A Little Light Reading

My Initial Plan

Originally I planned to leave on my adventure immediately after school got out. I wanted to get this party started, get my life figured out, change of scenery, etc. etc. I booked the house starting on June 10th. Get out of school on Friday, fly out on Saturday land in London that Sunday. Woohoo!! Let the adventures begin!! (This would also allow me to help get my son, Drew, moved out from his college flat when his term ended on the 15th.) Best laid plans of mice and men….let’s back track for a moment.

Two years ago, I applied to be an AP Reader. I’ve taught AP Literature and Composition for 15 years and I finally felt I had the chops to be a reader/grader. For those of you not in the education world, the College Board offers Advanced Placement classes to high school students for the opportunity to earn college credit. At the end of the AP course ( some may be only a semester, others can be year-long) the student will take a lengthy test, spewing out all the knowledge and insight they gained in said class. These exams are comprised of a multiple choice sections and essay questions. Well….these thousands of essays, from students all over the world, need to be graded…bringing us back to the AP Reader application.

I was told, when I applied, that it could be 5-10 years before I was hired…apparently AP Literature and Compositions readers are a dime a dozen or they never want to give up the gig. Well, imagine my surprise when I get an email in the winter, after only 2 years, telling me I will be joining the group in Kansas City this summer…what a miracle! Oh no….wait…the week AP Lit exams are graded starts….take a guess….yep. June 10-17th.

So, I had another decision to make. Great. Let the internal debate begin. What a bitch that this had to happen this summer…great timing. I’ll just decline it and hope they ask me next year…If I don’t do it, will it look like I’m not interested ( reads all the information sent with email)? Ok…they will put my name back in the pot for another time…BUT, this is a fantastic opportunity…it will look great on my CV….the insight I can from this will help me teach my kids how to write a brilliant AP essay and score a 9…yeah, but it will give you one less week in Canterbury….I’ve already booked the house and paid…(goes to Home Away website and reads about cancellation policy) …I could change the dates and not get penalized….what will Drew do between the time his term ends and the time I get there now? WAIT…I will get paid for ONE WEEK an amount that’s over HALF what I get paid in a month??!! Decision made.

So, I’ll be making a little detour before I get to the BIG ADVENTURE. Look out Kansas City, here I come!


Downtown Kansas City, MOI just spent 7 days in a science fiction nightmare. Over 4000 educators descended into KC Mo and were assimilated to a freakish work routine within hours. We were shuttled to and from our out lying hotels to the downtown convention center–spanning at least 3 city blocks–on huge buses, one lined up after another, moving vast amounts of people from one place to another.

Once inside, we moved in shoulder to shoulder groups, up stairs and escalators; through hallways and corridors to a HUGE area that spanned football field lengths, cordoned off by blue curtained “rooms” ( sustained at a comfortable 60 degrees) that held 400 people grading hundreds of thousands of essays. Four different subjects, 3 essay questions each, 400 people per question.

Table 56 Q2 readers.

We sat at a table of hierarchy and were trained to respond to bells. Some dings of the bell indicated a headset and receiver should be turned on to receive information from “big brother.” Other dings sent us from our faux rooms to an area with snacks and beverages for 20 minute breaks. Others got everyone back to work. It resembled mice, working their way through elaborate tunnels and responding to cues. A group of Pavlov’s dogs. For 7 days.

It was genius. A well oiled machine, it wasn’t the first rodeo for this company! However, my mind is mush. I didn’t realize what a toll 8 hours of constant and diligent reading would take. I am exhausted–both physically and mentally. I have been told, by the most supportive and encouraging experienced readers, that it will be better next year…at this very raw point in the process, I don’t know if there will be a next year for me. I’m gonna marinate on it for awhile. Maybe it’s like childbirth. It’s painful as hell during the experience and you swear you’ll never have another, but the memory dulls and you long to have another eventually. We’ll see.

I do know that being surrounded by hundreds of like-minded English teachers was one of the most refreshing experiences I’ve had in a long time. I was validated on so many levels, and boy…did I need that! We are an odd bunch, indeed.

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