Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Be Teachable

Last week marked the arrival of all of our first year law students for a week of orientation. There were fun activities, a series of welcomes, some serious academic activities, and a lot of new information to absorb. Our Academic Success Program is involved in various aspects of orientation but I also like to hear what some of my colleagues have to say to the students. One statement by our Associate Dean of Student Engagement caught my attention.  He said to the 1Ls: “Make sure that you are teachable” and then he went on to make his various remarks.  This is great advice that encourages students to be open to the information that is presented and open to learning. Ego often gets in the way of being teachable and so does competition. We do not always recognize our resistance to learning and sometimes that resistance is detrimental. Merriam-Webster defines “teachable” as “able and willing to learn, capable of being taught.”  We should all be willing to learn and in turn be capable of being taught.

I think that being teachable should be paired with being open to constructive criticism and getting comfortable with being vulnerable. Law students typically receive very limited feedback and one exam at the end of the semester determines their performance in individual courses. A legal writing course is usually the course in which students receive more regular feedback because they have regular assignments with hard deadlines. I encourage students to take the feedback that they receive, determine what changes they need to make, and make those changes.  I encourage them not to take constructive criticism as an affront on their intelligence or ability to be a successful law student.  They should look at criticism as an opportunity to learn, develop a skill, and become a better student and lawyer. I know that it is easier said than done.  Even for individuals who are accustom to managing criticism, receiving criticism in law school can be a challenge at first.  It might be helpful for students to put themselves in situations where they have to manage scrutiny or constructive criticism regularly.  Maybe develop public speaking skills, audition for a play, write and have their writing critiqued, or engage in any activity they feel uncomfortable engaging in but that includes an element of critique.  Participating in any of these activities might put students under enough scrutiny and encourage them to determine how to best manage extensive critique.  The added benefit is that hopefully these experiences empower students to seek out feedback and be more receptive of constructive criticism as a law student. (Goldie Pritchard)

August 31, 2016 in Advice, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Registration Deadline Extended to September 6th for Texas A&M Writing Scholars Colloquium

Although named the “Texas Academic Support and Legal Writing Scholars Colloquium," this gathering is open to legal writing and academic support faculty/instructors from anywhere to present works-in-progress across all disciplines within the law, doctrinal or pedagogical.  Academic Support and Legal Writing faculty have complicated time commitments in our jobs, so we would like to create a forum to discuss our scholarship in light of our responsibilities that are somewhat different from other faculty members.  The works presented can be in the very early stages to elicit comments for fully developing the project, to more complete articles for honing before publication.  You can also participate without presenting if you like, to discuss your ideas informally with like-minded colleagues during the breaks in the program.

Depending on the response, we will make every effort to create panels that share some common attributes. We would like to be able to distribute drafts, or even outlines of works in progress to the other members of the panel if possible. 

The colloquium will be all day on Friday, September 23, 2016 at the Texas A&M University School of Law in Fort Worth, TX.  There is no fee to participate, but registration is required so that we may plan our panels, plan for lunch and other logistic needs.  

To register for the colloquium, email DeShun Harris at dharris@tamu.edu by Tuesday, September 6, 2016. In the email, please include the title of your presentation topic (if you have one), your school name, previous publications/presentations, and your title.  Please also let us know of any food or other accommodations that we can make to enhance your visit.  Additionally, please note whether you will be attending the September 22, 2016 evening reception. Presenters are encouraged to submit a summary or draft paper two weeks prior to the colloquium (September 9) to ensure adequate time for review by panel members.

August 30, 2016 in Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0)

Director of Academic Support and Bar Passage at Washburn

WASHBURN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW invites applicants for the faculty position as Director of Academic Support and Bar Passage. The position may be tenured, tenure-track or non-tenure track, depending on the candidate’s qualifications and interest. The commencement date for the position is the 2017-18 academic year.   The Director will design a comprehensive academic support program for law students, supervise other academic support professionals, teach in the academic support program, and direct the provision of a full range of academic support services. The successful candidate will have taught in a student success program, will be experienced in developing or teaching in bar exam support programs, and will have the ability to report on assessments and outcomes.

