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Colleagues and Camaraderie in the SLC

  • I wrote this last week. I didn't have an opportunity to post it until now: I'm sitting in my hotel room in Salt Lake City after my third day of scoring Advanced Placement U.S. Government essays. I'm here with 600 or so other "readers" as we're called, gathered together from all over the U.S. We are high school teachers and college professors, Ivy Leagues and community colleges, adjuncts and tenure track, all on a level playing field, spending the entire week, each of us reading thousands of student responses to one of four essays. Yes, that's right; we're reading thousands of mostly poorly written essay responses to only one essay question all week long.

    At the Salt Lake Bees with AP 


    Sounds boring…and sometimes it is, but the experience is awesome. I always get something out of reading these essays that improves my course, but really the best part is that we learn so much from each other, during the breaks, meals and after hours, perhaps at a local watering hole. Sunday night I had a fantastic debate after a few drinks with a high school teacher who I was surprised to learn, moonlights as a police officer. We argued about the fourth amendment, warrants and constitutional interpretation. It was hilarious and serious at the same time and by the time we were through, a couple of colleagues from the reading got in to the fray. We even had two random local folks join in with their perspective. When all was said and done, I had some new ideas for talking about the issue with my students. This morning I was fascinated to learn from a friend about her experiences building a cross-disciplinary program that really leveraged the strengths of the respective disciplines. I think my school could benefit from doing more of this.


    But that's not all. We're not alone here in the SLC. There are also 1,000+ World History teachers and professors, (went to a baseball game with them and made fun of our respective disciplines but also learned about a program where they took their students to China) as well as a number of Art History (had breakfast with a few of them and compared notes about our institutions), Studio Art, Latin, Chinese and Japanese language AP readers here. I commiserated with adjuncts from other schools and learned how they get paid, and about their interaction with their full time colleagues and their departments. Some have it better. Some have it worse.


    It's really a shame that we don't have more opportunities to mix with colleagues in this way. There's so much we can learn from each other if we just venture outside of our silos.