Visual Journal Page 69: I Wish They Knew

Visual-Journal-Page-69-I-Wish-They-Knew Teaching AP Art was both the most difficult and rewarding class I ever taught.

After attending the week long AP certification seminar at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), I felt like I pro. I went into the year with a solid list of assignments and battle plan to encourage my students to produce amazing, college worthy artwork. I felt confident, I knew every one of my students would submit and receive high scores on their portfolios. I knew all of this before day one even began.

What I didn’t know going into the year was how difficult motivating my students would be. 24 complete works of art in a 9 month period is a lot to ask. After doing my own calculations I realized my students had to create a new work of art every week and a half in order to meet the 24 piece requirement in May. Their acceleration began to slow as we moved into Christmas break. By the time we hit the middle of second semester the majority of them were burnt out, feeling a sense of defeat, and were beginning to enter the dangerous zone of “I just don’t care anymore”.

What I didn’t realize going into the year was the cost each of my students had to face. The $80.00 portfolio fee was a deterrent and excuse for many of my AP students to not even submit at the end of the year. Of the 16 students in the class, only 10 submitted that first year.

What I didn’t realize going into the year was the incredible amount of stress I was going to put on myself. Every day when a project remained incomplete, pushed to the side, or even trashed due to frustration, I took it on myself. Slowly each unfinished work of art piled on my shoulders, and began weighing me down. My weighted shoulders followed me home at night, to bed as I tried to sleep, and back to school the next day, resulting in a short temper and an obvious show of frustration with my students.

Before I knew it the submission deadline was a week away and my solid plan at the beginning of the year had long been abandoned. The close relationships I had with me Ap babies suddenly felt strained, as I hounded them day in and day out to bring in finished artwork. I questioned whether or not any of my 10 would have a complete portfolio at the end of the week.

As the big day approached my students kicked it into high gear. Out of nowhere beautiful drawings, paintings, and photographs began appearing. Slowly, but surely, spaces began to fill up on the submission website. I continuously checked their portfolios, to make sure I wasn’t dreaming, 10 complete portfolios were about to be sent off.

I was beat down and exhausted by the end of the year. I nervously hit the submit button for each portfolio, and wondered their fate. I thought back to the beginning of the year, when we were all full of excitement and motivation. I couldn’t believe how difficult it was, but I was incredibly proud of my the few that followed their commitment to the end.

2 months I waited to hear news of their portfolio fate. I already place my own numbers on each one, and assumed I would be in the ballpark. When the big day came, I could barely contain myself, I geared up to pat myself on the back when the high scores came in. I opened the website, logged in, and there they were. Stacked in a nice column, name on the left, score on the right.

I was shocked. Everyone scored at least a full point lower than I anticipated, with two of my students receiving scores of 2s. I felt like a failure. I felt I didn’t work hard enough to help them get the scores they deserved. At the pit of my stomach I felt a little sick, knowing each one of them would be visiting the site soon, to discover what their work meant to the AP board.

Although the year was difficult, although I had my ups and downs with each student, they had all come a long way. The AP board can judge the artwork as subjectively as possible, however they can’t judge each submitters journey. So many of my kiddos came leaps and bounds from where they were in the beginning.

Moments of slacking off and not meeting deadlines occurred, but in the end they all pulled through. In the end they all put in the time needed to complete their portfolios. My students didn’t come from a magnet art school with an endless budget, they came from a school with few art supplies and where an $80.oo submission fee was enough to cut out almost half of my class. I felt my students came a lot further in the course of the year than any AP reader could grade on. If only they knew how hard they worked and how far they came.


  • Visual journal
  • Rubber cement
  • scissors
  • Magazine page
  • Sharpie
  • Book pages


Going into this visual journal page I knew I wanted it to be clean, yet bold. I had recently discovered a magazine spread in a SCAD catalogue, which had numerous pictures of young looking students. I was able to find 10 which reminded me of my own students, and cut them out to represent our AP submission group.

After cutting out the images I glued them down along the bottom edge of the page. After stepping away and taking a look at the in progress page, I decided it didn’t look right. I didn’t like seeing their faces, after all they are anonymous as the portfolios are graded. I took a sharpie and crossed a bold line across their eyes. It seemed to fit.

Next I glued down book pages along the top of the page, to create a space to write words. I used a sharpie to add the words, and my visual journal page was complete.


Create a page about a time when you felt you fell short or failed. Relive the moment as you create the page, then let it go.

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