Student, Again

Three days into the AP Summer Institute, I have to confess that I’m 92% loving it, if I can actually give it an A- like that and make it sound legit. Really, it’s turned out to offer quite a lot for me. Over the past two days, I’ve gotten some great ideas for activities, been able to reconcile (mentally) how I want to do some things, and gotten so much more confident in my understanding of the exam and scoring the written portions.

Sure, there are moments when my eyes glaze over and I surreptitiously glance at the book I’m reading on my iPad while keeping one hand on my binder, but all in all it’s been a good experience for me so far. I’ve acquired a half-dozen textbooks, review books, and document readers (all mailed home). I’ve also gotten the prized possession: all essay questions (DBQs and FRQs) since the early 1970s. These make me incredibly happy. I’ve also created three units, although they’re much smaller chronologically than what we do in our program. Consequently, they’re not terribly useful for my purposes, but just the act of creating them has made me focus a little on the issues at hand and helped me feel confident about where I’m going.

I’ve gotten some good reinforcement that my instincts on grading are on the right track, which is also helpful. Having my mentor this year really helped with that, but there’s always that bit of nervousness as you step off on your own.

And tonight, I wrote an essay for the #5 question on this year’s FRQ. We were each tasked with one of the four essay questions at random and told to spend 5 minutes planning, 30 minutes writing, exactly as our students would. This puts us in the students’ shoes, although some of us may still have unfair advantages, like being able to type it, being fast typists, and being better at BSing than most high school juniors. Also, if you happen to get the question from the time period of your own dissertation, that may be a little bit of a gimme, too.

Even though it’s a Cold War question, I did panic a bit. It asks you to focus on Cold War foreign policies of 2 out of 3 presidents listed. I chose the 2 I knew I could do best with, but as I sat down to brainstorm I panicked a lot. All I could think of was “Korean War!” – which is a great start, but that’s about it. Happily, spending 5 minutes on the matter gave me time to come up with 4 or 5 items for each president, plus I was able to freewrite a paragraph where I could work out my ideas about comparing and contrasting the two as directed. By the time that timer went off, I was ready to go.

Tomorrow, I go before the AP grading fires. Will let you know how I do.

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