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Open Collection of Student Writing (OCSW)

The Worst School Year I Have Ever Had

At the time, I was excited to start the school year, but this time, I was particularly excited — I was fixing to start the tenth grade, which also meant I was about to hit a new milestone in my life: the beginning of my high school career.  Of course, though, I had to first choose the classes I was actually going to take for that year.  An advanced math class was an obvious choice for me, since I had pretty much always been a math person and had already been taking advanced math classes since middle school.  On the other hand, though, I had never been interested in history or social studies (and I’m still not today), but I had taken a class called AP Human Geography in ninth grade and had done somewhat decently in it, getting a 3 on the end-of-year AP test, the minimum passing grade for college credit (maximum possible is 5).  So, perhaps because I thought I could handle it (and presumably to continue to feel “smart”, since I had been called such pretty much all my life), I added, among a couple other advanced classes, a course called AP European History.  Little did I know that by clicking that “add” button, I had just set myself up for what would end up becoming easily the worst school year I have ever had.  Turns out I’m a much better learner when I’m not under a lot of stress and not paying attention in class as a result of that stress.

I had walked into class on the first day actually feeling somewhat confident that I would be able to handle the class, since as I said, I had taken AP Human Geography the previous year and done somewhat decently.  On that first day, we had quickly learned from the teacher that the class would be a rigorous and fast-paced class that would cover the history of, well, Europe, from around the 1300 to 1450 range to modern times.  To be honest, I’m not entirely sure why it didn’t quite click for me that as a student who had historically kinda struggled with history, a “fast-paced” college-level course dealing with the history of a completely different continent with a giant test at the end would be something I absolutely would not have been able to handle.  And nor did it click that as a result, I should have dropped the course immediately and replaced it with a regular 10th grade social studies class.  But I suppose since I still wanted to feel “smart”, and because I thought I could at least get through it, I persisted and stayed in the class.  The first day really wasn’t that bad, though, since we were simply introducing ourselves and turning in a couple essays we had been assigned to do as pre-class summer homework, along with taking a European map quiz that we had been studying for, where we were given a map of Europe and asked to identify the countries on the map.  From what I remember, I had actually done pretty well on all of those (100% on the map quiz, and I believe somewhere in the neighborhood of 95% or so on the essays as well), so I guess that added to the illusion that I would actually be able to succeed in the class.

Come about a week later, though, and I was already beginning to feel the stress that came with an advanced and “fast-paced” history class.  I don’t think the stress was as bad at that point as it would become later, though, but I definitely immediately realized the difference between this and an average history class, and I also quickly realized that our teacher was not joking when she said that it would be a “fast-paced” course.  The workload was quite high, and we also went over topics fairly quickly.  And since I also had a couple other advanced classes, specifically “Honors” ones, the stress was made higher due to the additional workload from those classes, which also isn’t helped by the fact that I was (and unfortunately still am) a procrastinator.  I remember that at one point, perhaps a month in, due probably to a combination of being under a lot of stress and due to being bored of the material (again, this was history, a subject I normally have zero interest in), I had started actually messing around on my phone during class, playing games like Candy Crush; this, perhaps predictably, started to become a habit, where occasionally during the class session, instead of paying attention to the lecture, I’d be goofing off on my phone.  I specifically remember, though, that the teacher had never even once called me out in class for doing that, strangely enough, but I imagine calling me out would have wasted precious class time for everyone else, so I suppose it was for the better for the rest of the class.  She did, however, have a participation grade for each of us, and while looking at my grades a week later, I think after the first day I had started the whole phone-during-class thing, I noticed she had docked me some points, having left only the comment “cell phone” as the reason.  But probably due to the continued stress from that class (and in general), I used my phone during class on many occasions afterwards anyway.

It actually got worse from there, though, since by about two months in, I had started up another habit, and one that I had actually had to a lesser extent during ninth grade as well: regularly asking to go to the bathroom during class.  It must have been a way to escape the stress of class, since by then, the stress had gotten worse due to the increased workload and continued lightning pace of the class, as evidenced by the grade I had gotten during first quarter, a C- if I’m remembering it correctly.  However, me constantly going to the bathroom was a habit that my mother had actually warned my teacher about during parent-teacher conferences about a month earlier, and it took a surprisingly long time for her to actually mention the habit to me directly when I had asked to use the restroom (albeit only briefly, after which she had let me go anyway).  And because of my decreased sleep as a result of the stress, I also started to occasionally fall asleep in the middle of class and not wake up until class was about to end (or had already ended).  This, combined with the regular bathroom breaks, meant that there was a decent portion of material that I had not heard at all.

Skip to around the middle of May, just a few days before my 16th birthday, and it was time to take the AP exam that I had been woefully underprepared for due to all of those issues from earlier in the school year.  Though I didn’t think it would help me that much at all, I had actually gone to visit another classmate and (former) friend of mine at his house a couple days prior in order to study for the exam, though it was mainly for me to study since out of the two of us, I was much less prepared.  Then, of course, come the actual exam, when I sat down, tore open the plastic wrapping from the exam booklet, and started the multiple choice section, there was a significant quantity of questions that I had zero clue on, and that I had therefore been forced to guess on.  The free response questions were even worse, though, since I had struggled with the practice we had gotten on these types of questions during class, and I specifically remember their names: Short Answer Questions, Document-Based Question, and Long Essay Question.  I had eventually started drawing stuff off to the Long Essay Question once I had felt that I couldn’t go any more, and before long, time was up for the exam, and it was time for the proctors to collect the exams.  Unsurprisingly, when I went online to check my score in July, I had gotten a big fat 1, the lowest score possible on the 1-5 scale used on AP exams.

Luckily, though, I did a good bit better during my classes in 11th grade, avoiding advanced history classes at all costs after this fiasco that was AP European History (and instead taking only advanced classes in subjects I was truly interested in), and thereby reducing the stress I was under, and in 12th grade, despite continuing to procrastinate, I had ended up with straight A’s all year.  Thus, in conclusion, I see myself as the type of learner who, when under a lot of stress, especially self-imposed, tends to not learn as well and tends to basically break down, but when in a non-stressed state of mind, is able to learn very well and absorb information, something I obviously never did in AP European History.



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