May is the month of reflection for me as a teacher. It isn’t that I don’t reflect throughout the year, I do. Instead during the slew of testing and grading, I take moment to look back on the year that was.

AP Biology is the class I reflect on the most this time of the year. It is year long and I don’t get to do many revisions mid-stream, or at least major overhauls that come from a new batch of students every semester in the traditional block class format. This stability has lead to one benefit in that I have got to know everyone in those two classes. Each block is their own family and it is fantastic to be a part of that.

I feel I gave my all to AP Bio 2017-18 and I feel that the students did the same. I look back on these two classes fondly. There were a lot of laughs, inside-jokes, and (most importantly) learning this past school year. I learned a lot about myself as a teacher from this group. I learned to be more considerate of my students. I learned that I am not the only teacher in their world. I learned that students will persevere and rise to any challenge, yet do not overwhelm them.

I hope my students learned how to be a scientific and critical thinker. I hope they learned more about biology (Their final exams have shown me that this is a reality). Still, I hope they learned more about themselves. I remember the challenge of AP Bio in High School, and I learned a lot about myself as a person and a student from that. I have applied that to my life. I implore my students to do the same. To borrow a nugget of wisdom from my colleague Mr. Dishner, productive struggling is key to success. You learn more about yourself that way.

Productive struggle is not meant to punish but to encourage learning. Research shows that struggling activates learning centers in the brain and helps commit new skills to long term memory. It is like struggling when playing a video game. At first, it is frustration as you struggle to complete the objective. Yet, overtime you learn the skills and tricks necessary to complete the game. You can step away from that game for years, but you will be able to pick it back up and never miss a beat.

These thirty-three students were some of the finest students to ever grace my classroom in my 6 years of teaching. I thank you all for this experience.

There is still room for improvement. I am already planning on the future of the course with some major overhauls coming next year in terms of scope and sequence. AP Bio 2018-19 will be the best version yet and it will constantly get better.

Biology I was a fun experience this year with familiar faces from the past. It was my first time teaching the course in 4 years, but I think this year was the best yet. AP Bio has sharpened my skills and honed my craft. I wish I could have done more with you all, but time did not permit it. Next year, Biology I is being revamped with the advent of the new Tennessee Science Standards. I have been practicing and preparing for this roll out since January. I am excited for future students and for my current students as they move on to Chemistry, Physics, and hopefully the AP Sciences. I am partial to AP Biology, but you cannot go wrong with any of them.

I know we still have a few days ahead, but farewell classes of 2017-2018.

“Why should we look to the past in order to prepare for the future? Because there is nowhere else to look.”

-James Burke



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