Another Year in the Bag

Another year is in the bag. My students have negotiated the AP Literature exam and senior year with grace and dignity (for the most part). It is always a melancholy day when I say goodbye to these kids I’ve come to know so well. But, I know they are prepared for college and the world that awaits them in the fall. Now it is my turn to reflect on the journey we took together and begin my plans for the new crop of students heading my way in the fall. 

Like most teachers, my reflections fall first on what I will do differently next year. I carefully consider what worked well and want failed to live up to expectations, but I also consider what was missing. First, what went well?

Students read deeply and widely. As a class we read and analyzed the following works: Madame Bovary, The Importance of Being Earnest, Hamlet, Frankenstein, and Song of Solomon. Students also read four self-selected novels or plays. Their readings included: The Road, Sula, Beloved, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Mudbound, and many others. There was a sense of literary excellence and challenge in the class, and I am proud of this classroom culture.

Students learned to read specific passages and poems closely and analytically. They learned to make arguments. I worked to focus students on the craft of writing and the skillful arrangement of language authors use to create meaning. We looked at specific sentences through warm-ups I call “Spotlight Reading.” I saw growth in insight and analytical writing.

What failed to live up to expectations? 

I try to do too much. I want kids to read everything. What happens? I rush through works that deserve a slower, more methodical pace. Quality literature requires attention. I need to curb my inclination to do too much. In the end, the kids are short-changed, and I feel frustrated.

I love poetry. Many of my kids do not love poetry. Each year I am determined to bring a love of poetry to all of my students. I am convinced that if I can win some poetry converts, not only will their lives be enriched, but their scores on question 1 will rise accordingly. We will see when scores are released in July, but my expectations are not where I want them to be.

What was missing?

I try to include works of literature that cover broad swaths of the human experience. I want my kids to read about cultures and times foreign from their limited experiences. Many important readings were missing from class this year. The world of literature is so inviting and next year I will continue to seek out works that challenge students’ notions of the world they and others live in.

Specific instruction on logical thinking was also missing from my class this year. It is a mistake on my part to assume students come into my class skilled at making arguments that are supported by specific evidence that lead to logical conclusions. Next year I will address this need early and often throughout the year.

The school year is long and many other activities were successful and many other activities crashed and burned. I try to highlight areas for celebration and improvement. My tendency is to change too much at once. I want next year to be the “perfect” year. This is fantasy, of course, but once again, I will cinch up my tie, and try my best to provide my kids with the best AP Literature class possible.