Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Reality Check Now and Then Never Hurts

Thank You for Keeping It Real

I have a pet peeve I need to share: experts who are so far from working in the real world that their advise to us is at best suspect. You know those folks? The "do-as-I-say-but-have-never-attempted-in-the-real-world-myself" experts! The field of education is full of them and we are bombarded by their theories, practices, and jargon constantly. I am just egotistical enough to believe that unless THEY are in the trenches with you and me working with real time students that most of their rhetoric is just that.

OK, I had a rude awakening this week...yes, I have met the enemy and it is ME! Ouch!!!! Mind you dear readers, I am in the trenches with you. I teach what I preach and all ideas that I share have been time tested with real AP students in a Midwest urban school with a economically disadvantaged student rate of over 40% and a racial diverse student body.

However, I have some huge advantages over many of you. I am my own department chair and have developed a nice vertical team approach to AP in my department starting with freshmen AP Euro, a two year AP US History program, and a year long AP Government and Politics course. I have been fortunate to have administrators that understand the value of an AP curriculum and who have allowed me to make AP a departmental priority. Our school became an AVID school this year which means that the AP programs should be growing and we are well positioned to help all students be successful.

Here is the rub...this week a second year AP Government teacher in my area emailed and asked if I could help her with some critical curriculum decisions. This colleague has a huge problem. She is only given second semester (on an A-B block) to prepare her students for the AP Exam, which this year is on the first day of testing, May 4th. Her problem: what to jettison and what to teach.

Very politely this teacher (who has been a reader of this blog) let me know that for those of us living in an ideal AP world, my ideas are great...for those trapped in a different reality however, I was full of...well..."theories, practices and jargon". Ouch again!!!

The two of us did sit down for several hours one afternoon this week and looking at Hippocampus, Lineberry, and the Woll reader and married her limited calendar to the vastness of the AP Government and Politics curriculum. We had to become minimalists to say the least, cutting and slashing the curriculum, lesson plans, and readings to what can only be called bare bones AP Government. Keeping in mind also that the new College Board audit system calls for maintaining a tight syllabus that is comprehensive we had quite a daunting task.

We have a little more work to do, but by the end of our initial meeting we felt very positive about the course she would be teaching and the expectations for success for her students. And of course for me this experience was a great reality check. When I renew this blog for second semester I pledge to "keep it real" for those of you that face time limits and other real world of public eduction issues.

Thank you for all the work you do to be the best teachers in the country. We hope this blog has been of some benefit to you this year. After New Year's and a full platter of bowl games I will continue where we left off with the Bureaucracy.

I hope you and your families have the most wonderful holiday season. Enjoy your well earned rest. Until then...

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