A Purposeful Schedule

Dear Bush Alumni,

I’m writing to share the exciting changes for The Bush Upper School’s weekly schedule and academic yearly calendar for the 2018-2019 school year and beyond.

As a progressive school, Bush is not static. Living our mission requires balance, the practice of continuous adjustment in order to stay centered. Though change, especially institutional change, can be difficult, it is a necessary component of growth. We know a classroom that promotes collaboration, depth over quantity of material covered, and relationship building best supports learning for the world that Bush students will experience as adults. The new schedule will prepare current students to enter a world that values creativity, adaptability, resilience, collaborative capacity, and emotional intelligence.

Currently, Upper School students are on a trimester system. On average, students have a six-hour school day that includes five classes and blocks that rotate throughout the week. In the fall and winter terms, AMP meets once a week for two hours. In the spring, AMP meets for one week-long engagement in early May.

Our new schedule supports students in becoming engaged and thriving learners through longer daily blocks, a consistent (non-rotating) schedule, more community time, and immersive learning blocks. This will also provide time and space for our faculty and staff to be innovative, collaborative, and dynamic.

The longer daily blocks will allow for aspects of the weekly AMP to be incorporated into our core program, in turn, providing time at the end of each term for immersive learning blocks (one-week blocks in 2018-2019, and three-week blocks beginning in 2019-2020).

Throughout our history, we put the student experience at the center of our pedagogy, seeking learning opportunities that engage young people and promote deep connections to the world around them. The new schedule and yearly calendar have been purposefully developed from the center out, starting with prioritizing the student experience. The Bush School is proud to have created a schedule that promotes learning, wellness, and academic challenge.  If you have any questions, please reach out to Dana Brandsey, Associate Director of Development/Alumni Relations or me.


Ray Wilson
Upper School Director
The Bush School

The Eight Conditions that Make a Difference in Schools

As I continue my sharing of the Aspirations Framework, it is important that I spend considerable time highlighting the eight conditions that make a difference in schools. (Student Voice, pg.24). The first condition, “belonging”, is the belief that students are valued members of a community, while still allowing them to maintain their uniqueness. The Upper School strives to foster an atmosphere where all students can be their best selves as they experience the academic and social opportunities available. While the condition of belonging is aspirational, it does come with certain considerations.
As students enter high school, any high school, they are faced with a choice: adopt the ways of the school environment, or, adapt to the school environment. Most times students choose or are forced to adopt the ways of the school. In doing so, students often replace part of their authentic selves with certain aspects of the new culture in order to ‘thrive’. It is my contention that students should adapt to their new school culture. The process of adapting implies that students maintain their ‘full’ selves and use their innate talents and attributes to navigate their new culture.
Over the years, I have seen students struggle in school because they were not successful at adopting the school’s culture. The act of replacing part of who you are in order to ‘fit in’ can be draining and demoralizing. Instead, when students are experiencing a sense of belonging, it often can be attributed to the fact that they have remained whole, and have not had to let go of any aspects of their being. This feeling leads to a higher level of success academically and socially.
As an Upper School, it is imperative that we create opportunities for each student to shine for the unique individuals that they are. We want students to bring their whole selves to school each day so the community can benefit from this collection of wonderful human beings. I am cognizant of the fact that not all students experience a sense of belonging on a daily basis. This is where the work of the Upper School faculty and staff becomes an essential part of creating an atmosphere of Belonging. Curriculum design, student programming, collaboration with students and parents, and connecting Bush to local and global communities are ways in which we move closer to ensuring that all students are feeling seen, valued, and heard.
I remain committed to creating and sustaining resources for students to access as they navigate their journey in the Upper School. Student voice is important and necessary. As we think about the days ahead, I encourage all of us to think about moments when we feel a sense of belonging—and in doing so, identify the reasons that created those moments.
I look forward to continuing my sharing of the 8 conditions for making a difference in students’ experiences in school. The next condition will be “heroes: the everyday people in students’ lives who inspire them to excel and to make positive changes in attitudes and lifestyles.” (Student Voice, pg. 24).

