My first (and last) AP class
I made it through 14 years teaching without dealing with Advanced Placement. My first five, at Columbus, no way was I getting near even Course III (sort of Algebra 2 + Trig). And my last ten, I didn’t want AP Calculus, even though, had I requested it, I should have, probably would have, gotten it.
But this year I asked, and I got it, and, oh, boy.
I resented the dozens of small ways the College Board impinged on the course. I resented the test prep, even as I minimized it (two weeks, at the end. One prep book that we rarely referred to). I resented the weirdness of some of the word problems. I resented the calculator, and the problems written for Texas Instruments.
I resented that my talents were not pulled into play in the way I like them to be. Those students who were well-prepared, they could learn it all from the book (and on some topics, the book may have been a better resource for those students than my class). Those students who weren’t ready… how much precalc, how much trig, how much algebra 2 could I work in? A lot.
Without the exam, I could have taught more, and taught better. I would have selected better topics, more depth, fewer odd tangents.
But most of all, I resented being part of the machine, the machine that boils kids down to bubbles. The machine that ignores learning and produces a score, just a number. The machine that cannot celebrate success, cannot measure progress, cannot differentiate a lazy bright student’s embarrassing A- from a hard-worker well earned C+. The machine that cannot see the individual students, nor the goals of the course, nor the beauty of the mathematics.
I began to feel that teaching this course, attached to the testers’ own company, was doing violence to my own beliefs.
In April I turned in my preference sheet without AP Calculus. I felt better.
And Wednesday the exam happened. Done. In my freshmen classes I felt giddy.
I do want to know what scores the calculus kids got. That’s the monster, the machine, beckoning. But I am confident that the scores are fine. And that once I check them in July, I won’t look back. I might try calculus again. In college. Or without the exam. But my only AP class has passed the test, and I couldn’t be happier.