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Teacher/Instructor Bil Johnson
Bil Johnson

Yale University
Lecturer at Brown University

Bil has over 25 years of experience as a public school teacher. Before his current role as a teacher at the Urban Assembly School in NYC, Bil was a senior lecturer at Brown University.

Hi, I’m Bil Johnson, and I am going to be your teacher, your coach, and your learning partner for the US AP History episodes. I really want to start by telling you December 7th. December 7th of course it’s a significant day in US history. December 7th 1941 was what Franklin Roosevelt called a day that will live in it for me. It was the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

I have kind of mixed feelings about it because December 7th 1971, 30 years later, was the first day that I got paid to be a teacher. So I have a kind of a fun memory of December 7th, but 30 years later. I bring that up because it’s probably really appropriate for me to be teaching and coaching you, as History, because I’ve lived through a lot of it now. I remember the JFK assassination, I remember Sputnik being launched in 1957. I was at Woodstock. I’m a historical relic. I matched against the war in Vietnam, and on and on. But I’m here because I have taught American history for a long time, as well as being part of it. This fall I’ll be teaching at the Essex Street Academy on the lower East side of Manhattan. I live in Brooklyn, New York with Jack, my black lab, a 115 pounds. You can see he is a stunning dog. He also has got a great sense of humour. But he’s a big handsome guy and really both of us need to get more exercise.

Here is what I want you to think about, when we talk about this AP, US History course. The A-Push, A-P-U-S-H. The AP US History course, I want you to see it as a challenge. The way these episodes are set up, is not to plug through history chronologically. I don’t believe in that there is no evidence that shows anyone learns history better chronologically, than by looking at it conceptually or really thinking about it in terms of course and effect.

I really want you to develop as a critical thinker, and the course is laid out to challenge you to do that. But it's also laid out to give graphic organizers and systemic organizers that will help you think about history in an organized fashion. In a way that it’s going to make it really fit together and makes sense. It's also going to build your skills as an essay writer. The document based question, the free response essay, are addressed in detail through out the episodes. With that I want you to have fun and I really have tried to build in, what I hope are some elements of having fun with history. That’s really what I hope it’s about.

It’s why I became a teacher I’ll be perfectly honest with you. I did well in high school. I got to go to Yale as an undergraduate, I went Colgate to get a masters degree, I went to Colombia University to work on a doctorate. So I always did well in school, but I did always have fun. And that’s one of the things that led me into teaching. And I know a lot of people don’t like history or think it’s really difficult because there is so much material. But I think if you follow these episodes what you’ll see are, is that there is systems for thinking and systems for thinking about learning, that really can help you not just learn the material, but have fun doing it and develop some ways that they might even help you outside of your history courses.

We’ve also got bonus material and I’ll refer to that throughout the episodes. I’ll be saying if you go and look at the bonus material. So there a lots of websites, textbooks, I’m going to refer you to, what I think are the best review books that are out there, the best sample books with test. The places that I think you’re going to be able to get the best preparation, depending on how much work you want to do. Because ultimately, that’s what it boils down to. And I have to say philosophically as a teacher, generally I like to have an interactive classroom. I want to challenge my students and I want you to be the worker. I want the student to be the worker, in a video format that’s a lot tougher obviously. But I’m going to continue to do that. I’m still going to challenge you to go out and look at things. And the bonus material will give you a lot of ways, a lot of directions, to go find things and look at things.

The reason I’m doing this, you know doing a video, as I said I like to do an interactive teaching and doing it this way is a challenge for me. So I’m going to be shooting challenges to you throughout these episodes. But in turn, my doing this, was a great challenge to me, because I do think it can work. And I think it’s potentially, really some place that we need to go with the technology at hand. So what I’m asking you to do is kind of take up the challenge and come along with me on this, through these episodes to learn about AP US History. But to learn about US History, to learn about thinking critically, to learn about becoming an active engage citizen which I really hope happens. But first and foremost, to have some fun with history. And I mean it.