As I expressed in an earlier post, I love my AP World History classes. They are doing their work, heavily participating in class discussions, and despite the fact I am working them like crazy, generally enjoying the class. Parent night was a couple days ago and parents were generally positive and accepting of the rigor of the class.
However, I am getting signals from various students that they are feeling the strain. Individuals are approaching me and wanting to discuss it, a number of parents expressed concern about their individual students, and as a group the different classes are lamenting the amount of work. Of course, it is not just my class, it is the three other honors classes they are taking, sports, clubs, family, friends, and just the stress of being a teenager. I have been asking myself, how much is too much?
Any AP class is a forced march (as another teacher described it to me). You have to get through the content in a limited period of time. I have forty chapters of content to cover in thirty weeks. Plus, I need to teach them skills – like how to take notes, write three types of essays, analyze a document, and manage their time. In the first four weeks they have read seven chapters and completed a small project. It should get easier as they continue, but many are suffering. Physically they are exhausted. Emotionally they are drained.
On one level, I feel bad. I encourage them, I have laid out the stakes (college entrance, college credit), but that is not enough. My words do not make the reality any easier.
Then I just read this article from USA Today. What are the benefits? What are the costs? My high school career was tough – I took all of the honors classes available, but we only had one AP class. When I went to college, I certainly was not ready. I was in honors calculus, but I was in no way prepared for college calculus. It took me a couple quarters to really adjust. With this rigor, will my students be able to adjust more quickly? Is that worth the strain and stress? Is it worth giving up sports or time with friends and family?
In the end, I am faced with the current reality of the situation. If I let up on the students, I lessen their chance of succeeding on the AP exam, if I keep it up, some will probably burn out and quit. Is this the point, those who can’t won’t? Or should we try and accommodate everyone?
I appear to have more questions then answers.