Louisville and 592 essays later….my take on the AP Exam Reading

Louisville night skyline

So here it is….top ten lessons I learned from being a grader at the national Advanced Placement United States History Exam Reading in Louisville, KY

NOTE:  “AP Reading” will be mentioned throughout.  Basically, if you are an AP US History teacher, you can apply to become a reader.  This means that you commit yourself to 7 days of reading through the writing of  over 490,000 students that have spend the past 10 months sitting in what is to be a college level course taught to mostly high school Juniors. While I have taught this class for almost 10 years or so, this is the first time I applied to go to the reading.

  1. The lessons you think you will learn are most likely not the ones you did – I was  hoping to learn some new techniques and possibly even ways to embrace grading essays in my classroom.  Well, after just a couple of days, I realized that I was even less motivated to ever grade another essay again.
  2. Even when you think you have taught your students exactly how to approach test taking and essay writing, most likely they missed one, two, or fifteen of the main ideas you discussed over the past 10 months of class.
  3. Along those same thoughts….I may think that I am teaching all the content and skills my students need to successfully master the history of our great nation.  However, while I am driving along in my dumpster truck of knowledge, masterfully crafting lessons to share all these great nuggets of information, my students are possibly passing by on the other side of the road, catching only every 45th word of what I am sharing.  This may show up in their essays as they make some egregious errors in understanding or discussion of the essay questions.
  4. Factory work is exhausting.  Ok, so I am probably way over-exaggerating here, but honestly…7 days of the same schedule…walking in at 8am, reading an essay, bubbling a score, reading an essay, bubbling a score, after an hour, “Stretch break,” stand, walk around, “stretch break over,” sit down, read an essay, bubble a score, and on and on and on.  When 5pm arrives, you are willing to do just about anything that requires a change of mechanical movements.  By day 6, I left feeling like a zombie just going through the motions.
  5. AP teachers are awesome people.  I actually surprised myself and quickly made friends in a much different way than I think I ever have in any other interaction.  I consider myself a friendly person, but it usually takes me time to find my niche with people. However, I clicked with a group of teachers as if we had known each other already.  This experience (of teaching this course as well as going through the reading) gives you a special bond.  It’s like, they can look at you and know what you are thinking unlike anyone else.
  6. I need to eat more than conference buffet style food for 7 days.  I missed making my own meals.
  7. It only takes 2 miles and 20 minutes to run to the state of Indiana.
  8. You can walk through the city and actually reach 27,000 steps in one day.  We did some marvelous vacation-like stuff once the clock hit 5pm. (Now don’t go too far and think I was actually on vacation.  Trust me…this was much different; but after 8 hours at a table you need a release or you will literally go mad).
  9. The city of Louisville, KY has a fantastic history.  It didn’t take long to walk down the street before you found yourself reading a placard that shared a story from 1850s pre-Civil War slavery or the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.
  10. My husband misses me while I am away.  While I tease him about not being able to sleep without me in the bed next to him, I am truly grateful that my spouse doesn’t enjoy life too much while I am away.  I missed him too and can’t wait to take him back to this city and explore the history exhilarates us both.

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So, will I do this again? After day 4 (and even day 7), I may have said NO, NEVER!!! But after some additional reflection, I will most likely say YES.  I hope I get invited back next year.

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Posted on June 19, 2016, in Contemplations of a Teacher. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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