Welcome to the Game

As I discussed on a previous post, I have been having a difficult time watching my students deal with their heavy academic loads. In a demographic that is used to getting A’s, I have only 15 – that’s out of 125 students. Some are looking at B’s for the first time in their lives.

This lead to several great comments and some further reading. The articles posted by Joel at his Gifted Education Blog are interesting and show that the Advanced Placement program as a whole has its flaws. On one hand it appears that the Collegeboard (a private company) has capitalized on the demand for AP classes and has continuously expanded its offerings – to the point that some colleges are changing how that view AP exams. Throw on top of that the study that says performance in AP classes does not correspond to success in college, but that success on the AP exam does correlate. Confusing, right? So taking the test is important, the class – not so much. Comforting.

I certainly think that part of the problem is that there have been few regulations as to what makes up an AP class. I do know of a specific example of a class with an AP designation being significantly easier then the college prep versions of the class at the same school. This went on for years. No doubt it was part a school administration issue, but it was also a Collegeboard issue. I have recently learned that there is a program currently being created to accredit every AP class at every school. While the review process is weak (a teacher must submit a syllabus and sample lesson), it is a start.

In the end, minus any serious national education reform that addresses high achievers (as opposed to NCLB which really focuses on underachievement), Advancement Placement is the current reality. I am trying to teach my class in a way that not only covers the content, but also focuses on important skills. I already spend a considerable amount of time on the skills needed to do well in the class, on the exam, and in future classes. Reading for understanding, note taking, document analysis, and writing are vital skills for any college student. I know that if had a class like the one I am teaching; my first couple quarters in college would have been significantly easier.

So, my poor students, the class will get easier as you get better at the skills needed to succeed, but the pace has to continue. We will not slow down even if there is a fire that shuts down the school for a week (two years ago) or a strike (November?). Everyone you are competing with (in the U.S. at least) is going through the same type of experience. You just have to learn to manage your time and prioritize your life. You fit in what you can and cut what you must. Life is a giant balancing act, welcome to the game.

5 thoughts on “Welcome to the Game”

  1. Your students don’t know it yet but you’re doing them a favor by not letting them off the hook – so to speak. It would be easier on them (and on YOU) to slow the pace, and give out more A’s for moral support, but the balancing act is a far more important lesson which they will have to use and apply in ALL areas of their life, long after they’re done with college or university.

    Life is a constant struggle of what you SHOULD do, what you NEED to do, what you CAN do, and what you really GET AROUND TO DOING.

    It’s never too early to learn that…

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  2. I took AP US History in high-school, and it was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. I remember during the first quarter, only 2(?) students out of the 50 or so taking AP US received “A”s. For some of them that was a big blow to their self-esteem (and GPA). But, as you are saying, people did get better. As the school year wore on, more students received high grades because they figured out how to deal with the workload. So this is to reassure you – you’re not the only APUSH teacher dealing with this issure. And the students will survive it.

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  3. Yes, your ids need to learn important skills, and yes it will be important for them to know these things for college, but let them have some fun. It seems you are pushing them to be their greatest but, what if teachers are wlready doing that? Have you asked the students their opinion or thoughts on the work level of the class? It sounds to me like a great amount of stress and the facts that only a few are recieving A’s. Just make sure to give them a little room, don’t ruin their spirit in their first or second (don’t remember what grades you teach) year of high school! Yeah they have to be pushed, and yes they need to experience what real college will be like, but let them have a childhood.

    Great Blog, from one teacher to another, you really have an amazing outlook and love for your students which any professional reading your entries would know. Keep it up, but maybe slow it down.

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  4. Dan: Hi. After reading your comments from your AP students and later on finding out that you are a Master’s degree student tells me(and I hope I am wrong) that perhaps you are placing pressure on your AP students via one of you more challenging profs. Please step back,count to ten ,take several breaths of air ,expel them slowly and think. Ask youself “Is it the challenge that taking an AP class in History for the first time that is bothering me as their teacher or is it stuff that Dan is going through in the wonderful world of Grad School that is placing the undue pressure on not only me but my AP History Students? (I know,I’ve been there.

    My “play sister” teaches English and I remember when she took an AP course in English when she was in her junior year of high school. One thing that I clearly remember is that although she had a lot of work(not to mention an after school job) she really enjoyed the challenge because she not only believed in herself and had supportive parents(I know because I have met them) but her teacher made it fun despite the load of challenging work. Give both the students that you teach and yourself a break. I care and so do you. Jane Steele.

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  5. AP is not supposed to be easy. It’s not supposed to be hard just for the hell of it, either. But if you teach in a regular high school in an open-enrollment situation, there will be kids who will struggle.

    You are doing the right thing. You are. Too often, kids today are “saved” from any hint of struggle in the classroom. This is how we grow. As Jimmy Dugan said in A League of Their Own, “If it was easy, everyone would do it. It’s the hard part that makes it great.”

    Every spring, when my kids thank me for staying on schedule while every other AP teacher has to cram four chapters on them in a week to prepare them for testing, I smile– and then I remember it the next year when the griping starts all over again.

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