on content.  They use the content in their course to deliver a story that has heart.

 Most units are built upon one of four pillars
The first is People —  that’s  focusing on historical and current characters
The second is places — that’s the big picture and details of an event
The third pillar is plot — the overall arch and structure of  the unit
And last is purpose — the intention, the big why behind the unit

The p that you put first will determine what type of class you will have
If you focus on Plot, you’ll have a class with lots of action
If you focus on places, you’ll have a class that seems like a travel video
If you focus on purpose, your class will come across as a commercial
But when you put people first, well that gives you a class that is character driven

 So what does that all that mean?

If you give your kids one character to root for,
someone they can invest in,
the student forms a powerful connection with the content.

If purpose drives your unit
and you want to show how challenging it was during the time period,
how tough it was,
why reforms were made…
sure, I might  consider what it was like,
but when it’s over,
I’m relieved because it just made me uncomfortable

Focusing on places is common especially in geography classes
beautiful environment,
analyzing pictures of homes,
videos of the Amazon basin…
it might hold my interest,
but ultimately there is nothing to root for, there is nothing to feel strongly about.

Often plot drives social studies classes.
Those classrooms focus on battles,
the inventions,
the routes of the explorers
When plot drives a class
I don’t really get to know the people in the battles
or the men and women who stayed up late in their workshops.
I can’t form an emotional connection to the people involved,
I can’t get to know the people,
it keeps my attention,
but it doesn’t change the way I think or felt about anything.

That leaves us with People–
when people become the heart of your class
we’ll  will stay with a lesson a little bit longer,
we want to know what happens to the character next.
Putting people first gives kids the ability to engage with someone else,
we can dig below the surface to the heart of what matters,
we can identify with them,
we can feel for them,
people can help us make sense of our own experiences,
of things we have gone through,
or things we imagine might come to pass.

Focusing on people is the strongest way for you to get us to connect with the story.

Too often we learn about the Cherokees on The trail of tears,
but not the individuals involved,
We learn about the life of Civil War soldiers
without ever getting to know one.
Focusing on people is the reason why we will care about your class.
It’s what will give your class heart.
You can have multiple people,
but focus on them as individuals
people who shoes the kids can walk in.

we do not want to be taught.
We want to be moved
Put a little heart
Put a little heart
Put a little heart
into your next lesson.

We would like to give a big shout out to Still Motion for giving us the idea for this video,
You can check out a link to the original video made by Story and heart in the description below the video


A message from my kids to their parents…

Last year I started a new “tradition.”  Each year before the holiday break the kids make a video for the parents with a few subliminal  reminders 🙂  You can check out the post from last year right here.

Here is the note and video that went home this year:

Happy Holidays!

Just a couple of quick notes for you…(and for those of you who skip school emails jump to the link at the bottom)…

When the kids return in January we will have a student teacher from Quinnipiac College.  Ms Griffiths is finishing her masters degree and I expect incredible things from her during the next ten weeks.  In order to get into our classroom a student teacher must first pass a test–be interviewed by students on the team.  Back in September,  8 students created questions and spent nearly 30 minutes interviewing Ms.Griffiths. They made a unanimous decision to bring her aboard team 7-1.  She will start with three classes in January, and take full responsibility for all five starting in February.

I continued to be impressed with your kids both academically and with their patience for me as I adjust to seventh grade.  They have recently tackled some problems that my eighth graders last year were not able to handle until the spring. I never ever thought they would be this far along when I met them in September.  They are willing to create and tackle challenging questions, try anything I throw at them, and put up with me when I am crabby 🙂   I have been teaching for a long time and this is honestly one of my favorite group of students.  Every single day they enter and exit with a smile–it is hard to have a bad day when you hangout with 130 smiling kids every day. Thank you for doing such an incredible job with them.

I applaud all of you who have supported your kids become more independent this year and have let them fall, and get back up on their own.  It is hard isn’t it?!  Please push them to come back and talk to the teachers when they express that they are having difficulty in a class.  Please push them to write the emails as you sit back and watch them grow…and make them cook a couple meals this week, do their own laundry, push the vacuum, and empty the garbage.  They are powerful kids who are capable of doing great things, and they might as well start by washing the dishes 🙂  Denis Waitley once said, “The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.  You have sent us eagles, let them fly!

But of course, please feel free to email us any time with any concerns 🙂

And finally, here is a link to a video the kids made today:

It consists of four parts.  Part 1 is “I am…”  The second part is “Someday I will be…” The third part is “Look how far I have come…”  Dear mommas, grab a few tissues before watching that section 🙂  Part four is a message from your child, the section is entitled “Sometimes I forget to tell you…”  If you child is missing from a section of the video that was their choice, and some kids were not in it because they were making up missed work.

Have a great week off, and if anyone is working on make-up work over break, or wishes to make-up assignments that they are missing I am just am email away.  With the exception of a couple days, every kid’s question should be answered within 24 hours.


Rock on…

I never do any kind of “academic” work without music playing.

Right now I am grading lesson plans for a grad class and this is what is playing in the background:

Another favorite for grading:

When I am researching I listen to:

When I am thinking about what I will do with the research:

If I get stuck…and hit a creative wall I put on:

When start writing my lesson plans:

When I know where the lesson is going and just putting on final touches:

When a kid asks me if they can put their headphones on and listen to music they only song they can listen to is:

music beats