Mighty Times: A Children’s March

As we head into the upcoming long weekend, I want to highlight that Monday is the acknowledgment of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. There will be numerous celebrations of his life and the impact he made on society. Dr. King inspired many people to work toward eradicating discrimination, racial injustice, and other forms of oppression. Though images from the civil rights era in the 60s usually captured adults involved in some form of protest or resistance, young people played a vital role in the struggle to dismantle hatred and bigotry.
In 1963, a grassroots movement engineered by students of all ages served as the turning point in an ongoing battle for civil rights in Birmingham, Alabama. You can learn more about this movement in the video, Mighty Times: A Children’s March. The power of a collective voice must be heard during a time when acts of violence silenced the disenfranchised. Through word of mouth, clandestine radio broadcasts, church sermons, and more, the planning and execution of a march led by students was successful in integrating businesses in Birmingham. In addition, the students involved knew very well the risks when they made the decision to demonstrate peacefully.
As I reflect on my career working in schools, I have always believed that students have the ability to generate change. Bush students have been instrumental in making change throughout the school’s history. As a result of experiences at school, coupled with students’ personal journeys, Bush graduates emerge as leaders in conversations focused on bringing justice to various societal concerns.
I am encouraged by the array of causes that our students are involved in supporting. I often see and hear our students engaged in actions aimed at eliminating racism, sexism, homophobia, bias, environmental destruction, hunger, prison transformation, education, and more. These conversations often happen within student-led clubs or local organizations.
As we enter into the start of a new year, please take time to think about 2018 and the important journey ahead. I remain hopeful and optimistic that the future of society will be nurtured and cultivated by today’s young people. Providing opportunities, education, and encouragement toward their continued growth will propel the movement further.
On Monday, take time to watch the video, Mighty Times: A Children’s March, and think about the power of young people in the work to create a society where all members are seen, valued, and heard.

Self-worth, Engagement, and Purpose

As I mentioned in a November bulletin, I will devote periodic communications to sharing the Aspirations Framework and its applicability to the Upper School. Within the Aspirations Framework, there are three guiding principles that support students’ aspirations: self-worth, engagement, and purpose. As an Upper School, we will collectively work to implement these principles as the year progresses.
Self-worth occurs when students know they are uniquely valued members of the school community; have a person in their lives they can trust and learn from; and believe they have the ability to achieve—academically, personally, and socially. (Student Voice, pg. 23-24) I believe that when students’ self-worth is high, amazing actions occur. There have been countless moments when students have exclaimed meaningful connections with their teachers, or feel like they have an adult or peer they trust. However, there have been moments when students have expressed feeling disconnected from the community, or feeling that they cannot thrive socially and/or academically. These moments are sparked by a variety of possibilities—learning styles, racial differences, special interests, etc. As a school community, we will work to mitigate these instances in an expeditious manner. If students are not feeling seen, valued, or heard, it will be difficult for them to achieve at their highest levels.
Engagement happens when students are deeply involved in the learning process as characterized by enthusiasm, a desire to learn new things, and a willingness to take positive, healthy steps toward the future. Students are meaningfully engaged when they are emotionally, intellectually, and behaviorally invested in learning. (Student Voice, pg. 24) The faculty and I are in ongoing conversations about engendering engagement in the classroom. We are exploring ways to deliver daily lesson plans that take different learning styles, intercultural fluency, experiential education, and creativity into account. In addition, each teacher has a special sauce that defines their teaching style. When students feel a connection to the material, personalized meaning and curiosity develops. This curiosity provides fuel for future exploration and ultimately a goal for life after Bush.
Purpose exists when students take responsibility for who and what they are becoming. This involves not only choosing a career, but also deciding to be involved, responsible members of their community. Purpose is as much about who students want to be as it is what they want to do. (Student Voice, pg. 24) The beauty of The Bush School lies within its roots in progressive and experiential education. We believe that students must experience education. In doing so, they will learn pertinent information as well as the nuances of each discipline and its application to society. By bridging the classroom to the world beyond Bush, students make discoveries that awaken a passion for making a difference. There are many students who refuse to sit idle when it comes to interrupting behaviors that promote dysfunction within our school and in their local communities.
I am encouraged by the possibilities that lie ahead for the Upper School. Our students, faculty, and parents/guardians will have a myriad of opportunities to contribute to our aspiration of making sure we are all seen, valued, and heard. My next letter on the Aspirations Framework will delve deeper into the 8 Conditions that Make a Difference (Student Voice, pg. 24). I invite any parent/guardian to come in for a cup of coffee to chat further about the Aspirations Framework and its meaning for the Bush Upper School. Students and faculty will have opportunity during advisory, class meetings, and Monday Morning Meetings.

