Be Prepared

AP Exams are over.  I didn’t administer any myself, but boy, did I see the ripples: students missing class to study, showing up with that hollow, distracted look about them, asking for prayer and showing they needed it.

On one of the first days, I asked a student how her exam had gone.  “It was fine,” she said smilingly.  “My teacher prepared us really well.”  Toward the end of the exam period, I asked a different student about a different test.  “It was awful,” she said.  “My teacher didn’t prepare us at all.”

As someone who took a lot of AP exams herself, I was surprised to see how closely these students linked their teachers’ efforts to their successes and / or failures.  I remember studying a LOT on my own during these classes, and some teachers were certainly better instructors than others, but when I aced the exams (History, for instance) I tended to pat myself on the back, and when I left feeling defeated (Chemistry, which it’s a miracle I passed at all) I assumed it was because I hadn’t put enough time into preparing for it.

I’m not sure whether this is a generational gap (more consumerism) or just a personality difference, but it made me wonder, especially since I’m in the final throes of preparing my own students to take the SAT in two weeks.  I am torn between anger and despair, some mornings, when I ask a question none of them can answer: am I going crazy?  Have I not explained this multiple times before?  Are they just not interested, not aware, not engaged?  Or am I simply not doing a good enough job preparing them?

This time of the year is really the worst.  It’s all about the bottom line: when are the quizzes, and can I take them later if I have a really good excuse?  How much homework do we have, and are you planning to check whether we did it?  What, exactly, do we have to know for the exam, and what can we forget forever?

And for my part, I’m wondering where I went wrong in teaching them to be better students, curious people and informed citizens – and whether I did anything right at all.