Right now, my students are taking their very first Advanced Placement exam. Every year, I always feel like a mom dropping her kid off at Kindergarten for the first time. So much hard work and tears have gone into getting my students ready for this exam. However, last evening, as I was reflecting on this year it wasn’t the lessons, or tears or even test scores I was thinking about, it was individual students.
First, there’s Jake. He started out the year so lost, so unsure of what high school was all about and even more confused about an Advanced Placement course. Then suddenly he got “it”. He had that “light bulb” moment as teachers we all dream about. He started to excel and exceed both his parents and my expectations. Instead of hiding in the back of the room, he sat high, walked into class with just a bit of swagger, because he knew he had it all together.
I thought about Katie next. Katie had no desire to be in my class. She was only there because her mom “made her take it”. She sat in class sullenly, doing the bare minimum to get by. Then in December, we started to talk about gender issues and Katie perked up. She joined in our conversations, read every reading assignment and asked a million questions in class. When assigned a project in her English class, she chose to do it on improving education for women in less developed countries. Now, she has applied to join a mission trip to the Philippines to work with women rescued from sex trafficking.
Then, Andrew came to mind. Andrew is on the autism spectrum and his parents and I talked for a long time before deciding to put him in an AP class. Wow, did Andrew show us we didn’t know anything! He excelled from the first day academically, but the most beautiful part of his APHG experience was his social development. He made friends, true friends that invited him to join their study groups and go to the movies with them. This is the measure of success for this student.
Then there are Susan, Kate, Colton and Mike. These kids were at the top of the class from the beginning, what we AP teachers call “walking 5s”. They were going to do exceptionally well both in the course and on the AP exam with little or no help from me. My challenge became how to challenge them. They made me up my game in the classroom to keep them engaged and learning. These kids made me a better teacher.
Some AP teachers get excited about the number of 5’s their students earn each year, for me, I am proud of the 3’s. These are the kids that had to work hard, had to dig deep and figure out how to succeed. But, I get really excited about the kids that don’t pass the AP Exam, but grew so much as students and people during the year. My students are so much more than a test score. My goal is not a high pass rate, but to have students become global citizens. To realize that the world is so much more than their suburban existence. I want them to be aware of the bigger picture, have compassion and maybe even take action to make the world a better place.