Field Notes is a collection of articles curated by students and teachers from around the world detailing their academic experiences.
I was so excited when I saw my roster for AP World History this year.
I had 17 students signed up! This was the biggest class in the six years I have offered the course at our school. All by myself. We would be able to do so many more awesome projects, have great discussions, and engage in some major peer review. I will honestly say that I wasn’t sad that my scores would look even better too. Let’s face it, 83% pass right is amazing until you see that 5 out of 6 whole students got a 3 or better.
My class is an elective and we run all courses on semester schedules.. Students already had World History as freshmen, then two years of US History. If they take my class, they usually love history, they love me (I’m not bragging, I’m just telling you what they told me), or they want to pad their GPA. My class is literally known as “the hardest AP class that doesn’t involve numbers or science” so there aren’t many who take AP World for the GPA boost unless they know they can handle it. So, out of my 17 students this September, I assumed I’d have a good mix of stellar students who wanted to do well. You know what they say about when you assume, right?
September began, and CRASH, down came my dreams
Don’t get me wrong, I had some fantastic students. A fair number of the top 25 students in the Senior class took AP World. We had a blast and they did outstanding. This year though, I had four students who I have NO IDEA why they took AP World History. They refused to do any homework, barely participated in class discussion, slept, made off the wall comments, did minimal work in group projects and, in general, were the kids that the rest of the class rolled their eyes at.
Now, please don’t judge me as a poor teacher. These kids weren’t “bad” in any way. They just weren’t “good” at AP World. I told them to wake up, I spoke to them one-on-one. I called home. I gave them more chances than I’d like to admit. The worst part was that they all took the class because they had me as freshmen! They said they liked how I taught them in ninth grade and wanted to take more World History. Melt my bitter little heart! I just wanted them to DO the work well! Is that so much to ask? Slackers.
Let’s fast forward to the end of the first marking period.
One student was allowed to drop the class (normally not allowed to do that after July 31 in our district) because of health issues. It was the best thing for them at the time. The other three students continued to disappoint me. I can’t tell you how many days I left class angry because those three students refused to rise to the college level of their peers, refused to engage in impassioned discussions, and refused to be equal partners in very interesting group projects.
I was very pleased that after speaking to one of those three, and sending home a very ecstatic postcard to their guardian about how amazing they did on a writing assignment, that the student finally took it to heart and strove to do better. Unfortunately, it was too late in the game to pull that student’s grade up too high, but they at least went from a F to a C at the end. The other two, not so much.
So why do I tell you, “Don’t let the slackers get you down?”
Look back through this article and focus on these statements:
- 17 students signed up
- biggest class in six years
- we would be able to do so many more awesome projects, have great discussions, and engage in some major peer review.
- they usually love history, they love me (I’m not bragging, I’m just telling you what they told me), or they want to pad their GPA.
- my class is literally known as “the hardest AP class”
- we had a blast and they did outstanding
- I told them to wake up, I spoke to them one-on-one, I called home, I gave them more chances
- they all took the class because they had me as freshmen! They said they liked how I taught them in ninth grade and wanted to take more World History
- rise to the college level of their peers
- engage in impassioned discussions
- equal partners in very interesting group projects
- sending home a very ecstatic postcard to their guardian about how amazing they did on a writing assignment that the student finally took it to heart and strove to do better.
- went from a F to a C
When I look back at these bullet points, I am a proud teacher. I almost doubled my enrollment. I had students doing a huge variety of activities. I met 17 students who loved history and had a teacher that touched them (even if they had major senioritis). I have a challenging course that students still do phenomenal in! I engaged every…single…student in that class even if I dragged them along against their will. I had students who amazed me with their brains, their thoughtfulness and their prowess every day.
I made a difference. I helped a student succeed who would have otherwise failed. Don’t let the slackers get you down because not only do you have a whole class of students who need you but you also are doing more good than you know.