Saturday, May 10, 2008

Coming Up for Air

It's been a rough week. Anxiety levels were highest last night when I'm sure my heart rate and blood pressure were way above the levels that they should've been.

I don't want to go into a "Top 10 Reasons Why Dillard Sucks" list, but this next item definitely ranks high. Typically, when there is an issue in the school, tardiness for example, it takes the administration quite a while to figure out a plan to curb the issue. Most of their methods are often counterproductive. Tardiness has been an issue for, I don't know...forever. They decided to target it now, the end of the school year, and the week of AP exams. So as of Monday, teachers are supposed to lock their doors promptly at 7:40am and send all of the scums of the earth that might have happened to be 30 seconds late to the cafeteria to receive a 45-minute lecture from the principal and their punishment. The second day, they made announcements all throughout the morning indicating the status of their tardiness enforcement plan...

7:40am, Male Voice: "Teachers, please lock your doors. Do not allow any students in at this time. Please send all tardy students to the cafeteria."

7:45am: Morning Announcements begin [10 Minutes]

8:35am, Mail Voice: "Teachers, please note that the tardy students have been released from the cafeteria, please allow them back to class on with a swipe pass (?)"

8:40am, Principal: "Teachers and students, please excuse this announcement [goes into 5 minute long speech about how tardiness is detrimental to learning blah blah we need cooperation of everyone blah blah I-like-to-waste-time-and-hear-my-own-voice-and-contradict-myself blah blah] Thank you."

Annoying. Luckily I had headphones on, so I turned up the volume attempting to drown them out, but it was still bothersome being interrupted every 30 minutes or so.

At the end of the day, they usually do afternoon announcements 5 minutes before the bell rings. For most classes, this is a sign to start wrapping everything up, putting away books, materials, logging out etc. For some reason, they decided to start making announcements at 2:25pm, completely disrupting the end of the lesson.

2:25pm, Male Voice: "Teachers and students, please be advised that tardiness is disruptive to the learning environment. Students - please arrive to school on time, and teachers - please lock your doors promptly after the second bell rings."

Hey, you know what else is disruptive to the learning environment!?

2:30pm, Another Male Voice: [random announcement about not bring electronic devices to school or using them; must be in the off position]

2:35pm: Afternoon Announcements

By the time all of this talking was over, it was impossible to finish the assignment, thus forcing us to carry it over to the next day and delay further exam preparation. Thanks, administration for all those useful announcements!


So, today was the day that I had to face my greatest fear this year...the AP US History exam. There was a lot of history that we didn't cover in class that I knew would be exam, and I had no idea how I would learn it all in such a short period of time. I spent most of this week reviewing what I could but after taking a practice test on Tuesday/Wednesday and getting only like 20 points, I was devastated. I spent Thursday night reading the entire Princeton Review prep. FOUR hours straight of pure reading. Magically, I was absorbing it all. 100 years of history in four hours. I took one of the practice tests at the back of the book and felt a lot better. I didn't properly score it with penalties and such, but I checked my answers and I was satisfied. Much better than the 20 points I scored the day before. Although I was a little more confident, there was one area of history that I still wasn't sure about and I knew it was my weakness, but it seemed relatively recent, so I doubted it would be prominent on the exam. In the morning, I reviewed material from the AMSCO book to refresh what I learned last night. I still was uncomfortable about the area that I was a little unsure about. Funny little anecdote -- During the county's AP Review back on April 12, DJ and I were both clueless during the APUSH session. For some reason, the instructor kept bringing up The Gilded Age. Having never heard of this and feeling completely lost, we both looked it up as soon as we got back to school. It was still kind of vague since we barely reached the era preceding it, but I fully understood it after last night. this morning, every time I flipped open my book, it opened to "Chapter 19: The Gilded Age, Politics and..." I took it as some sort of omen.

7:50am, we all get seated to take the exam. In typical Dillard fashion, it seemed unorganized, behind schedule, and overall just chaotic. Being my first AP exam, I was a little nervous, yet determined. The MC questions were surprisingly easy...easier than the practice test we took at school, easier than the PR practice tests, and easier than the AMSCO sample questions. I was shocked...and delighted. I only skipped 10 questions, and I predict that I may get a few wrong, so that brings my score to around 65/80 with penalties. I calculated this during the test to figure out how important my essay scores would be. I desperately hoping that that section in history that I didn't know to well wouldn't be on the essay portion, but low and behold, when I opened the book, the DBQ was that one event that I just did not grasp too well. The other FRQs were fine, we actually spent quite a bit of time reviewing it in class the day before, so I was pretty confident. I can't be specific since I'm not allowed to discuss the questions at the moment due to College Board's 48 hour confidentiality agreement. I managed to pull something of worth together for the DBQ, and I ended up being satisfied with the 3 pages I wrote by the time I reread it, especially since I underestimated what I knew. Hopefully I was going in the right direction. I used every minute (except 5 to proofread) of the 1 hours and 55 minutes given! I was exhausted by the time the exam ended, being that I have never sat and just wrote 7 pages worth of...stuff...before. Looking around after the exam, most people had given up, not even attempting the FRQs. Oh well... I used a pre-made worksheet online to figure out my potential score, and it's looking a lot brighter for me than I thought. Wednesday and Thursday, I thought I was ultimately screwed and bound to fail. Today, I'm pretty sure that I passed, and I might be able to pull a 4.

One thing that really ticked me was the interruptions during the exam. I understand that the bell schedules can't be changed since the rest of the school must still function, but the phone rang 4 times, other students interrupted several times during the exam, thinking that their class was still taking place there and then loudly communicating with the guidance counselor from across the room, and oh yeah...another announcement. I was 2/3 through the last FRQ with 15 minutes remaining and an announcement comes on to indicate that there is something going on for Teacher's Appreciation Week. They've been announcing it all week, and no offense to teachers, but that was really annoying and disruptive. It was so unexpected while I was "in the zone" and completely disrupted my thought process, many others agree. A lot of AP teachers called and made complaints all week long, pleading them not to make announcements between 8 and 12, but everyday, there was some useless announcement made during that time. Thanks again for your very useful information, voices behind the intercom!

Now I'm relieved since my hardest exam is over. Psych should be easy and I'm sure I can handle English. I think I'm going to play Guitar Hero, I haven't touched it in weeks.

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