The Washburn campus is located in the heart of Topeka, Kansas, blocks from the state capitol.  Recently, the Topeka and Shawnee County Library was named the 2016 Library of the Year, the highest honor for libraries in the U.S. and Canada.  Topeka has previously been named a Top Ten City in Kiplinger’s magazine.  Topeka features affordable housing and beautiful, historic neighborhoods filled with well-maintained parks.  It is also the home of the Brown v. Board of Education historical site.

Washburn Law School is committed to diversity in its faculty and encourages applicants whose backgrounds will enrich the law school. Candidates should possess a JD degree from an ABA accredited law school; a distinguished academic record; record of, or demonstrated potential for, scholarly production; and a strong commitment to academic support.

Review of applications will begin immediately and continue until the position is filled.  (All faculty appointments are contingent upon funding.)  Interested candidates should send a resume, listing three references, and a cover letter.  Contact: Professor Janet Thompson Jackson, Chair, Faculty Recruitment Committee, Washburn University School of Law, 1700 College Avenue, Topeka, Kansas, 66621.  E-mail: janet.jackson@washburn.edu.

August 30, 2016 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0)

More on Trigger Warnings

The discussion of trigger warnings has continued in recent issues of The Chronicle of Higher Education because of recent events at the University of Chicago. This past week The Chronicle published a guide to trigger warnings that summarizes what has been going on at colleges and universities on this issue. The link is here: A Brief Guide to the Battle Over Trigger Warnings.

August 30, 2016 in Miscellany, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 29, 2016

Study on Cold-Calling Undergraduates - Revisting the Law School Socratic Method

In The Chronicle of Higher Education, a recent article talked about a study that found cold-calling on undergraduate students increased the students' voluntary participation over the semester. The article referenced that like any other skill, students need practice - practice in the skill of class participation. The link to the article is here: Why Cold-Calling on Students Works. (Of course, the article also made a negative reference to the law school use of cold-calling and included a link to the well-known clip from Paperchase in which Kingsfield terrorizes Hart.) 

For a more positive look at law school Socratic Method, see my post here: Turning the Socratic Method into a Positive Experience. (Amy Jarmon)

August 29, 2016 in Stress & Anxiety, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 28, 2016

What About The GOLD MEDAL STUDENT?

As an ASP educator, it is very important for me to work with other entities in the law school building and across campus to fully address student needs. For students to operate at an optimal level, many of their non-academic concerns need to be addressed as well. I often collaborate with our Diversity Services Office and our Office of Student Engagement on these matters. Recently, I had a very rich conversation with my colleague Mary Ferguson, Esq., Director of our Diversity Services Office. She asked me:  “What about the gold medal student, what do we do for them?” I was not quite sure what to say and wondered if this was a specific reference to the Olympics that I completely missed or simply an analogy. 

Given the puzzled look on my face, she explained that the “gold medal student” is the student of color who has excelled academically, the star student in every sense of the word whose academic achievement provided easy access to law school. This individual likely participated in every pipeline and support program since they were a child. This student excelled academically with the support services made available to them as a first generation, low income, and/or member of an underrepresented group. Many of these programs identify students early and include tutoring, structured programming, academic advising, activities, and access to employment and experiential learning opportunities. The “gold medal student” was sought out by the various programs but once they get to law school, they encounter new challenges.

Because “gold medal students” were so academically successful, they are grouped with other successful students based on GPA and LSAT. They are not at academic risk so they are not a part of programs tailored to support students characterized as such.  They may also miss out on services and resources available to students of underrepresented groups or simply not avail themselves of these services. “Gold medal students” might only access services available to the student body as a whole, if at all.  These students might need the same guidance, support, and structure the academically at risk students benefit from but don’t receive it because they are not a part of that group. This distinction might impact the students’ ability to excel academically because had they participated in those programs, it may have propelled them to success.  These students might also have difficulty acclimating because they are often one of very few persons of color at their institution.  We often wonder why a “gold medal student” might underperform academically when compared to their peers with similar entry credentials and when all statistical indicators show that they should perform comparably.  The “gold medal student” becomes nothing more than an honorable mention.

