I utterly failed my AP Chemistry class this past semester. It was my first time teaching it (feels like a lame excuse) and I failed to do basic things.
The test is the point
My eye was not on the prize. Everything in the class should be geared to the test – it’s AP Chemistry. The students are graded based on the AP material; based on their understanding of the identified concepts. The provided curriculum is the vision of the class. I did not cull the information from the book or limit the context of information surrounding various topics, rather, I presented everything as equally important. I did not focus my efforts, much less my student’s efforts, in order to prepare them for that day in May.
The schedule matters
Because of the audit, the entire course was mapped out, every topic and lab scheduled. The problem? It was merely a suggestion, I could make up the time later. See, I can wing it pretty successfully (let’s say I’m flexible). AP is not a class that can be winged. The schedule cannot be viewed as merely a suggestion; it must be adhered to. It is the assurance of a certain amount of preparation each student should expect upon entering the class.
Reviewing is not optional
This is critical. The test is a Big Deal. The students hadn’t seen some of the material since their first chemistry course. I didn’t take the time to help them put everything together, linking concepts and ideas, finding/showing the overlap. A commitment of time is critical to an effective review; critical to a best effort performance by each student. Teaching and learning of new concepts cannot go to the Friday before.
Practice tests are a must
I did not adequately utilize whole practice tests, simulating the actual AP test. This is really a component of the review I realize. I used stand-alone tests, comprised of multiple choice and free-response questions; even incorporating the timed nature into the last one. It’s more a matter of letting the students see what it’s going to be like.
So, as a group of students were discussing their AP scores in various classes, I began speaking with a student enrolled in AP Chemistry this next year. Lamenting about my failure by discussing what had to change, a shortened version of the above, she responded, “I trust you.”
…what do you add to that?