Reflections on My Junior Year Classes Part 2

Physics C with Mr. Holland - This class is normally following a presentation and then Mr. Holland showing us some derivations of formulas. I think that Mr. Holland gives a decent amount of leeway (i.e. free blocks), especially considering the amount of content he covers. I think that a working intuitive understanding of calculus is definitely needed as the class relies on infinitesimals quite a bit. We started the beginning of the year with a calculus review, so don't worry if you forgot anything over the summer. Some lectures are pretty cool because of the experiments he shows us. Electricity and magnetism is especially cool. I think that Mr. Holland wants to teach people the heuristics to actually arrive at the problem, and people do pay attention to try and learn, but I think that Physics C is somewhat of an amalgamation of a bunch of different concepts with differing notations, which leads to problem-solving being very unintuitive. The concepts aren't just physics concepts, but they are also mathematical concepts. For instance, there are ideas from linear algebra like dot/cross products (hence the right hand rule) and ideas from multivariable calculus like Stoke's Theorem that are simply hidden behind tricks to do them. For instance, even after having learned Physics C and laws like Gauss', the Wikipedia article for them are near incomprehensible. This isn't really the case for subjects like calculus. This makes a complete conceptual understanding very difficult when the teacher is basically hiding content because it is out of the scope of the class. I would say the Collegeboard's approach to this class was to get a bunch of distinct physics concepts, mix in some math, and then make problems require problem-solving skill. Thus the questions require knowing all the content, selecting the best method/approach, and then trying to figure out how to use it. This IMO makes it the hardest AP class as we require both learning a bunch of content that is conceptually incomplete and requires problem-solving skills. Not only that, but there are some many concepts to know that identifying an approach is somewhat arduous. This would explain the shorter than BC, but longer than APUSH mcq section. In terms of grading, Mr. Holland is very, very, very generous with grading. His tests are frequently curved so that 70+ are 100s. My advice for this class is to try and self-study it by using the textbook as well. I know someone who does this, and they seem to have a pretty good conceptual understanding of it, and I've looked at some of the textbook and it seems quite comprehensive.

Psyc with Mr. Amundsen - This class was very, very chill. Almost every day was the same: take the reading quiz, get a lecture on the last reading, free time. The days that deviated from this were for assignments/tests; the assignments were to read a passage that explored more thoroughly an important psychological study than the textbook covered. Mr. A was also a very chill guy and expressed views common to a lot of the younger generation (like hating his job, wanting to relax, etc.). This is kind of surprizing considering he is near retirement. In terms of grading, the class is extremely easy to get a 100 in. The biggest grade weight in the class (although not by much) are the reading quizzes. These are pretty easy as many are straight forward from the book, all the quizzes are open-note and score up to a 120%, and there are just a lot of them. The tests are curved nicely, with around 10-15 points linear curve. He also does flashcards as a test grade that are very straightforward as vocab. In terms of CB philosophy, I think they literally just make this a vocab test. I know a lot of people say this about biology, but biology requires knowing vocab and an understanding how biologists would actually do science, which makes the frqs quite challenging. Both the frqs and mcqs for psychology are literally just asking about whether you know or not the content. Thus I believe this is one of the most meritocratic classes, albeit boring. My advice would be to just take notes and do the reading everyday. I would also have fidelity to Mr. A as he has an understanding of psychology - and thus knows how best to teach it - and has a lot experience teaching it.

Calc BC with Mrs. Lim - This class was pretty typical. We had a lot of content to cover, so everyday was basically the same with lecturing the entire period. It isn't just lecturing though, she has us do problems alongside the notes. However, since I did AB last year, most of the year was just review of AB and was just me doing homework or something else. At the beginning of the year, we consistently had homework to do as well, but this eventually just faded away. The homework was pretty easy as we have 2 attempts and it was completion anyways (although that might just be for my current year). Mrs. Lim is also a very relatable teacher: she hates her job, wants a lot of money, cynical about life, and is kinda high-energy. She also is pretty funny, although sometimes she really wants to go faster to cover content and so will roast kids that ask delaying questions. But she does try to teach people the rationale behind things, implore kids to problem-solve, and adds context to the lectures. So I'd say she's a mixed bag of a teacher. I think she could try to more ruthless in terms of speed but then kinder and more frequent in answering questions and teaching heuristics. In terms of grades, Mrs. Lim might be the most stringent of all my teachers this year. For instance, she consistently wishes for no need for a curve on tests. She also has quizzes that are only a few questions but heavily dependent on not making silly mistakes like notation. Although, she is pretty lax on others things like homework and is somewhat consistent at dropping grades. In terms of the philosophy, I think that CB really jammed a bunch of content into this class. This class is probably the most like an average math class: little problem-solving skill needed and a lot of content to cover. I think that the biggest skill needed for this class is the ability to learn quickly, so I think this is one of the more meritocratic classes. My advice would be to just put in the work, put in the hours, and learn quickly.

APUSH with Mr. Harper - This class was also pretty typical. Most of the class we had a lecture with little participation needed. I think most of the class just worked on other stuff or played games. The lectures felt pretty unconnected to everything else we did like reading quizes and the AP mcqs that were on our test. Almost every week we would have a reading quiz, and then a chapter to read for next week. The reading quizzes were mcqs or saqs. The quizzes were open-note. The mcq ones had a group aspect to it: after the quiz while he was grading we would work with our table to try and get a group consensus on the answers, and for every correct group answer we would get an extra point. So it was possible to get a 110 on quizzes. This was not the case for SAQs. I think he drops a reading quiz every marking period, which is nice. We also had study guides, which were basically some vocab and questions of the chapter. I think that Mr. Harper is a pretty empathetic teacher, but the kindness is more for individual cases than as a class. My advice for him would be to accept the job as a university professor. UT Austin has offered him a professor position a couple of times now, but he has rejected it. I don't remember why he did, but I think that lecturing indepth about a certain topic, individual attention, and expressed dislike of the regulations imposed by high school teaching would make him teaching college a better fit. In terms of grading, we have a decent leeway as he drops a reading quiz, have a free summative (the study guides), a square root curve on tests, and a curve structure that supports low scorers. In terms of CB design philosophy, I think that this class really wants to teach us historical thinking skills. The short timing on mcqs (1 minute per) suggests that they aren't trying to test our recall or problem-solving ability, rather they are testing our intuition of history. This is really emphasized with the FRQ and SAQ prompt wording (compare and contrast, causation, explain, etc.). My advice would be to practice a lot. Unfortunately, not a lot of mcq problems are released. I would also recommend Onramps (although I didn't take it due to schedule conflict). Onramps gives 2 semesters of credit and I think is easier than APUSH. Another option is to take it at ACC over the summer, or to enroll in ACC cohorts and do USH over one semester. I would recommend the former as it saves a lot of time and gives you options (cohorts locks in aspects of your schedule).

Overall, I feel like my junior year teachers were much more generous with extra credit than past year teachers, more cynical, chill, and more susceptible to mob-influence (trying to please the students). This results in a lighter atmosphere and more empathy. If you've got a question about a class, feel free to leave it in my guestbook (do note that if you do ask a question, I will probably publish it, unless you ask not to).

You'll only receive email when they publish something new.

More from Vincent Tran
All posts