Category Archives: Contemplations of a Teacher

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.


Blessed with some extra time

On my way to Louisville, Kentucky to grade AP essays for the next 7 days. (This deseserves a post all on its own).  Anyhow, I arrived very early not knowing if I would be competing with travelers leaving from the long weekend. Got through the check in process in less than 15 minutes. Fortunately, I have a great little computer at my fingertips. I missed my pastor’s message this weekend and will miss my group Bible study due to this trip, but thank God for podcasts and Bible apps that allow us to connect with God and fellowship. So, I sit down to listen to a message on the book of Philemon.  Easy to read in less than 15 minutes, Philemon may be an easy book to overlook. However, I am eager to hear the work of the Spirit as he speaks through my pastor. Always an amazing time in the word with careful exposition, historical context (which of course I appreciate as a history teacher), and fantastic application challenges. Thank you, Lord for the extra free quiet time in the airport.



To start off the new semester at school, I decided to start a BE wall. It’s a place where I post a new word each day and encourage students to BE something. I started with the word STRONG. Incorporating Scripture with each of the words, I addressed the message of Paul in Ephesians 6:10. “BE STRONG in the Lord and in the power of His might.” Another word from this week was HAPPY. (Of course, some students looked at me a little strange when I broke out singing “Don’t worry….Be Happy”, but those looks are a regular part of my day.  Let’s face it…I am little quirky in the classroom)  I want students to see a Biblical approach to happiness, however. So, we focused on contentment and doing things “without grumbling or complaining” (Philippians 4:11 and 2:14). Isn’t amazing how God uses parts of our weeks and days that we least expect. It turns out that the BE wall is for ME too, not just for my students.  This week I was challenged with both of these words as some circumstances arose at work. Immediately, I went to these verses, thinking, “If I want my students to respond in these ways, I need to as well.” (BTW…side note…I just love the letters of Paul.) Definitely was blessed to have these golden nuggets of Scripture memorized since the time I was a child.

I actually told the story about memorizing and learning Philippians 2:14 “Do all things without murmuring or disputing.” These are the King James words because all the verses I know from growing up are in the king’s English. Being transparent, I shared with my students that this has always been one of those sins that I just struggle with. I know this because my dad taught me this verse at an early age….I must have really been a complainer and arguer even when I was 3 because this verse came up often.

So….what things do you think deserve to go up on the BE wall? What practical piece of Scripture can you apply to help you accomplish that “BE” task today and in the week ahead?

Just Journaling the Journey

After years of teaching, I know there are ebbs and flows.  There are weeks where there is smooth sailing and then there comes the torrential downpour, enormous waves, and behemoth stacks of unending tasks.

To this latter time, I give thought today

For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. – II Peter 2:19

Today I am enslaved to the waves.

They have overwhelmed me.

They have discouraged me.

They have brought me to doubt my abilities in Christ.

They have depressed me.

So, Lord I pray with a humble heart

1I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
2My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.

3He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
4Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

5The LORD is your keeper;
the LORD is your shade on your right hand.
6The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.

7The LORD will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
8The LORD will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.

Psalm 121

May I approach today with a flexible spirit.

May I lift my eyes to the one who knows the beginning from the end.

May I trust in His protection and not my view of the storm.


In what ways can you change your view of the storms you may be facing today?

I am positively overwhelmed…and enjoying every moment

Well, perhaps I haven’t embraced that perspective fully…but here are today’s thoughts…at this very moment

So… general approach to work and life…right now means boxes and lists.


What do you do when you have over 400 different pieces of student work to grade…you put them all in a box, take them home and hopefully look at 1 or 2…hundred of them before Monday


When you are looking for possible places to call home, you organize your “wants” and “needs” on a spreadsheet (handwritten because you haven’t had time to go get ink for the printer and print out the neat and clean version in EXCEL)


You keep track of all that you have done by creating a TO GRADE list and work to feel accomplished knowing that you can put a checkmark next to a couple


You box up your life in hopes that you will be placing these earthly trinkets in a new place (by the way, some of these boxes have been packed and in this room for over a year)


Despite your best efforts to not feel the waves of overwhelming circumstances and tasks and just general life complications…your heart palpitates off the charts and works against successfully TRUSTING in God’s great love and compassion and care


You are reminded that

From the end of the earth I will cry to You,
When my heart is overwhelmed;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. – Psalm 61:2

And are thankful and overwhelmed by HIS 





And you write and reflect because of the wonderful way it becomes a journal of the journey and a time to take a break

Five Minute Friday – Trust

This week’s Five Minute Friday prompt is:


Five minutes of writing without editing…time starts NOW!!!

This one took some introspection….I have always believed that you could trust me with anything.  You can tell me a concern or “secret” or anything going on in your life and I feel that you could trust me to keep that between us.  I still believe that.  However, I wanted to think further….am I someone that you can trust to be honest?  Are there things that possibly I hide from everyone about myself?

The truth of Scripture reminds us that the “eyes of the Lord are in all places beholding the good and the evil.”  Even if I have been able to fool myself or others, I can trust that the Lord knows my heart…this needs to be constantly in the forefront of my mind.

Then my mind also goes to the idea of maintaining and earning trust.  Just the other day, a student once again told me that he had his work done, just did not bring it to class.  I had to be honest and tell him that he had not earned my trust…he did not have a positive reputation of being forthright with his work habits. He would have to earn that trust back.

This is the hardest part about trust….It takes sometimes years to earn it and just one moment of a lapse in judgment to lose it.


