Every June, 1000+ high school and college English teachers descend upon the AP Reading site and voluntarily subject themselves to 7 days of 8 hours of grading 400,000+ high school students’ THREE AP English Literature essays. The fastest among us grade more than 2,000 essays each week, but most Readers grade at least 1,000 essays each week. Most of us keep coming back year after year. Why? Great question.
In the middle of the Reading, I’m always exhausted; my eyes are red and burning; I’ve slept poorly in a hotel; I am jittery from coffee, sodas, too much chocolate and gum. I swear there’s no way I’m going to do this again. Then, after I get home and have had time to recuperate, I think, “I had fun! What a great experience!” Then inevitably, in January, that AP invitation arrives in my inbox, and there I go again, clicking “Yes, I accept” without a second thought.
I feel it’s a lot like childbirth: in the middle of it, you hate every minute and think there’s NO WAY in the WORLD I am doing this again, but after you are home and the pain of the moment is gone, when you’ve had time to reflect on the growth and joy you’ve experienced, you begin to think you can do it again.
I’ve been scoring for the AP English Literature exam for 14 years, and joining the AP Reading each year has brought me many personal and professional benefits. I have met some of my best friends at the Reading–my AP family with whom I’ve grown up, raised kids, celebrated marriages and anniversaries; people who share my laughter, challenges, losses, and triumphs; people who always find the best in each other to celebrate. The moral support and friendship we have grown over the last 14 years is unlike any friendship I have in my “real” life and is one I cherish and look forward to every year.
Professionally, the Reading provides a kind of intensive professional development that is both enlightening and immediately applicable to our craft, as well as connects educators from across the nation in a unique environment to share and collaborate. I’ve found opportunities to connect my students in Texas with students in California, Florida, and Vietnam to study and discuss Dante’s Inferno, The Kite Runner, and Things Fall Apart. As I’ve written previously, my students collaborated with a group of students in Vietnam, and their shared discussions resulted in a book they published. None of these would have been possible without the connections and network I’ve established from the AP Reading. Too, in my own teaching, the Reading provides me with insight into student writing, the broader challenges our students face nationally, and the opportunity to discuss ways to address these issues and trends with fellow educators whose advice and ideas I can bring back to my school.
So yes, while the Reading can be difficult when the AC in the convention center is too much to bear and you need to bring your hotel robe or comforter to stay warm (I’ve seen and done both–iykyk), the cafeteria food becomes too tiresome to choke down another meal, the “good” snacks are taken by the AP Chemistry Readers, and the convention center stupidly runs out of coffee and Coke Zero, I will continue to attend the AP Reading. It’s a great way to kick off the summer and begin the work of reflecting on the past year and planning for the new one.