Thursday, September 1, 2016

To my AP Chemistry students

So we are almost 4 weeks into the year, a year in which I have a larger AP Chemistry class than I've ever had by a factor of over 2. Over half of every day for me is spent in my those two sections.

Judging by the first tests and quizzes, it will be a great year. Definitely had higher scores on the first test than I'm used to, and that makes me very happy. When I graded the tests though, there was a sharp disparity between some groups in my class, one of those being by gender. There are a lot of reasons that I might posit for that, but I analyzed the data over and over, by class, by grade level, by gender, by who had me before for Chem I and who didn't.

So let me say this to all of my students, but particularly for those who I know are feeling overwhelmed, unsure if they should be in the class, unsure if they can take the pressure or the day to day grind. Some of you aren't sure if you can do this along with the rest of your course load, or if it is worth the time. You are not here by accident!

Unlike most AP teachers, I don't recruit...I anti-recruit...I tell kids at the end of Chemistry I how awful AP Chem can be. I have former students come in and tell them how rough it is (along with how it can be worth it). I don't want someone in the class that doesn't want to be. That being the case, some of you might feel like you "just got in", or that I just wanted numbers.

Nothing could be further from the were chosen, you were fought for, and I believe in you. I saw the list of names back in May and made sure that those who didn't have a chance would be talked to (by me). I knew who you were months ago in most cases. Hopefully this doesn't offend any of you, but I started praying for you then, and will continue to do so.

Back in March/April, when we saw the numbers for this class, the initial, and understandable reaction of the administration was that we needed to cut the numbers. That would have been the easy path...I could have cut all the sophomores, or cut those of you that didn't make high As in Chem I, or just those of you that I thought maybe lacked some work ethic. It would have been the easy path for me as well. I essentially dropped a self-created class for you...I'm eating a class I've never taught before for you, I (and many of you) am doing a zero block class, putting me over the allowed number of sections for a teacher for you.  I made a complete and total nuisance of myself for months to ensure that you all could get in, administration still probably hesitates to open an email from me, thinking it is me pleading, cajoling, whatever I had to do/say to keep all of you.

I don't do any of it because I expect anything in return. In fact, my end of year AP scores may suffer, I have to grade a ridiculous amount of FRQs and Lab Reports this year. I gave up many other things to make this happen. None of this is to lay down guilt, but rather to establish are worthy, you are wanted.

When you are crying, as I occasionally do about school as well, remember aren't doing it just for the grade, the GPA, the AP score, the college credit, the preparation for college. Do it because you are worth it, your education, your thinking processes, the struggle itself has intrinsic value no matter what. It has value whether you ever take a chemistry course again.


Regardless of my rather prickly, sometimes exasperated demeanor at time, you all are a big part of the reason I get up every morning and come to school. You can do are worth it...