Reflections of a No Good Very Bad Day

The scores kept getting worse. With every essay, hope died. A slow and agonizingly painful death. How could my students have done so poorly on this mock exam? We just reviewed the day before: Remember to do this and this and this. Remember to read and think and annotate. Remember to organize your thinking and write and write and write.

How can there be blank pages in these question packets? How can there be no thesis statements? No organization? No evidence of thinking?


Why do days like this make me feel that on other days I must be talking to my self? Yep, I stand right there in that classroom I’ve made so homey and have a conversation with myself about the skills needed in order to successfully master AP Language.

I know I taught how to deconstruct a prompt. I know I taught how to use the rhetorical situation. I know I taught how to craft a position statement and how to develop it. I know I taught how to synthesize sources and cite them in an essay. I know I did. The anchor charts with all the details line my walls as proof of my instruction.

But this stack of essays? These essays tell me something I already knew half way through the second stack:  You might have taught it, but they certainly didn’t learn it.

So, whatcha gonna do now?

And therein lies the reason for yet another sleepless night.

Sometimes I dream of what it would be like to teach at a school with little or no poverty. To teach students who read at and above grade level. To teach students who not only have a plan for college but know who their roommates will be and the dates of pledge week. To teach students who really are AP ready.

I have a handful, but on days like today, after scoring essay after essay after essay for almost 8 hours, I cannot help but wonder.

And then I remember:

I love the challenge of matching books with kids. I love the glow they get when the book stings their hearts, like The Fault in Our Stars did for Adam, and Redeeming Love did for Katie.

I love the awe when we analyze a piece, and the light bulbs burst, and they “get” it, like Kelly’s understanding of the alliteration in George Bernard Shaw’s Joan of Arc. “She’s the devil…diabolical…satan.”

I love knowing that while I may never move them to where they get a qualifying score on an AP exam, I can move them into writing more purposeful pieces.

I can move them into living more literate lives.

And with that thought, maybe I will sleep tonight.


And tomorrow I will figure out how to teach this all again in a way that they will learn it. Really learn it.


Tagged: , ,

One thought on “Reflections of a No Good Very Bad Day

  1. Ritchie Dale February 14, 2014 at 11:16 am Reply

    I am a history buff who knows language arts, but teaches Ag and Life Sciences. In my Life Science class the State of Colorado requires at least 2 writing assignments as well as 2 lab write-ups. Last semester many of the essays were dismal, to be kind. Yet there were those few who wrote with real intent, who actually put thought and feeling into their words. Their convictions were heart-felt, and there was joy in reading their expressions. Most of my Life Science kids are lower level…many ESS. The best paper, not only in content, but format was one of these ESS kids. There is hope…….

    Always enjoy reading the posts….


What are you thinking?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: