I start the year with show and tell. Every student brings something meaningful to share with their team first, then votes on which one from their group to show the whole class. I inherited my grandfather's vast rock collection, so I pass around Apache Tears (obsidian) and describe how this rock is formed through fire and intense heat, like what they might experience during the course of the year. Then when we find it, covered in a crusty shell of white, it doesn't seem very remarkable. It takes some time to knock off all the rough edges and polish out into something beautiful and extraordinary. They all catch on to the analogy. After the AP test, we all get in a circle and I give everyone a polished piece of obsidian and ask them to remember how much they have grown this year and tell them I'm proud of them. When students come back to visit, they often pull the stone from their pocket or refer to it's prominent display in their home.
In a class like this one, close relationships are certainly built by going through hard times together. The common experience of defeat and triumph, of love and loathing, of laughter and tears, creates a community of #apchem survivors who know that they can overcome tremendous obstacles and persevere.