This conversation really got me thinking. How do we identify or seek out this student? How do we provide them with the support they need which is different from what the general population needs?  As I thought more, I realized that I have worked with “gold medal students” but it was typically after they had a rough first semester or first year.  They were typically the students who would do what worked for them at their undergraduate institution and not make the adjustments for law school.  They were the students who needed more structure and needed more purposeful interactions which were readily available at their undergraduate institution but they now had to seek out in law school.  Once a good system is in place for these students, they are students who excel academically.  (Goldie Pritchard)

August 28, 2016 in Advice, Diversity Issues, Learning Styles | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Are you a new ASP or bar prep professional at your law school? Did you change law schools/positions?

At the beginning of each academic semester, we like to introduce ASP or bar professionals who are new to their law schools or who have changed locations?  We want to post an academic spotlight about you so that you are introduced to the community of readers if you are new and so readers know your news if you have moved to a different law school.

If you would like for us to post an academic spotlight about you (or a colleague at your school who is too shy to send us something), please send the following information to Amy Jarmon at amy.jarmon@ttu.edu.  I will be doing posts throughout September and early October.

Here is what I need from you for a spotlight post:

  1. A small jpeg photo.
  2. Your full name, title, and law school information.
  3. 100 - 200 words telling us about yourself: when you started your job, what you were doing before your position, your JD school, your legal practice experience/specialties, your interests professionally and personally.
  4. A link to your faculty/staff profile on your law school web pages if one exists.

We look forward to welcoming you to our terrific community of colleagues and updating folks on your career.  (Amy Jarmon)

August 27, 2016 in Academic Support Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 26, 2016

Would an Alex by Any Other Name Make A Difference?

There's a new article in the ABA Journal called "Should Students Call Law Professors By Their First Names?"  At the start of every school year, I wonder about this issue.

Generally, most people at the law school, from my colleagues to my students, call me "Alex."  When I first started working in ASP, that's what I thought I should be called.  I thought it made me more approachable and would make students more likely to accept or seek out my help.  Also, it's how I think of myself, and when I was in college, I thought it was really cool that one of my professors went by "Mr." when he could have been "Professor" or "Doctor."  To me, the gesture was egalitarian and punk rock, and it actually made me more receptive to what he had to say.  

However, from time to time, one of my colleagues says I shouldn't go by "Alex" and that I'm being too low key and casual.  As far as I know, my choice to be "Alex" hasn't led to destructive over-familiarity or lack of respect to myself or anyone else.  I could see how it might, but every time I think about being more formal, I get an image of Dr. Evil complaining that he "didn't spend six years in evil medical school to be called 'mister,' thank you," which kind of derails the entire thing.  

There's every possibility I'm wrong in the way I'm thinking about this name thing and whether "Alex" is more comfortable and effective than "Professor" or "Mister" of "Director."  Although I said they could, a lot of students don't use my first name, and I couldn't say I was necessarily comfortable with using first names as a student.  When I was graduating college, my favorite professor told me that I could call him "Kirk" now that I was a graduate.  I couldn't get used to it, so I joked around that I would call him "Snake" (during a hike, we had decided that would be his biker name, if he was a biker).  Twenty-something years later, I still call him "Snake."  As far as I remember, I called only one law professor by his first name, and that was because we spent a lot of time working on a symposium together, and that's what he asked to be called.  For my masters degrees, I called fiction writers and poets by their first names, but that was standard with everyone.  

I'm sure I'll wonder about this next year.  So far, I've never decided to change.  Part of it is that I believe ASP serves a different purpose and has different strengths and weaknesses than your average law class, but part of it is that I think I'd ultimately be less useful to struggling students if I put in place some sort of formality I didn't feel comfortable with.  In the immortal words of Popeye, "I yam what I yam," and possibly this is a good enough reason to go by "Alex" as any.  (Alex Ruskell)  

 

August 26, 2016 in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Alone…or Perhaps…Not Quite So Alone as 1L Students?

