A Reflection on Taking AP US and AP European History during my Junior Year by Sam Thompson

I was told that I was crazy for trying to take both AP US History and AP European History in the same year, if not for the reading load then for willingly spending over seven hours a week in Carson’s classroom. Well, you know how that goes, tell a stubborn teenager she can’t do something and it goes to the top of the “To Do” list. I had to fight parents and endure lectures on why this wasn’t in my best interest, all of which simply convinced me this was the best course of action. In the end, even though they had their hearts in the right place, all the drama was pointless, because, to be honest, it wasn’t that hard. Fear washed over me as I sat in that very first B3 class waiting for everyone to arrive. I had no doubt that I was awaiting the chopping block and spent my first Euro class in state of numb fright. Looking back, I have only a vague idea of what was so paralyzing, something to do with insecurity and inadequacy. People telling me that they had expected me to jump in and dominate the conversation only made it worse; expectation dumped itself on the general junior year freak out. What no one knew was this was the reason I sat in Euro class that year, not waiting until the traditional senior year to take it with my friends. I saw comfort as the enemy, for that’s what I had in every other class. That sort of placating feeling of having a niche in your classes, knowing exactly where you stand all day every day, does nothing but weaken you.

I needed to put myself in a place that tested who I was and what I could do up against some of the most intimidating people in the school. By the end of the year, no, I wasn’t completely secure there, but I was a lot more confident for the journey. Moreover, the class was just plain fun. It was a sort of safe haven against the day to day you can get caught up in going to a small school and seeing the same faces in nearly all your classes. The reading was more sophisticated than APUSH, but it wasn’t heavy and I never felt overwhelmed because of it. The only times I ever had to stay up late or push myself were exam weeks; even papers, which ended up being few and far between, didn’t put much of a strain on me. APUSH couldn’t have been more different from Euro from the very beginning. Everything from the environment to the way I approached it came from an entirely different place. I’ve been given a lot of flack over the last year for reading Pageant over the summer, but here’s how it really happened. I was looking through the book in the beginning of summer and thought why not see how chapter one is.

After that I let myself be driven by this voice in the back of my head telling me WHAP was a fluke and I would get steamrolled junior year. Compound that with a bored sixteen year old who refused to get a job and you have the equation for reading Pageant over the summer. Overall, APUSH was just an easier class. Carson will try and tell you that it has more pages of reading blah blah blah…but ignore that, the font is huge, there are many large pictures, and the writing is for fourth graders. But the principal difference in the two courses are the tests, APUSH’s were just ridiculous. So maybe I should have paid more attention, studied for tests, and generally just taken the course more seriously, but it’s hard to force yourself to do it when you know the curve is so generous. Aside from the courses Carson made it ok to come to history everyday. Granted, he tells the same lame jokes repeatedly (ask anyone who has had him and they can list the about four jokes he tells all the time), can be oblivious, and a tad dull some days when you aren’t in the learning mode, but he’s a step up from a lot of teachers. He’s always there, willing to help, and will put up with a lot of crap. There are reasons that I regret taking both classes last year, but they don’t come close to outweighing everything I learned because of it. I met new people, got new perspectives, and occasionally even challenged myself. I could have done without the eight or so hours of AP testing that day, but even that wasn’t as bad as expected (sugar and adrenalin can do wonders when compounded). I wanted to know if I could do it and found out you can’t listen to advice from people who don’t know what they are talking about. It obviously isn’t the path for most, but for me, it was the only way that made sense.

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2 thoughts on “A Reflection on Taking AP US and AP European History during my Junior Year by Sam Thompson

  1. I teach both classes in Memphis and I can attest to one simple fact: though taking both classes in the same year is difficult, every student who has done so, as done well on both tests. Including a couple of “double 5s” lately.

  2. I’m actually doing this next year in my junior year, and literally everyone is begging me not to. But as the most enlightened people say, yolo.

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