It all started with rejection.

I was a starry-eyed, optimistic, passionate first-year English teacher. (To be fair, the stars in my eyes might have been from the lack of sleep from my ridiculous late-night grading practices.) I was also desperate to please my principal in a tenuous work situation during the recession. When an opening was announced for a new yearbook advisor, I jumped at the opportunity. My department chairs, Elaine* and Linda, promised to put in a good word for me.

That same afternoon, Elaine broke the news: the principal had said no, but she hadn’t given any reasons. I felt crushed. Had I not earned a strong performance rating, at least for a first year teacher? Had I not built good relationships with my supervisors, colleagues, and students? Was I not creative enough? Not responsible enough? My insecurities settled uncomfortably in my chest and throat, threatening to send me into tears.  Then it got worse. Elaine informed me that the principal had requested a Meeting. A capital M meeting, with both department chairs and me, on a Friday afternoon right after school.

On Friday afternoon, as the last lingering students moseyed down the halls toward the exits, my principal’s door clicked shut. It wouldn’t be fair, she explained, to make a newly minted teacher the yearbook advisor in our school. Beyond the pressure of deadlines, the parents were particularly difficult to deal with. In fact, the previous advisor was leaving the position after an angry parent engaged the superintendent over the rejection of her daughter’s racy senior portrait. According to the principal, this would be a quick path to burnout and a new career. She looked at me levelly. “Besides, I have bigger plans for you,” she said.

My department chairs exchanged a look. It was clear that they were privy to the plans. I was the only one in the dark about the turn my career was to take, it seemed.

In the half hour that followed, my principal and department chairs laid it out for me. At the end of the next school year, Linda would be retiring, leaving the position of AP Language and Composition teacher vacant. I would roll up with my honors 10th graders to the honors 11th grade course and teach something of a parallel curriculum while I shadowed Linda, participated in training workshops, and built my knowledge base. I knew nothing about AP Language and Composition (I took only AP Literature and Composition in high school), but I knew that AP positions don’t come around very often, especially to young teachers. What was I to do but say yes?

That ended up being the most important yes of my teaching career. Being an AP teacher has helped build my self-esteem. It has provided me with a trove of new learning. It has given me a sense of purpose and even prestige within my department. It has allowed me to find my voice in meetings and has even led me toward a career as an instructional coach and consultant. AP has been a huge source of professional learning and innovative opportunities. As a GT adult, AP has given me a focus for my passion that is socially and academically challenging. And it has also given me my best friend at school, the AP Lit teacher. Without AP, I’m confident that I would have left the profession after my fifth year of teaching (that’s a story for another day!).

So here I am, five years into my AP teaching career (seven years as a teacher, overall). Now that I’ve had a chance to make some mistakes and grow as a teacher, I’d like the honor of sharing my teaching journey with you. The brilliant thing about being an educator is that you’re constantly being educated—by your peers, your students, your community, the world at large—and I hope that this is an opportunity for us to come together across the internet to make each other better. I’ll be sharing ideas, reflections, stories, and materials, and I hope you’ll join in discussion with me. It’s nice to meet you!



*Names have been changed.

2 thoughts on “How I Got Here: My Journey to Teaching AP Language and Composition

  1. It’s nice to meet you too, Kelly! I am also an AP Language and Composition teacher, and like you, I also took the position after my first year. However, I was never able to attend a training, and there was no pre-existing AP Lang in our department (only lit) so I built the class from the ground up! This is my third year and I love it dearly, but I’m always looking to connect with others who teach it and understand this particular (rewarding) struggle. I’ll be sure to follow your new posts!

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