Yes, it was quite the week at school. It was the week of benchmark testing (aka 9 weeks tests). Fortunately, I wasn’t teaching any subject with a district test, so I didn’t have to worry about the kids facing material we hadn’t covered. However, it did mean I had to write my own comprehensive tests for four subjects, wipe out a forest making copies of two versions of each test and answer sheets, and chew the butts of people who finished early and wanted to talk or play instead of remaining quiet so other students could finish. Sometimes I think the only difference between high school seniors and first graders is the size of the kid. But anyway, that’s over. Most of my kids did well. There were some disappointments, but overall grades were decent.
My Creative Writing and Science Fiction classes are done. This is good. The Creative Writing class wasn’t so bad, but there were 30 kids in there, and that means I always had A LOT of grading to do. Science Fiction … there were just too many immature little boys in there. I’m sooo glad I’m not teaching junior high, where I’d have to deal with 9th graders all the time.
As all this is going on and I’m still frantically trying to put together an AP English Literature and Composition syllabus, I was asked to take over as chairman of the English department. This had been discussed before, so it wasn’t totally unexpected, but the timing wasn’t ideal. I agreed to do it, though. The position comes with a whopping pay increase of about $400 per year, a lot of responsibility and no real authority. Not that I want the authority. I hope, hope, hope the department will start working as a team.
The AP class starts Monday. I’m nervous about that. Some of the students are pissed that I’m giving them two zeroes to start the class because they didn’t do the summer reading. That doesn’t make me nervous. It’s the responsibility. I have to make sure these kids are prepared to pass the AP exam in May. In a couple of years I think I’ll be really good at it. Right now … I can’t even make a determination on how long to spend on a particular work because I’m used to dealing with kids who fight reading with everything they’ve got. Close reading? Pfft! Most of my previous students don’t even know what it is. After a week of discussion and tests over the summer reading we’ll get into Greek and Roman lit. I plan to read some selections from Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, then Oedipus Rex, "Ode on a Grecian Urn" and "My Oedipus Complex" together as a class while groups of kids read The Iliad, The Odyssey, or The Aeneid independently. Then the groups will "teach" the major elements of their books to the class. In the first few weeks we’ll also read some of the most-alluded-to Bible stories and excerpts of The Divine Comedy and Paradise Lost. Beyond that … I don’t know. I want to do A Tale of Two Cities, The Grapes of Wrath, In the Lake of the Woods and Metamorphosis, but I haven’t determined when or what’ll go with them. And, of course, we’ll do a lot of practice exams and essays.
We didn’t have AP when I was in high school, and my grades weren’t good enough to even allow me to take the advanced composition class we did offer. (It wasn’t until I went to college at age 28 that I cared about grades.) Having never taken an advanced class, and not studying education in college, makes me wonder if I’m even qualified for everything I’m doing at school now. Only two students from our school passed the AP Literature and Composition exam last year. I’ll have about 25 AP kids and I’ll feel pretty bad if only two of them pass the exam this May. Shouldn’t it be more like only two don’t pass?