Monday, December 24, 2007

Kansas City here I come

I just completed my online acceptance of the invitation to become a reader again this year for the College Board's AP Calculus Summer session. What this means is that I will fly to Kansas City in early June ans spend 8 hours each day for 7 straight days (no weekends off!) sitting at a table grading calculus tests from all over the globe. Sounds like fun, right? Well, actually, I did it for the first time last year and enjoyed it much more than I thought I would.

Each May, in an attempt to earn college credit, 1.5 million students from all over the world take about 2.7 million Advanced Placement exams in 22 subject areas. Seeing as how these tests don't grade themselves, each subsequent June, nearly 11,000 college professors and high school teachers meet in one of 5 cities across the nation to hand-grade nearly 10 million free-response questions (apparently, there are machines that can handle the multiple choice portion.)

As the name implies, I will be one of about 500 high school calculus teachers reading the exams this summer, but what the name does NOT imply, I will be carefully evaluating each student's work, anonymously, and assigning them up to 9 points of credit per problem. Reading sounds much too passive for what we actually do. In fact, before we are allowed to score a problem, we are trained in HOW to grade it: what to look for, different ways to justify a portion, exceptions, etc. Although they try to cover many "what ifs," they are relying on (and paying us for) our professional judgment. The work is tedious and repetitive, but it is also stimulating and enjoyable. I'm guessing that type of admission officially classifies me as some sort of geek, but a well-paid geek.

You can imagine a large convention center in a major US city filled with these such geeks, coming together to be geeky, and believe me, there are plenty of interesting people that show up. For example, check out the dorky guy in the top photo in the white shirt in the back row!! There is always an interesting array of patchy facial hair, mad scientist hair, and no hair at all. Wardrobes range from full suits, to too short shorts revealing skinny, pale white legs with dark dress socks stuck into white tennis shoes (I saw that on more than one occasion.) The many different facial expressions on the attendees reveal the diversity and extremes of the personalities that attend, from quiet, reserved, socially inept to can't stop smiling and talking about math to anyone that will listen.

Whether because of natural affinity or pure happenstance, last year I was able to meet a small group of guys in the same classification of "normal" as I was in, guys with similar personalities, values, interests, and family situations. Spending the mornings and evenings in the company of these great professionals made the entire week worth while. Whether we we taking early morning runs along the Ohio River, playing late afternoon tennis, or just sitting in a bar watching baseball or basketball, the company always broke the monotony of the 7-day grueling work week.

So this summer, I'll do it all over again. Hopefully I'll meet up with the same guys, meet new people, and avoid paper cuts handling the thousands of tests that will pass through my hand. Kansas City better get ready for the math invasion, 'cause we're coming, and we're making a fashion statemtent.

1 comment:

laurenc said...

I'm still waiting.....

Congratulations on being a first round pick!