The Way We Were

I am teaching AP Chemistry again in the fall.  This is now the third school I will have taught AP at.  I didn’t need a summer assignment at the last school because of the extra time we had during the year.  But, due to block scheduling, I am short about 80 minutes per week so we need a summer assignment again.  As I was going through my computer files (something I haven’t looked at in 2 years), I came across the cover letter I sent to the students from 2005.  Per a request from Cheryl Morris and Brad Campbell, I have been asked to post both the old and the new letters.  I can’t believe I am about to do this, but here they are:

14 June 2005

Dear AP Chemistry Student:

Let me begin by telling you a little about the Advanced Placement Chemistry program.  The intent of the AP Chemistry program is to simulate a first-year college chemistry course by giving you a rigorous course of study which includes a heavy workload and exposure to college-level lab work.  You must have received at least an 83 in Chem I to enroll so I know all of you have the ability to do well.  You will need excellent time management skills as you will have at least 1 homework assignment each week, a lab report approximately every week and a test about every other week on top of your other course work.  Hopefully I have scared you a little.  AP is nothing like Chem I.  I am here to challenge you and, maybe, we’ll enjoy ourselves at the same time.  

Now down to business.  Enclosed you will find 4 Chapter packets.  You will receive a packet like this at the beginning of each chapter.  Sometimes the book is difficult to understand so I have broken down all the information for you and put it in these packets.  At the end of each packet is a list of Exercises.  Your assignment for the summer is to complete all the exercises.  All work is due on August 1st so this means you must bring it into or mail it to the school.  It must be RECEIVED by this date not post-marked.  All work must be included in order to receive credit for the assignment.  You will see there are no Exercises in Writing Chemical Reactions because this is not an actual chapter from the book.  It is something extra I am adding because writing reactions is a very, very large part of the class so you will need to know how to identify the different types and predict products.  In the remaining packets I give, you will not need to complete the exercises because I will be assigning other homework.  Those exercises can be used as extra problem sets to aide you in studying.  Also, these packets are not meant to be your sole source of information for a chapter.  Use the book and the packets to guide you.  You will need to pick up a book when you get this letter.  This will be your book for the remainder of the year so make sure it is covered and you take care of it.  The information that you are reviewing this summer in these packets will not have a test devoted to it.  This information will be included in the Atomic Theory Test and is also vital to every topic we encounter throughout the course so make sure you learn it.

Many of you are probably asking what types of notebooks or binders you need for the class.  I require the following materials:
1 three-ring binder with dividers for the different chapters
1 notebook for taking notes devoted solely to AP Chemistry
Writing utensils
1 lab notebook (spiral bound)
I will discuss the lab notebook in more detail on the first day of class because I am still trying to find the best one.  The reason I am requiring these materials is you need to learn organization for this class and I am going to teach it to you.  There will be unannounced binder checks throughout the year and I will discuss how I want it organized when we first meet.  

June 27 2013

Dear Brave Souls,
             First, welcome to the adventure that will be Advanced Placement Chemistry!! 
Second, the purpose of this course is to simulate a first-year college chemistry class in content and lab skills.  Obviously, there are not 650 people packed into a lecture hall so it won’t be exactly the same experience, but you get the idea.  This course is intended for those wishing to pursue science and engineering in college or who just have an out-right love of everything chemistry (yes, there are people like that!!).  This is not an exposure to the chemistry in the world around you class like your previous chem class was intended to be.  We will cover everything in the first year course as well as explore them more in depth with a few new topics thrown in.  Third, to answer your question, yes this course is challenging.  Notice I didn’t say hard.  Hard is relative; what comes easy to one may not to another.  However, even the best test takers will be challenged by the workload and level of understanding required to truly grasp some of the topics we will discuss.  This is not intended to scare you!  My policy is to be honest and upfront with my students so I want you to know what you are getting yourself into.  I will be there to support you the entire time, but more importantly reach out to your classmates for help.  Develop study groups, a facebook page, anything that will make sure that everyone succeeds.  The hardest part of this course for most students is being willing to say they need help.
Finally, I wanted to tell you a little about my background.  This will be my 9th year teaching AP Chemistry and have taught it at a Magnet school (on block scheduling) as well as at a school similar to South (on traditional 45 minute periods).  Except for my first year teaching it (which was also my first year teaching ever), I have had  AT LEAST 60% of my students earn a 3, 4 or 5 with seven of those nine years having +80% earn a passing score.  There are 5s every year and a 1 every year but my third.  Your group will be the smallest group I have taught and my largest was 67 (spread over 4 sections).  Trust me when I say I know what I am doing.  With that being said, The College Board is completely revamping the curriculum and exam for AP Chemistry for 2013-2014.  I will be attending a week-long conference to learn how to teach to the new exam and test.  I have also developed a partnership with a teacher in Texas who is both an exam grader AND question writer so I am hoping to get a lot of helpful tips/tricks from her.
Some of you may be worried about your level of preparation because you came from a different teacher.  Stop worrying!! Everyone is welcomed in my class regardless of who taught them and what grade they earned.  All of you are here because you want to be here and I love that.  On the next page, you will find the summer assignment with all of the instruction necessary.  If you need to get in touch with me over the summer, email me at  or call/text.  I don’t check my school email often during July/August so you won’t get a timely reply there.  The others I just mentioned push to my phone so I will respond quickly.

Have a great summer and I am very much looking forward to September!!

My how times have changed.

1 thought on “The Way We Were

  1. Cheryl

    Really glad you posted both. We should put a call out on Twitter to other flipclass teachers to post similar. I know my syllabus/letter to new classes from years 1-3 make me cringe a little bit.

    The biggest difference is that the first letter sounds like you want them to be scared and isolated. The second letter is about collaboration and support.

    I think it should be obvious which letter I like better.



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