Wow...For those of you as 1L students, perhaps you feel like I did when I started law school…alone.

But, here's some great news!  

We are not alone; rather, we are "ALL"-alone!  

You see, at least according to posters made by recent entering law school students,  most of us feel out-of-place, a bit perplexed, unsure of ourselves, wondering how we will perhaps "fit" in, and, most of all, hoping that we can survive law school.

In my case, as a person that turned forty years old in my first year of law school, I was so scared.  Downright frightened…and...intimated.  But, as it turns out (and I didn't realize at the time), most of my entering colleagues (if not all) were feeling just like I did!  

Don't believe me?  

Well, here's a few posters with comments that some of recent entering law students - in the very first week - produced to depict what they were excited about in entering law school…and what they were concerned about in entering law school.  Perhaps you'll find that you share some of the same excitements and concerns.  

And, here's the key…Don't just focus on the negatives but also take time to reflect on the positives that you share with so many (if not all) of your law students.  You see,most of us feel just like you do.  

So, take time to encourage one another and share your own personal excitements and concerns.  It's a bit scary at first, but, in the end, you'll be mighty happy that you did.  And, good luck new 1L students.  We wish you the best!

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(Scott Johns)

August 25, 2016 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Learning Styles, Professionalism, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Student-Recommended Resources

Here are some online resources/apps that students have recommended to me:

  • Headspace - learn meditation so that mindfulness can ease your stress (https://www.headspace.com/)
  • Kahoot! - make your own practice questions (https://getkahoot.com/)
  • LearnLeo - tutorials for those learning how to read and brief cases (www.learnleo.com)
  • One Note - an organizational tool through your Microsoft package for briefs, notes, and outlines
  • Picjur - legal graphics for concepts (www.picjur.com)
  • Pomidoro apps - 12 apps that use the pomidoro method to increase focus (https://zapier.com/blog/best-pomodoro-apps/)
  • Quimbee - legal videos and practice questions (https://www.quimbee.com/courses)
  • SeRiouS (SRS) - spaced repetition for legal concepts (http://www.spacedrepetition.com/)

What are your favorite resources and apps? Send me an email or leave a comment to let me know. (Amy Jarmon)

August 24, 2016 in Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

ABA Press Release on Premium Memberships for Law Students

American Bar Association
Communications and Media Relations Division
www.americanbar.org/news

Release:          Immediate

Contact:           Priscilla Totten
Phone:              202-662-1094
Email:               Priscilla.Totten@americanbar.org
Online:             http://www.americanbar.org/news/abanews/aba-news-archives/2016/08/american_bar_associa.html

American Bar Association introduces premium memberships for law students

CHICAGO, Aug. 23, 2016 — Law students can now upgrade their free American Bar Association membership to Premium Membership to access exclusive benefits and savings.

Premium ABA members save $250 on BARBRI Bar Review; get $25 off West Academic case books and study guides; and receive a free legal ethics course outline from Quimbee.com (a $29 value).

“We’re excited to connect law students with the tools they need to succeed in law school, pass the bar and launch their legal careers,” ABA President Linda Klein said. “These benefits help alleviate some of the costs of law school education and joining the profession.”

Premium members are eligible for Law Student Division leadership opportunities and to compete in the Law Student Division’s four annual professional skills competitions. They will also have the opportunity to connect with lawyers and other ABA legal professionals for networking and resume review. Additionally, Premium members receive a free “ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct (MRPC)” e-book and discounts on the print and annotated hard copies.

Premium Membership is only $25, and offers all of the benefits of Free Membership.

Free Membership includes five ABA Practice Specialty Groups (a $50 value); a three-month subscription to Quimbee.com (a $72 value); access to ABA Advantage Member Discounts; and a subscription to the Law Student Division’s “Student Lawyer” magazine.

