Stretching for Excellence

I think of posts all the time, the problem is time. Right, isn’t it for everyone?

As an Advanced Placement World History teacher, I expect excellence from my students. I require them to read, take notes, write essays, etc. Then when some struggle, I get the real story. They are in six classes and attempting to achieve excellence in all of them. Plus they play sports, volunteer, yada, yada, yada. I get it, but what is the alternative? If they don’t do well in AP World, then it will bring down your GPA or maybe set a precedent for future success in AP classes or affect their chances of getting into that premier university. Or what? I also know that if it wasn’t me, it would be another teacher. I do my best helping student try and figure out their priorities and focus their energies on what they need to do. Sometimes it helps, sometimes it doesn’t. They are all stretching, stretching for themselves or his/her parents, or stretching for some idea or dream. Generally, it is all good. Sometimes a little misguided or misdirected, but who am I?

I’ve always been sensitive to this, probably because I’ve always done the same. I’ve stretched myself so thin that sometimes excellence is tough to achieve. I could live and breath AP World History or photography or this ed tech world (that I’ve removed myself from) or…. , but then I wouldn’t have anything left for all of the other things and, oh yeah, my family. (Which, for you young parents, gets even more involved as the years pass.)

Throughout the school year I always tell my AP students, if you try your best then you have to be happy with the results (good or bad). I try to live by that myself, even if I think I am coming up short in some areas. I’m stretching, but my perception of excellence is relative.

Off to grade some more AP essays.

3 thoughts on “Stretching for Excellence”

  1. Hi Dan,

    We spoke about the American History + Civics Initiative at WGBH two years ago and I found your perspective on ed tech + history so valuable. It sounds like your life is pretty full right now! Are you really backing away from ed tech? Would you be at all interested in talking with WGBH about I’d love to pick up the conversation again.

    Cheers, Christina


  2. I remember my AP years. It’s interesting to see this from the perspective of a teacher. My senior year of High School, I was taking 7 out of my 8 classes were AP. I had World History, Econ, English, Physics, Calculus, Biology, and Government. It made me go slightly insane. I ended up drop many of the classes for the second semester, and I failed a few six weeks. I still managed to graduate HS with a year of college under my belt, but my GPA tanked. In the long run, that probably hurt me more. I missed many top 10% initiatives. It seemed that the students who took one or two AP tests were rewarded for their easy work load through scholarships.

    But school should be hard. It sets the precedent for our future and how the world works. Teachers shouldn’t shield us from how the real world treats deadlines, etc. It sounds like you’re doing a good job of portraying the realities to your students.

    Looks like you haven’t posted a blog in a while. I guess test time is coming up in a few months. Good luck to your students!


  3. Hello,

    I’m Dan I am future teacher and supporter of our great teachers across the nation. I have recently joined Save Our Schools and National Call to Action. Our national grassroots movement is asking the “real” ed reform bloggers to join with us so that we can all speak with ONE VOICE all across the country during the month of March.

    Our theme is “Waking the Sleeping Giant”, which was inspired by the events in Wisconsin and other places around the country. The public is finally beginning to wake up to what’s been happening for the last few years – we’re seeing evidence of this not only in Wisconsin but in places such as Seattle and Rochester.

    We are asking you to keep your readers informed by mentioning our July 30 march in D.C. and by providing a link to our website in one or more of your posts during the month of March.

    If you would like to write a guest post for our website, send your post or your comments to Or if you would like to endorse our march, let us know and we will list your blog and url on our website.

    Posts can also be tweeted with the hashtag #WakingGiant. We offer the march and events of July 28 to 31st in Washington, D.C. as the focal point for this movement, and we ask participants
    to link to this event, so that we can build momentum for our efforts.

    Thank you for your help,

    Dan Benninghoff


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