BHP Team

Australopithecus afarensis on display at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. By reconstruction by John Gurche; photographed by Tim Evanson. CC BY-SA 2.0.

We recently spotted one of our veteran BHP teachers in the online community confessing to never having tried a popular BHP activity. Another veteran teacher responded with this:


So, of course we worked with Joe to gather a list of “True Confessions” from other long-time BHP teachers. The course can be an intimidating one to teach. These “confessions” will make you feel better – and maybe laugh a little!

For the Big History on a Football Field activity: Tried to explain how to get the exact calculation to the students was an epic fail. Luckily this class had students who were doing high school math as 6th graders, so they explained it for me. – Zachary Cain (BHP teacher since 2014)

I still don’t fully understand cosmic background radiation; although my understanding has certainly improved over the years but it’s still not great. – Bridgette O’Connor (BHP teacher since 2012)

I don’t know how to pronounce Austropathicus. I also don’t know how to spell it. Okay – spell check tells me it’s Australopithecus. Five years in and I butcher it every. single. time. – Chris Scaturo (BHP teacher since 2013)

I was terrified to teach Big History. Terrified. Because of all the science. I had never even heard about things like cosmic background radiation or parallax. So, I may or may not have skimmed over the science the first year I taught it. – Jami McLing (BHP teacher since 2013)

I could not understand, and thus explain, CBR and the evidence for the Big Bang last year. It was too overwhelming. So, I assigned everyone the Big Bang Infographic and then secretly studied their infographics to get a better understanding. I had students volunteer as ‘Redshift Expert’ and ‘CBR Expert’ in class so that if anyone tried to ask me a question during the project, I would just send them to the ‘expert’ so that they could ‘practice collaborative learning.’ – Hajra Saeed (BHP teacher since 2016)

Strong force and weak force: ‘One holds atoms together and the other is decay…nope I cannot tell you more. Google it, then teach me.’ I could go on and on. Honestly, it’s a blessing; the kids feel empowered and learn more (and more accurately than they would from me). – Joe Baginski (BHP teacher since 2012)

My first year teaching BH I did not think I would enjoy teaching Thresholds 1-5 and I thought I would rush through them as quickly as I could so I could start human history. I am in my fourth year now and the exact opposite happened. I now have to place hard beginning and ending dates on each of the thresholds just to make sure I finish everything in the given year. I have really embraced the lead learner role in the classroom and I love learning the material in the disciplines I do not consider my area of expertise. – Jason Manning (BHP teacher since 2014)

I can’t say Australopithecus either, so I just say ‘austro.’ I can say it if I practice it at home, but when I am trying to teach, I always forget how to say it. – Hajra Saeed (BHP teacher since 2016)

I relied on my students with great grades in chemistry and physics to help the class through the material. Newbies, your understanding of science will get better! The first year, I didn’t plan my time very well. The Little Big History Project was only worked on the last week of school. I changed that for the second year. – Monte DeArmoun (BHP teacher since 2012)

During my first year of teaching, I relied almost exclusively on the ‘look it up yourself’ approach to tough questions about space. And evolution. And the formation of the Earth. And pretty much anything science-related. – Jenny Holloway (BHP teacher since 2012)

Cosmic microwave background radiation—I still don’t have a grasp on it. Each year I feel like I’m learning with the students. I’ve read all the Exchanges, but I still don’t feel comfortable explaining it. I’m always so relieved when we are done with it. Thank goodness for Yammer! Every year I go back and read tips on how to teach it. – Kathy Hays (BHP teacher since 2015)

During my first year of teaching BHP, I was often a day ahead of students and sometimes I Googled and took notes during early unit videos. I would often say ‘let’s contribute to collective learning’ when I didn’t know how to respond to an question. It became a thing, and later in the year when I would ask students a question that they didn’t know, they would say ‘I think I need to contribute to collective learning.’ – Mike Skomba (BHP teacher since 2013)

Most embarrassing to admit is that I only had a general idea of who Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson were when I began teaching BH. Since teaching the course, I have read just about everything I can that these two have written and spent many hours on YouTube watching clips of their work. I even dressed up as Carl Sagan for a school event and delivered a passionate narration of the Pale Blue Dot. I credit BH with rekindling my appreciation of science and believe more than ever that teaching truly is the best way to learn. – Damian Pawlowski (BHP teacher since 2013)

Damian Pawlowski impersonating Carl Sagan. Courtesy D. Pawlowski.

So, there you have it. What’s your “true confession”? Contribute to this thread in the BHP online teacher community!

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