Taking Time in the Book of Acts

Mount of Olives

So, something I have realized as a teacher is that I am a hands on learner who likes to touch and feel and organize information (in “teachy” terms, this is called Kinesthetic and Visual learning.)  So, as I approach the book of Acts, I am going to venture into using a tool that I came across in my teacher studies.  It’s a timeline that integrates both video, image, and text.  I figure if I do something with the material I am reading and studying about, perhaps more will stick with me. So, here is the first installment of my Timeline for Acts.  (we will see how many other installments I end up with)  Mostly, this is for me, but I figured I would share and perhaps you can learn something, too.

Timeline for Acts Chapter One

The Seesaw of Trust and Worry

My word is a lamp unto your feet; My presence is a light unto your path

Psalm 119:105

As I head into the last true week of summer and plan to move ahead into a new school year, I am encountering an emotion that I am all-to familiar with: Fear and Worry.  I sit for what seems like hours sometimes just going over and over material and how to best present it and whether or not kids will like it and how will I engage my students most effectively.  I am reminded today of God’s great grace in my life as well as His desire that I trust in Him.  I am so thankful that the Word of God can bring light to my path…the only thing standing in the way is me.  It’s like there’s a great light shining on the path ahead and I am standing in front of it, looking into the darkness, searching for direction, never realizing that it is I who is blocking the lightTrust.001

Lord, help me today to stand aside.  To let your Word bring light to the path I am on, so that I can stop trusting in my blind self and rather reach the point of trusting that YOU go before me, planning my purpose and preparing students’ hearts for YOUR history.   When I move aside, YOU can accomplish your purpose and plan.  Bless my intentions, but easy my fear and worry in the weeks to come.  AMEN!!!

Learning to lean: God’s control over fear and doubt

Romans 8:26

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

During the month of June, I had the unique opportunity to complete my student teaching experience at at a public school in Eastvale, Ca.  I had never heard of this little city prior to the phone call I received on May 30,2013.  I was to report to Eleanor Roosevelt High School the following Monday.  My heart raced, my physical body sped into 5 th gear and I began to prepare myself for the month ahead.  Logistically, it was difficult as I still had 2 weeks of teaching left at Bethel.  So, with 2 days to scramble, I prepared sub lesson plans and found out as much as I could about Roosevelt High and directions to Eastvale.  It would be a long (50 minutes) but smooth drive each morning at 6am.


Upon arriving that Monday, I realized that this would be quite the experience as I would have 55 students in each class, which lasted 3 hours, without any time for student breaks.  I ended up in an art classroom where students had to sit on stools in table groups, constantly being distracted by everyone else around them.

Though the 4 weeks seemed to drag on, I now reflect and realize just how fortunate I was to get this opportunity.  I learned more about classroom management than I ever really want to learn ever again (wishful thinking) and I learned much from my Master Teaching about planning and being flexible.

I learned that I can embrace the “uncomfortable” circumstances in life.  Even though I generally live each moment wanting to “get through” the uncomfortable, I realize more and more that there is an OVERWHELMING increase in my faith and trust in my Savior as I learn to lean on HIM more, and seek HIM more. I was up every morning, earlier than I would have normally been, because I was sure to approach the day asking for HIS Spirit and wisdom and comfort and guidance (and trust me, I needed each one of those things on a second-by-second basis).  Even now, I look back and realize how much less I seek HIM in the comfort of summer.  Lord, may I remember how you covered me with mercy and grace in those days, and seek YOU like that, no matter what.

My husband was a tremendous support.  There were many mornings when I had mental and emotional breakdowns, nearly refusing to leave.  He ALWAYS supported me and had the EXACT thing I needed to hear.  I do not know what I would have done without him, as he offered a hand to hold, a shoulder to lean on, and an ear to listen.


I learned that I have angels watching over me.  I drove the 50 minutes there and back each day, for 20 days without any car problems.  I listened to sermons, songs, and devoted time to prayer for others during this trip each day.  WHAT A BLESSING!!!! I received texts, facebook messages, emails, and phone calls on a daily basis; God used these to reveal his care over me.  I also was encouraged by my Vanguard family – my professor Sylvia Kane, my credential analyst Randee Loya and University Supervisor Mark Ryan, and other faculty like Michelle Romo, Shelley Vaters, and Rani Rommelfanger were right by my side, with positive encouragement.

photo-6 photo-5 photo-4 photo-3 photo-2 photo-1 photo

“The Same God” – Newsong

I Peter 5:6-7

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Casting all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Five Minute Friday – Belong

The Gypsy Mama shares this great idea to write every Friday for 5 minutes on a topic.

Want to take five minutes with me and just write without worrying if it’s just right or not.


I look out over the desk in front of me and wonder, “Where does this paper/note/idea belong?”  I have been reading this book about Organization for Teachers. Friends and family look at me funny when they hear me say that I don’t think I am organized because I have kept up this facade that I have things going on in that department.  However, I am a “stacks” girl.  I generally know WHAT stack something is located in, but generally speaking, things don’t Belong in that kind of chaos.  So, I will work toward accomplishing the goal of becoming a little more organized each day.

This brings me to life, however.  Sometimes I just don’t feel like I BELONG.  It’s difficult to meet new people…I think, “I don’t belong with this group.”  It is narrowed down to insecurity.  Generally, I get through it and have met some pretty awesome people when I open up and share myself with others.  But it is definitely one of those areas I am gifted in.

I am blessed to belong to the King.  I am His child and never have a need to worry about how I belong in His life.  I can see it through His care over me, His protection, His provision, His guidance, and the security I have in knowing that I don’t have to “hope to fit in”;  I am automatically accepted.  Thank you, Father.