All law students are eligible for Free Membership and can upgrade to Premium Membership at any time.

To join for free or upgrade to Premium Membership, visit abaforlawstudents.com.

With nearly 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is one of the largest voluntary professional membership organizations in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. View our privacy statement online. Follow the latest ABA news at www.ambar.org/news and on Twitter @ABANews.

 

August 23, 2016 in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0)

Call for Presenters for AALS Section on Balance in Legal Education

The Section on Balance in Legal Education is pleased to announce a Call for Presenters from which at least one additional presenter will be selected for the section’s program to be held during the AALS Annual 2017 Annual Meeting in San Francisco. The program is on “Transformative Learning: Helping Students Discover Motivation, Values and Voice.”

Program Summary: “It is no secret that law school can be a transformative experience. In this program, participants will discuss strategies to support the kind of transformation that will poise students to flourish in their post-law school lives. Drawing on psychology, education theory and the growing literature on professional identity development, participants will explore the factors that contribute to student motivation, as well as those that encourage students to discover their own values and begin to develop their own voices as professionals.  Featured speakers from outside as well as inside the legal academy will contribute their ideas and expertise to this lively and engaging program, which will include concrete teaching suggestions and techniques. The format will be interactive to allow for broad discussion and the exchange of experiences and ideas.”

The program is an extended one, and is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. on Friday, January 6, 2017.  The section’s Program Committee hopes that the extended format will allow participants to explore the topic individually, yet also accommodate collaborative elements and audience engagement. Social psychologist Dacher Keltner (Professor of Psychology and Co-Director of the Greater Good Science Center, University of California at Berkeley) will speak about awe, compassion, empathy, and power. Other confirmed presenters are Professors Alexi Freeman (University of Denver Sturm College of Law) and Jerry Organ (St. Thomas University School of Law).  Peter Huang (University of Colorado Law School) and Amy Bushaw (Lewis & Clark Law School) will coordinate the planning process and moderate the program.

Form and length of submission: This call seeks one or more presenters to provide concrete teaching suggestions and techniques, as well as to collaborate with the other presenters in developing the structure and content of the overall program. To respond to this call for presenters, please submit a proposal containing a description of your proposed contribution to the program. Proposals should be no longer than one page in length. If you wish to provide examples of written teaching or other materials to supplement your proposal, feel free to do so but please confine the substance of your proposal to the one-page limit. Please include your name, professional affiliation and contact information. We hope to feature presenters with a broad range of backgrounds, perspectives and experience levels, and encourage anyone who is interested in participating to submit a proposal.

Submission method and due date: Proposals should be submitted electronically to Amy Bushaw at bushaw@lclark.edu  by Friday, September 16, 2016. The selected presenter(s) will be notified by Wednesday, September 28, 2016. Any presenter chosen through this Call for Presenters will be responsible for paying his or her registration fee and hotel and travel expenses.

Submission review:  Presenter(s) will be selected after review by members of the section’s Program Committee. In the event insufficient proposals are received prior to the deadline, the section reserves the right to solicit additional proposals before making final selections.

Inquiries or questions: Please contact the section Chair, Susan Brooks at sb589@drexel.edu or either of the Co-Chairs of the section’s Program Committee, Peter Huang at peter.huang@colorado.edu or Amy Bushaw at bushaw@lclark.edu.---

August 23, 2016 in Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0)

Submit an abstract if you want to participate in a discussion group panel for AALS

AALS 2017 Annual Meeting

A Call for Participation in Discussion Groups

January 3-7, 2017
San Francisco, CA

Register | E-Brochure

Discussion Groups are a new session format introduced by the Program Committee in 2016 to facilitate scholarly discussion and engagement. Discussion Groups do not feature formal presentations; rather, the objective is to facilitate a lively and engaging real-time discussion. Participants consist of a mix of the invitees identified in the original proposal along with additional individuals selected on the basis of this call for participation. There will be limited audience seating for those not selected in advance.

