History teachers are psyched out

Social+Studies+teacher+Michael+Mikulec+instructs+his+new+Psychology+class.+Having+never+taught+psychology+before%2C+the+course+and+curriculum+is+new+terrain+for+Mikulec.

Social Studies teacher Michael Mikulec instructs his new Psychology class. Having never taught psychology before, the course and curriculum is new terrain for Mikulec.

 

For fourteen years, social studies teacher Michael Mikulec has been eating, sleeping, and breathing AP European History. His lectures are memorized, each class getting the exact same information; how Marie Antoinette never actually said ‘let them eat cake!’ and how Rasputin survived multiple assassination attempts. Every writing assignment he gives is carefully read and receives handwritten feedback. His website is always up-to-date.  

But this year that’s all changed. Due to budget cuts from the district, he’s had to pick up two AP Psychology classes, something he’s never taught before. Alongside him is social studies teacher Tom Paloumpis, who hasn’t taught a psychology course in twenty-four years. 

Psychology is a course that is considered to be a part of the social studies department and one of the many courses that teachers within the department are certified to teach. This certification is why social studies teachers were chosen. 

While Mikulec navigates the entirely new course, Paloumpis is finding himself having to refresh and re-study the material since it’s been so long since he’s taught the course. Both have found just reading the textbook has been helpful in teaching themselves, as well as getting advice from current and former teachers of the course. Mikulec has even had upperclassmen who have previously taken the course assist him.  

Although both courses are different, Paloumpis has found that, in a way, teaching both courses are similar as they both follow patterns. “You go from Sigmund Freud to B. F. Skinner and then to the newer people in psychology and in history you might go from dictators to democratic leaders,” he said. 

Already dealing with the extensive coursework of their history classes, the addition of this new course has made balancing the two classes difficult. Before taking on the psychology classes, each teacher had one JA a day, an hour and a half where they could grade papers and assist students, but now it’s been replaced and cut down. Mikulec admits keeping up with both courses has been challenging. “I’ve been waking up at about four-thirty to try and grade essays. I’m known for getting things back quickly, but I haven’t been able to this year because I don’t have the time,” he said. To help him keep up, he’s had to cut down on the amount of essays he normally has his students do. For Paloumpis though, he’s found the workload to be manageable, even if his sleeping schedule has taken a hit, saying that “if I expect [my students] to work hard, I have to work hard too.” 

Despite the initial nerves and learning curve, the two teachers believe that their students will be successful and that teaching the course will get easier. However, Paloumpis feels that the students have been cheated, criticizing the intentions of the district. “They lost a really good psychology teacher,” he said. “They wouldn’t let [the school] replace her, which is really an insult to education quality.”