AP reading: work camp… or summer camp?

Erik Heindlmeyer

A group of college professors and Advanced Placement (AP)  teachers wake up at 7:30 on June 11 of 2016, grab their bags and make their way down to the bus line. The first bus rolls up and the readers get on. The readers are then shuttled to the Kansas City Convention Center, and then the next bus pulls up, and the next, and the next.

  Last year,  Instructor Michelle Stoel and Instructor Ken Strobel were AP readers for the College Board program, climbing on those busses seven straight mornings. The reading was held in Kansas City, Missouri, and ran from June 11 to June 17. The readers worked from 9  to 5  with two 15 minute breaks and one hour for lunch.

  Stoel found the experience to be very enjoyable. “I had a great time. To me it felt like a summer camp for book nerds and I loved it,” Stoel said. Stoel does concede that AP reading is hard work.  “Honestly I feel like teaching during the school year is harder, because teaching all day requires physical and intellectual stamina, and then at the end of the school day I usually have to grocery shop or go to meetings and then make dinner and then do dishes, and then help my own children with their work if they need it and then I have to do grading… Whereas at the reading we were done at five.”

  Strobel has the opposite view. “The work was really difficult.  We sat in a room and graded all day. On the last day, I asked some of the other readers what they looked forward to more, the last day of the AP reading or the last day of school.  My answer is 100% the last day of the AP work. School is fun. There was no fun grading the essays.  It is some of the hardest work I have ever done in my life. I don’t know what kind of dreadful summer camps Stoel went to as a kid.”

  Ultimately for both, the positives outweigh the negatives. Both Stoel and Strobel plan on attending the AP reading this June 12-18 in Tampa, Florida, at the Tampa Convention Center.

  Both agree that the biggest benefit is that the experience helps them to be more effective teachers. They learned a lot about the AP scoring.  “Mr. Strobel and I both realized just how attainable it is for our students to score well on their AP essays, and that all of the readers are really looking for ways to reward the student writers for what they do well,” said Stoel. They also enjoyed learning from AP teachers from around the country. “It was enjoyable to talk to other teachers and to learn from them. That’s probably the best way to become a better teacher, to simply talk to other teachers,” Strobel said.

  Only two days after the end of school, the two teachers head off to Tampa for either a week of fun in the sun or a week of grueling work.