The selected Discussion Groups for the 2017 Annual Meeting are:

If you would like to participate in one of these Discussion Groups, please submit an abstract using the online submission form here by August 30, 2016. For specific details on the submission requirements for participation in each of the specific Discussion Groups, click the links above.

Program Committee for the 2017 Annual Meeting
D. Benjamin Barros, University of Toledo College of Law
George W. Dent, Jr., Case Western Reserve University School of Law
Rachel F. Moran, University of California, Los Angeles School of Law
Donna M. Nagy, Indiana University Maurer School of Law, Chair
Hillary A. Sale, Washington University in St. Louis School of Law

 

 

August 23, 2016 in Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0)

Call for Submissions to the Learning Curve

Jeremiah Ho, Executive Editor of The Learning Curve, has put out the call for submissions to the Winter edition of the newsletter. For those of you new to ASP, this newsletter is published by the Association of American Law Schools Section on Academic Support. If you wish to submit an article, Jeremiah's recent listserv announcement included the following instructions:

Articles should be 500 to 2,000 words in length, with light references, if appropriate, and attached as a Word file.  The deadline is October 15, 2016. 
Please send your submission to LearningCurveASP@gmail.com.  

August 23, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Protecting Time and Energy

All of us in ASP and bar prep face challenges: students with declining credentials, limited staff, budget woes, concerns over bar pass rates, students burdened by debt who juggle academics and work, and more aspects unique to our own positions or law schools. Many of us work hours far beyond a 40-hour week to get everything done to provide the best services to our students. A growing number of ASPers teach ASP or bar courses; some of us teach other law courses. We are active in our professional organizations and write in various formats. In short, it is easy to feel overworked long before the end of the academic year.

Instead of recharging our batteries and finding breathing space regularly, we tend to collapse in exhaustion whenever there is a break in the calendar: Thanksgiving, the few federal holidays we get on the actual dates, the university closure for the holiday period, a week or two vacation in the summer.

Good intentions to carve out space for projects and time for oneself are often quickly forgotten among the daily demands. So, before your calendar gets fully booked with student appointments, classes, meetings, and workshops, take the time to carve out blocks of time that you reserve on your calendar to help you stay excited about your work, to carve out professional development, and to recharge your batteries:

  • Schedule one or more blocks for project time each week. These times will allow you to focus on revamping materials and planning new strategies or services. Look at last year's appointment calendar to figure out the best days and times to schedule these blocks - and then protect them.
  • Find time at the beginning or end of each day to read the listserv items and blog postings for several sources in our field as well as other sources outside ASP - perhaps The Chronicle of Higher Education or one of the major newspapers that regularly covers legal education topics.
  • Allocate time at least once a month for reading longer pieces in the field to stay updated. You want to read the latest books and articles by colleagues. Crossover materials from psychology, education, and other disciplines can broaden our perspectives.
  • If you are trying to do scholarship and publish, set aside time on your calendar to focus on those tasks rather than try to grab time here and there. Have a mentor who will keep you accountable for discussing ideas, finishing research, and producing drafts for review.
  • Weigh carefully each new commitment that you are asked to take on within your workload and other commitments. Can you realistically be on that new committee or spearhead that new effort? Some tasks are truly unavoidable. But we often have choices that can be made. In those cases of choice, learn to say "yes" selectively. Practice saying "no" or "later but not now."
  • Find other ways to protect your time and space: check your emails at work only four times a day (or if you will have withdrawal, just on the hour); use your email functions to have alerts only for important emails (the Dean, your supervisor); unsubscribe from RSS feeds or library publication rotas that you no longer care about; turn off your cell phone every evening after a certain time and during portions of the weekend; stop checking emails constantly in the evenings and on weekends; make commitments with family and friends and keep them sacrosanct.
  • Choose one or two weekends during the semester when you can take a three-day weekend. Block it off now and negotiate with your supervisor that you will be gone those days. If you will cave and be in the office unless you have out-of-town plans, then commit to plans now with your relatives, spouse, friends, long-lost cousins, or others who will hold you accountable to that time with them.

