AP Chemistry taught me to value the growth mindset

Although I didn’t receive the grade I wanted, my experience with a challenging class was still beneficial

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Nora Lucas, JagWire editor-in-chief

As I finish up the semester, I am letting out a huge sigh of relief. AP Chemistry, which has been the source of both excitement and stress for the past 9 months, is finally over. I can definitively say that it was the hardest class I’ve ever taken, not necessarily because of the content, but because of the strain it put on me to learn faster, study harder and retain more than I have ever experienced in my high school career. Even though I’m ending the semester on a lower score than I anticipated, I’ve surprised myself by actually recognizing that I’ve grown as a student since August. To me, this made the class worthwhile.

Arriving in AP Chem, I felt more than confident this was going to be my favorite class. I wanted my grades to be perfect so I could study chemistry in college and work in labs all day as a career. And that was a pretty attainable goal. I had breezed by in Pre-AP Chemistry, getting perfect scores on every single test, and the summer assignment didn’t even force me to break a sweat. As the year went on, however, things just got more and more difficult. Like most AP classes, there is simply too much content to cover in such a short amount of time. I felt overwhelmed, and mostly scared, because there just seemed to be no other option than to take the grade I was given. No matter how many times I went to go see science teacher Mary Beth Mattingly, she couldn’t make me understand chemistry.

Frankly, I still don’t understand chemistry. I understand the various concepts, and the math, and how some things fit together, but I haven’t had the “click” yet. I haven’t had the big realization everyone’s been telling me about. Maybe it’s because I didn’t study enough or I didn’t watch enough Khan Academy videos, but mostly I think it’s because my own understanding just isn’t there yet. And for a high school junior, that’s OK. I’m starting to view learning chemistry as a lifelong process instead of just a way to sign off on some arbitrary credit.

Just because I didn’t receive outstanding chemistry grades this year in no way means I never will, and that’s the idea that keeps me going. This idea that I can get better at it and improve upon myself is the true reward I’ve gotten out of AP Chem. In high school there’s this idea that learning a subject is done once you leave high school or college. Though some might be disappointed, that’s just not true. Having a philosophy of improving yourself throughout life and at your own pace is called the growth mindset, and until this year, I had no experience with it.

Through taking AP Chem, I’ve had some rough nights where I’ve just cried at the kitchen counter because I couldn’t remember all the intermolecular forces, but I’ve also had the days in class where I’m asking all the right questions. I’ve had the labs with my friends where we mess up a titration so bad, we just have to laugh about it and start over. In the end, I may not have gotten an A, but AP Chem has still been my favorite class.

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