AP test takers don’t deserve the walk of shame

Five flashing windows popped up on my desktop each telling the news. Check your HW e-mail, they all said. As I frantically logged on, dropping the Princeton Review book from my lap, I read the e-mail which briefly detailed the surreal events that had occurred that Monday evening. APs would be postponed as a result. That was at 10:07 p.m. Within minutes, AP Chemistry students were firing out e-mails to Head of School Jeanne Huybrechts and AP Chemistry teacher Chris Dartt.

In some ways, the day’s events were like a chemistry problem: our school’s equilibrium had been violently shifted and we all desperately just wanted to alleviate the pressure to allow equilibrium to be restored.

News spread through the AP Chemistry grapevine that Dartt would be arriving at school early in the morning to gain some more knowledge of the day’s events. I was unaware of the fact that students were seeking to take their exams that Tuesday. I closed the e-mail from Huybrechts and set aside my notebook. It had all become a blur at 10:30 p.m. 

Within minutes of arriving at school, all the AP Chem students were in frenzy. As one of the last students to find out about the optional AP, I walked into the assembly nearly certain that I wouldn’t take my exam; it was a time for togetherness and unity, not for aiming to get into college.

Flashback to the week before, during our class’ AP Chem review, when Mr. Marsden read us the free response questions from the makeup exam. I have never been so frightened of benzoic acid. Did I want to risk taking an exam that had the potential to be that much harder?

When the students quieted, Huybrechts announced that those who wanted to take their exams should leave rather than stay at the assembly. I panicked. Slowly, a mass of mostly AP Chemistry students walked out of the gym amidst stares and whispers. As I slowly got up with two other stragglers, I could feel the disapproving eyes barreling into my back.

Why did I walk out? Why did I and the other AP Chem students barricade ourselves in Hamilton Gymnasium so selfishly and rudely? Frankly, after cramming two years worth of chemistry into your brain in preparation for the final showdown between you and the periodic table of elements, you feel so prepared and cannot think about anything else. An extra week would allow the stored material to diffuse.

Looking back, I would not have been able to buckle down and study for the make- up exam. Nevertheless, we should not have been forced to get up in front of the entire school. Whether it was intentional or not, it made me feel ashamed, as if by deciding to take my AP I was saying that I didn’t care about my school community. Why not post signs all over school informing students that they had the option to take their AP exams? Though nobody intended to embarrass those students, it was inevitable. It was not fair for us to have to feel ashamed for fulfilling our academic duty. 

To those people who complained and rallied against the students who took their exams, I can only attribute such unpleasant comments to a lack of understanding of the AP Chemistry course. After spending an entire year breathing and living chemistry and labs, you want to be done. The relief when the exam proctor announced that time was up was unmatchable.

In this case, there is no hard right or easy wrong; the split second decision that I was forced to make was the right one for me, and I resent the subsequent shame I felt from being accused of not caring about my school.