While I was cleaning today I came across the essay of one of my AP World History students. As a final exam for my AP students they had to write an essay based on the following prompt: "Prove to me you learned something this year." As expected most of the students furiously tried to tell me what they thought I wanted to know which they assumed was lists and lists of minute detail from world history. I was moved by what this student wrote:
"I used to see world history as an endless stream of dates, boring events and old men in funny outfits. I thought this class would be dedicated to memorizing dates, events and people. I only saw world history as a whole...a whole lot of crap. I wasn't interested in it, I didn't get it, and I never imagined my view on it could be anything but just that.
Man was I wrong. Through this class I learned that I had to see world history as an evolution, not just random dates and people. The most interesting part of it all was realizing how closely related every civilization is. Today the world seems endlessly diverse, and while this is true, this year we learned how each civilization got to that point. They all follow similar patterns and had common needs and desires.
The development of technology comes from a common need for more, faster, and better. Religions exist because of mankinds need to explain the unexplainable. I found that racism and discrimination come from a need to feel superior. I saw how the environment one lives in has a profound effect on your capabilities as well as disabilities. That also leads into how much of an impact humans have on the environment.
All of the revolts, revolutions and uprisings in history are results of the oppression of many be a few in power. It turns out, people don't learn from their mistakes, or anyone elses for that matter, because I noticed many repeating patterns throughout history. No matter what part of the world, what beliefs, or what the time period was, I noticed similarities between histories of civilizations. The different manors in which situations were dealt with explains the diversity of today's society.
Aside from world history, I learned a lot of other things in this class as well. I can without a doubt say that I have worked harder in this class than any other before. At times it was unbearable, but I got through it and now I am so proud. I can read faster, study better and organize my time in ways I couldn't before. I realized it took a little excessive work and stress to teach us the true meaning of 'hard work.' That skill will help me in every class from here on out and beyond."
I think she summed up really well what I had hoped the students would learn this past year in my class. I was extremely tough on this class. It was the first time I had taught AP and I was obsessed with trying to get all my students to pass the AP exam. I won't find out until the beginning of the next school year in August how many passed. But I am satisfied that I did all that I could.
The day of the final exam, the students surprised me with a scrapbook they had made. They had taken pictures of each person in the class and they had written letters to me expressing how much they had enjoyed having me as a teacher even though it was the hardest class they have ever taken. It was a good reminder to me about why I teach.