Office hours twice a week. Reading and reviewing weekly essays. Getting each student an online writing mentor. Starting up Grammar Camp. Asking for computer donations.
I’m easily working 15 hours a week on this class alone. If I had a full schedule, I’m not sure I could keep this up.
But when I read an article like “Incentives for Advanced Work Let Pupils and Teachers Cash In,” recently in The New York Times, I question whether my effort will be enough.
Writer Sam Dillon focuses his piece on the National Math and Science Initiative, a program that gives money and resources to schools that increase the pass rates of students of color on AP exams. But for me, the heart of the article is teacher Joe Nystrom, whose skill and energy seem unparalleled.
We all know, after all, that while money and resources make a difference, the most important factor to student success is the quality of the teacher.
And so far this year, I’m finding out that I can be effective. But a lingering question remains: Is what I’m doing enough?
My quick answer is no. For example, Mr. Nystrom’s students attend Saturday classes. Mine don’t. He does lessons on YouTube. I don’t. His students get one-on-one tutoring. Mine don’t.
Although I understand that this is my first year teaching AP, and that I don’t have a partnership with a national nonprofit organization, and that it’s not sustainable to spend 20 hours a week on one class, I also realize that my students won’t pass unless I do more.
A good example is grammar. In my last post, I wrote that my students need individual help on their grammar if they’re going to improve. If I provided that help, it would increase my workload by at least seven hours a week. So my idea was to recruit people to come to the school one day a week to work with students.
So far, that project is very slow going. It’s hard to get strangers to devote two hours a week (1 hour with students, 1 hour traveling back and forth), particularly for no pay. Local writing centers and universities have also said no. It looks like this is going to be a one-by-one, word-of-mouth project that might take months to get off the ground.
Problem is, we don’t have months to spare. I believe strongly that my students have the work ethic to bridge the AP gap. They don’t need a financial reward to entice them. They need instruction and time with skilled coaches. I am hopeful that I’ll have the energy to pull this off.