We are just over three months out from the APWH exam and the evidence is piling up that my students are developing the skills it takes to be an “AP student”. The first semester for most students was a bloodbath. Students who had “always done well” in history were getting Cs. Students who work hard felt over-worked. And everyone was surprised when a question on a quiz or exam wasn’t explicitly discussed in class. 2/3 of the way around the track to the test, I have two quick observations:
1. The students that are the most comfortable with the material are the students who might not have always gotten As in history, but the ones who read every assignment and complete their prep work on time. These are the students who were struggling with low Cs and failing quizzes at the beginning of the year. But they kept putting in the time and are now able to make the big connections and write about the big trends in APWH. It’s direct evidence of the power of the growth mentality. I tell students all the time that they are in APWH in 10th grade not because they had AP skills in 9th grade, but because everyone can develop the skills if they put in the time.
2. The single biggest struggle 10th graders in APWH encounter is assuming that everything you need to know will be discussed in class. At an early AP Institute, someone stated that the role of an AP class is to provide students with college-level content but more regular interaction with their teacher. Teaching that to students has been one of my biggest challenges. By this quarter my trackers have become much more transparent and direct – students now know that they can check off the topics we spend class time exploring, but will have to develop the individual responsibility to cover much of the material on their own. Next year I’m excited to rethink how to address this issue head-on in September.