Best wishes to all of our colleagues for happy and productive new academic years. (Amy Jarmon)

 

August 20, 2016 in Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 19, 2016

Sensitivity and the Modern Law Student

Whenever I lecture, I put together a PowerPoint of different pictures emphasizing one point or another I am trying to make.  A few years ago, I put up a picture of a clown to go along with my statement that "No one you actually want to be friends with thinks you're a bozo if you mess up when you are called on in class.  They're just happy they weren't the ones called on."  After the lecture, a student came up and asked if it would be possible to add a "trigger warning" if I was going to put up any more clown pictures.

At first, I honestly thought the student was just messing with me and possibly trying to make some political statement about the validity of "trigger warnings" or something.  I quickly realized he wasn't.  Apparently, he was just really scared of clowns.

It would have been very easy for me to blow off the student's request or make some comment about living in the real world or toughening up if he expected to be a decent lawyer.  I could completely understand someone thinking that I should have done exactly that and that there would have been some educational value in me doing so.  I didn't have any more clown pictures on any of my other slides for the entire year, so it was basically a non-issue.

Still, I went back to my office without really saying much of anything and thought about it.  At heart, I thought the idea of a "trigger warning" for clowns was goofy and probably devalued the entire idea of a warning for things or concepts that might actually be deserving of some kind of warning.  But then I wondered why exactly I thought so?  Was I simply being arrogant in thinking that a trigger warning for clowns was dumb?  Was this an isolated weird case or the beginning of some slippery slope where I had to warn people about everything?  If I didn't honor the request, why wasn't I honoring it?  By honoring it, was I handing over power to the student that I shouldn't give him?  Did I really have a good reason or was I simply choosing not to listen?  Had I reached the age where I'm utterly convinced of the halcyon days of my own youth and thought that this generation should just freaking grow up and get off my lawn?

When I was in law school, my friend's wife was pregnant.  All 130 of us in our section knew it because he talked about it constantly.  Chris wore a beeper on his belt in case his wife went into labor while he was in class.  One day in torts, after we'd spent about an hour talking about accidents at birth and fetal defects and what not, his beeper went off.  None of us could believe that it had chosen to go off at that exact moment, including my professor, who suddenly looked a little green.  Chris stood up, looked at the beeper, and merrily said, "Well, I hope my baby isn't born dead!"  Then he bolted out of the room.  The baby was fine, but for at least 24 hours I think my professor was worried he had somehow cursed her. 

Once, I was giving a guest lecture on the law to about 200 high school students and one of the students asked me a question.  To answer it, I came up with a hypothetical on the spot revolving around drunk driving and a car wreck.  If I remember correctly, I used the phrase "guy gets drunk after football game, car plows into tree ..."  As I'm talking, I notice some of the students start crying.  A few get up and leave.  A couple of teachers come over and begin to comfort people.  

What I didn't know was that the week before my lecture the exact scenario had happened and a couple of students died.  Once I figured out what was going on, I apologized, back-tracked, and apologized some more.  But the lecture was done.  They weren't able to hear me anymore.  Remarkably, the evaluations they turned in for the talk were really positive, except for a few students who thought I "should have known" or "should have read the paper."  I knew that I really hadn't done anything wrong, but I still wished it hadn't happened.

Basically, the clown thing reminded me of the car crash thing and Chris's baby thing, and for about two weeks I fell down a second-guessing spiral of everything I was doing.  I had students read Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" (which is about a village stoning someone to death) simply because it was a classic story and I needed something short to gauge reading speed with.  Should I change it to something a little less violent?  I had them brief the "Ghostbuster" case and Mayo v. Satan and his Staff.  Could this be offensive to the deeply religious?  I used an example of a lifeguard and a child drowning to talk about negligence.  Had any of my students lost someone to drowning?  Should I come up with something else?

Ultimately, I calmed down and decided I didn't need to change anything, although I did get rid of the clown picture because it was pretty unnecessary, admittedly creepy, and it reminded me of Pennywise from Stephen King's "It."  

