Oracle talks to Ms. Gabriel about AP psychology

Lexi Greenberg

AP Psychology, the newest class being taught at MVHS next year, has been one of the most popular electives requested so far. Ms. Gabriel, the new AP Psych teacher (she also currently teaches USHAP and regular US History for juniors) sat down with Oracle to answer some questions we had.

Oracle: How are you qualified to teach psychology over another teacher who might’ve wanted to?

Gabriel: Having a social studies credential, you’re automatically qualified to teach psychology, but no one besides me has expressed interest in teaching it before. They probably know how excited I am, so they don’t want to step on any toes. I know Blair wants to teach it, but he’d need a social studies credential…which is weird, because he has his Bachelors in psychology. But in my perfect world, if there were enough sections, it’d be ideal to teach with Blair. He’s super creative, and we work really well together.

O: Mr. Blair does things like community builders in his class to solidify the environment between students. Would this be incorporated into AP Psych? What would the balance between warm fuzzies and intellectual be?

G: It would be kind of a combination of community builders and work. I envision a lot of hands-on work and simulations that help us understand concepts like aggression better. And if you don’t build community, it won’t be a rich class, because you need to have kind of a love for each other in order to go deeper.

O: Why was Mountain View teaching psychology originally and then cancel it? What is the story behind this?

E: Way back when, we used to give sophomores the option of MEHAP, or a semester class like psychology, gender studies, Latin American studies, and Facing History in Ourselves. Some of those faded when we started offering sophomore CWI, because we just didn’t have the funding to keep supporting all the electives.

O: What about the popularity factor? Was budget behind the cut?

E: There were 160 students that signed up for Psychology the year it was cut, but to fund it, we would’ve had to sacrifice other departments and other classes. The last time we had psych was the 2008-2009 school year, which was right before the recession, which was one of the reasons for the cut.

O: There have always been students more motivated than others to seek out the class—weekly meetings to take the AP test, etc. Why do you think this is?

E: A student I had who wanted to major in psych started the after school program to try and pass the AP test, but in the 2 years I did it there was about 6 kids each year who took and passed the test. The reason that that stopped was because I had a baby, so I left it out Fall semester 2011 because it would’ve been too difficult for the students to prepare themselves for the entire second semester when I was gone. Plus, and at the end of the day it gets tiring! We used to meet late, after 7th!

O: How will balancing Keaton [Ms. Gabriel’s 15-month-old daughter] and teaching this new class affect you?

E: I’m pretty good at time management, so I don’t think my home life will get in the way. I think if I do a lot of work this summer, it should be fine. And when you’re really excited about something, it just makes it so much easier to work on, too.

O: If this class didn’t have the AP suffix, would there be as many people taking it do you think?

E: I think without the AP suffix, there wouldn’t be as many signups, but still a lot of interest. There needs to be that balance, because it seems that every MV student is so busy with school and outside stuff, so I think there’d be people without the AP credit who would be a little deterred from taking it in school.

O: Will you try to “weed out” the kids who don’t seem as interested or motivated in the class at the beginning?

E: In my 4 years of teaching AP classes, the unmotivated students really kind of weed themselves out at the beginning, like It’s not what I thought it’d be, and stuff, but I would never actually try to weed kids out, that’s just way too mean!

O: Seniors have priority when choosing this class, and over 150 of us want it for next year. What are the advantages/disadvantages to a class made exclusively up of seniors?

E: In some ways I’m thrilled to be teaching a class of all seniors. I will expect mature, controversial conversations at a higher level—they’re about to head off into the real world. I’m nervous about senioritis, of course, I’m not sure what I’m in for! But I’m teaching all juniors this year, so I feel like the junior class and I have this relationship already, which is awesome, and there’s already that expectation.