Aligning Our Schedule with Our Educational Philosophies

I am excited to announce that the Upper School will have a new daily schedule for the 2018-2019 school year that aligns more closely with our school’s mission, educational philosophy, teaching aspirations, and commitment to student and faculty health and wellness. Below please find the features of the new schedule. We believe, and research supports, that these elements lead to more engaged learning, reduced student stress, and more meaningful project-based learning activities.
The 2018-2019 Upper School schedule will:
  • increase the length of classes from fifty- and eighty-five-minute classes to ninety-minute classes and forty-minute flex periods;
  • reduce the number of classes taught in a day from five to three*;
  • reduce the number of transitions within a day;
  • build in more community and conference time;
  • offer a late start collaboration period one day a week;
  • allow for deeper inquiry-based teaching;
  • foster faculty collaboration across disciplines; and
  • expand opportunities for project-based learning and off-campus projects.
*In a normal week, on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, students will attend three classes, on Wednesdays students will attend all classes.
The goals of the new schedule are to provide a more balanced student academic experience, foster meaningful connections between students and teachers, promote teacher collaboration and curricular planning to benefit student learning, and increase access to the city of Seattle as part of our learning environment.
In 2018-2019, The Bush Upper School’s yearly calendar will consist of two semesters and two week-long AMP sessions. Beginning in the 2019-2020 year, AMP sessions will shift into longer intensive blocks that will diversify academic and experiential offerings. The first semester will run from September through the December break, with an AMP session following in January. The second semester will run from January through May, with an AMP session following. Benefits of moving from three terms to two semesters include reducing overlapping peaks in coursework, ending the term before winter break to afford students a work-free break, reducing time spent in setup and wrap-up of each term, and supporting our curricular goals around deeper learning.
Future communications will address: graduation requirements for current freshmen, sophomores, and juniors; course offerings for next year; extracurriculars and athletics; college applications; how to incorporate more PDF (Playtime, Downtime, and Family Time) into your family routines; and more.

Perspiration, Aspiration, Hibernation, and Imagination

Last week I started a conversation about the Aspirations Framework as an entry point into deepening support of students. The framework includes a profile consisting of four elements: perspiration, aspiration, hibernation, and imagination.
  • Perspiration: Working hard in the present without any connection to a future dream.
  • Aspiration: Having a dream for the future and being inspired in the present to work toward that dream.
  • Hibernation: Having neither a future dream nor the inspiration to make any effort in the present.
  • Imagination: Dreaming about the future, but being uninspired to work in the present toward that dream.
As I mentioned last week, our goal is to create and sustain an environment where everyone espouses an Aspiration Profile. We will engage students and faculty in conversations covering the eight conditions for building an Aspirations Framework: Belonging, Heroes, Sense of Accomplishment, Fun and Excitement, Curiosity/Creativity, Spirit of Adventure, Leadership/Responsibility, and Confidence to Take Action.
I will devote upcoming bulletin letters to updating the community about our progress with implementing these conditions, and in doing so, will invite comments and questions along the way. I have a great deal of optimism in our faculty and students’ ability to create and sustain an energetic learning environment that encompasses hopes and dreams, as well as opportunities in the present to attain those hopes and dreams.
As we head into finals and the subsequent Thanksgiving break, I want you all to keep in mind your aspirations for the winter term.
I look forward to future conversations.

Aspirations Framework and Student Voice

During Convocation, Percy announced the theme for the year – Purpose. In the Upper School, it is clear from many conversations with faculty that their purpose is connected to working with students inside and outside of the classroom. Several summers ago, the faculty and I read Student Voice, The Instrument for Change by Russell Quaglia and Michael Corso. This book inspired us to help students find their voice and purpose through intentional engagement. Given our theme for the year, I find the text once again strikes a chord.
After re-reading Student Voice recently, I am further convinced that the aspirations framework serves as a blueprint for our continued work with students. This framework suggests that every student has the ability to dream about the future and be inspired in the present to get there. The diagram below presents four profiles of common mindsets:
Our goal as an Upper School community is to cultivate an aspirations mindset in all of our students. The essential component in this effort is to provide many ways to inspire students in the present. The aspirations framework has three guiding principles that support student aspirations: self-worth, engagement, and purpose.
Supporting self-worth and promoting student engagement are key to helping students find purpose. When young people are confident and engaged in activities that they are passionate about, they make discoveries about themselves and spark lifelong habits, learning to work in the present towards goals for the future.
I encourage you to read Student Voice in the near future as a way to gain greater insight into how the faculty and I are approaching our work with students. I also invite you to join me for upcoming Roundtables (parents and students) as a vehicle for you to share your perspectives.

