Monday, May 01, 2006

T Minus Four

So, this is the week. We have had a countdown on my board since early March, and here we are. There is no turning back time and there is very little to do with the dwindling minutes I have left.

My students take the Advanced Placement US exam on Friday at 8am.

I have worked harder for this class than any other class in my (albeit short) teaching career. I spent my summer reading up on the parts of history less familiar and getting up early for classes that were supposed to help me become a better AP teacher. I spent my weekends grading. I spent my weekday evenings planning discussions. I spent my planning period reading more history. I spent time at school social events seeking advice from my AP mentor. I spent my nights laying awake wondering if I should have skipped that one small factoid for the sake of time. I spent my sick days teaching. I spent my money on US history books and resources for them. I spent THIS YEAR on THIS CLASS.

I gave it my best. I really did. There are things I would like to have done better, and there are additional things I would have liked to have done IF I HAD THE TIME. But I tell you, I did the absolute best I could with the students and the time I had. I wish I could say my students have given it their very best. But I'm not sure I can. Some of them really have given it their all, but many have disappointed me in their lack of priorities. But still, I love them. The first time I cried at the prospect of moving halfway across the country, it wasn't at the thought of leaving friends, but at leaving my students and missing their senior year. Many of these students I have actually taught for two years in a row. We have had great laughs, great debates, great heart-to-hearts.

If that isn't a successful year, I don't know what is.

But here's the catch: Come July, come Friday, even, none of that will matter. Success will be measured by one thing -- how many of my students passed the exam? And it's pathetic really, because I am the only one that will let this year be measured by a number. My department head has already said it is my first year, and no one is looking for a certain number. My AP mentor, who has been presented with awards from the College Board for his success, has even said I have done my best and that is all I can hope for. And for goodness sakes, I won't even be teaching here next year -- there's no reputation to worry about.

In the end, it will be my choice to let the test results shape how I view this year. If I was a bigger person, I would look at what I accmplished already and not even glance at the test results. Or maybe it isn't really my fault? Isn't it my principal, isn't it my school board, isn't it my governor, and isn't it my president, who have said that numbers DO matter? That it is what is on the scantron, not on the heart that matters in teaching?

I hope that despite my own numbers driven measure of success, my students will see beyond their grade. I hope they know I value them for who they are and what they taught me, not how well they score on Friday. If that is the case, then how can I say I have failed?