Culmination of Fall Term

As we enter the final few weeks of the term, students will sharpen their focus on completing assignments and assessments to the best of their ability and understanding. The faculty will make themselves available during conference blocks to provide support for students needing additional explanation of a concept or clarity on an essay.
This time of the term also presents the culmination of co-curricular programs that have been a source of engagement for students. This week marks the opening of the school play, The Tempest. The cast has put in long hours preparing for this week and, by many accounts, will present a fantastic play. I look forward to seeing the students perform their parts with precision and emotion. We also have many of our sports teams vying for playoff spots as we head into the final stages of the fall season. Our girls’ soccer team lost a tough match which eliminated them from the further matches. The girls’ volleyball team advanced to the league playoffs and district playoffs with a convincing win against Forest Ridge earlier this week.
These are several examples of students contributing additional time on endeavors that make them feel whole. We are well aware that students attend The Bush School for academic preparation, but along their journey in the Upper School, many find a passion that helps to balance their time between academics and co-curricular commitments.
As the term concludes with final exams in a couple of weeks, I also want to invite all of you to Venue on Saturday, November 18 at 6:00 p.m. This is the culminating requirement for all of our music classes. The night will be filled with original work created by our students in music class, as well as other students who have written songs specifically for Venue. I look forward to seeing all of the performers bask in the limelight of their musical genius. This evening also intersects with Upper School Teen Feed who will be serving a dinner buffet from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the Commons to raise money for the Bush Teen Feed team’s monthly meal.
Yes, the fall term is nearing an end, and students and faculty are doing their best to arrive at the finish line with calm and balance. I do want to remind all of us of the importance to take care of ourselves—mind, body, and spirit.

The Promise of the Future

I have often said that the promise of the future lies within today’s young people. One of the main reasons for education is to provide a path for students to discover passions, inner strengths, and ways to use their gifts to make a difference in society. I believe that with the right prompts and environment, all students can promote positive change.
It is clear that students need opportunities to deepen their understanding of the world around them. It is paramount that the school experience illuminate patterns of behavior, both past and present, that students can recognize as impediments or opportunities. When students recognize injustices, or disparities, they are quick to move into solution mode. As students begin to collectively put forward ideas for the betterment of the community, they can realize the power of a unified voice. Students have a unique opportunity to see one another as a possible solution-partner or co-dreamer in the quest for a better tomorrow. I believe that our school was founded on the belief in the promise that comes with helping young people reach their potential.
The faculty and I take very seriously the trust families have placed in our work with students. We welcome parents as thought-partners as we continue to pave and make visible a path for students to actualize their hopes and dreams, while conquering their fears. Please know that as a community, we all benefit from the energy and excitement that surfaces when students can see themselves shaping their own experiences.
I look forward to engaging families, students, and faculty in this meaningful journey towards tomorrow.

Redefining the Norms of Independent School Education

Dear Bush Upper School Community,


We are on the verge of something great happening this year. With an engaged and active student community in the Upper School, a strong faculty and staff team, and a commitment to our educational foundations, the Bush Upper School is aiming to redefine the norms of independent school education in a number ways. With the founding of the school in 1924, Helen Bush redefined the norms of education by starting a school grounded in progressive education, with a keen focus on experiential education. Ninety-three years later, we continue to be committed to progressive and experiential education. Given our current societal landscape, we are called upon to engage in ways that make a difference in the lives of our students, families, and within our local and global communities.


Bush provides excellent academic preparation for its students in ways that are creative, student-centered, and purposeful. The faculty bring the curriculum to life through service learning, collaborative projects, and real-life experiences. New discoveries made in educational and brain research will help to deepen our commitment to both progressive and experiential education.


Learning by doing has been a primary approach that has guided age-appropriate curriculum development since the founding of the school. As we look ahead, the Upper School, through its relationship with Challenge Success, will reimagine a learning environment where academic preparation will continue to be a mainstay with a focus on maintaining a healthy relationship between academic growth and personal growth. We expect students to be fully prepared to be confident in their pursuits after Bush. This confidence is achieved through skill development— both academic and interpersonal.


As we forge ahead, the academic program will provide opportunities for study across disciplines. Students will engage with rigorous and meaningful assignments in an environment that fosters collaboration. They will discover their best selves and develop strategies for how to navigate the complexities of external expectations. Through this work, students will also cultivate a deeper awareness and understanding of people from varying backgrounds and beliefs.


Bush Upper School students have a range of views on a wide variety of issues that have significant societal impact. The individiual expression of ideas and points of view is a critical component of student development and the learning process at Bush. Student voice has been instrumental throughout the history of the school, and in today’s societal arena, we need their voice more than ever. I anticipate an awakening of the student body in ways that harken back to the early years of Bush.


So, when I say we are on the verge of something great happening this year, I mean something great is going to happen. We are going to hear ideas, solutions, insights, demands, expectations, and most importantly, optimism from the Upper School students, faculty, and staff. We need parents and guardians to lean into these discussions when the opportunities present themselves throughout the year. I look forward to genuine dialogue that will help sharpen our focus as we move forward.


See you around campus,


Ray Wilson

Upper School Director