Academic Support helps all students, many of them vulnerable.  It has to be supportive and inclusive in a way that other parts of legal education probably don't need to be.  That fact is actually one of the things I like most about it.  I've turned the second-guessing into a habit, and if something sets off my radar, I either change it or ask a colleague if I'm being crazy.  So far, I haven't changed anything and I've been told I'm being crazy several times, but I think I've become a more effective educator by at least asking myself the question.

(Alex Ruskell) 

 

 

  

August 19, 2016 in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 18, 2016

One Thing Can Improve Students' Grades in All Their Courses!

Simply amazing!

As reported in "Above the Law," there is one thing that we can do to improve our students' grades in all their courses this academic term.  

In her post about the article "The Impact of Individualized Feedback on Law Student Performance,"  Kathryn Rubio summarizes the research of Daniel Schwarcz and Dion Farganis that demonstrates that law students that have just one teacher...in just one course...who provide individualized feedback within that course...improve grades for their students...across all courses, even controlling for LSAT and UGPA:  http://abovethelaw.com/2016/05/one-thing-can-improve-all-your-law-school-grades/ 

Here's the proof (or, for those of you that are trial attorneys, the empirical evidence):  The Impact of Individualized Feedback on Law Student Performance

For us, this is incredible news…because…we can make that difference for our students - across all their courses - by integrating individualized feedback through our own courses and programs.

Wow…that's the power of one!  (Scott Johns).

 

August 18, 2016 in Advice, Exams - Studying, Learning Styles, Study Tips - General, Teaching Tips, Writing | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Capitalizing on Post Summer Enthusiasm of 2Ls & 3Ls

At the end of the first year of law school, many rising 2Ls leave for their respective destinations with an array of emotions but they are excited that the academic year has ended. The anxiety about academic performance is significant for most students.  Some of these students had a rough fall and spring semester because they did not achieve their academic goals for any number of reasons.  They are also uncertain about whether the adjustments and newly implemented strategies will yield the positive results they expect for the spring semester.  There are other students who had a successful fall semester because they met or exceeded their academic goals but found spring semester rather challenging and/or competitive.  These students are now fearful that they will not academically perform the way they did in the fall.  Finally, there are students who are confident in their academic performance both semesters but they are simply exhausted by all the energy expounded all academic year.  At the start of the summer, all of these students are happy to turn the page and embrace a new chapter away from the rigors of the first year. 

For some students, the summer means getting sleep and reentering life as an average human being. The recharge of energy is necessary for these individuals to function effectively during the academic year.  This might be the student who does not take on activities a typical law student might expect to the summer of their 1L year.  For others, the end of classes marks the start of an externship, internship, or summer associate position.  For these students, this is an opportunity to do what they came to law school to do and to be exposed to some of the intricacies of the legal profession.  Over the years, I have noted that students who return from these experiences are more motivated, have gained perspective, and are more confident in their abilities.  Certain other students instead opt to take summer classes, pair summer classes with summer practical experience or work, or simply work.  These students feel a sense of accomplishment because they are a few credits ahead or have secured finances for the summer and the academic year.  For all students, the 1L law school experience may have created some self-doubt that is now long gone.

All this to say that fall semester is a great semester for most returning students (2L, 3L). Students are more alive, reenergized, and reconnected with the confidence they had when they first walked into the law school.  Students are optimistic and maybe even idealistic.  So how do we capitalize on this bliss?

  1. Bottle it up. I encourage students to bottle the summer experiences and feelings so they can utilize them later, at a more challenging time. It is often the case that students who had very difficult academic experiences are the most excited about their summer experiences such as projects and cases they worked on, how they performed in summer classes, or the fun things they accomplished.
  2. Be purposeful. This is a time for students to jot down their aspirations and dreams and contemplate how they are going to achieve them. These can be as simple as adding one opportunity to obtain practical experience each and every semester to feel connected to members of your community.
  3. Recreate the experience. We discuss how students can have the summer experiences here in the law school environment.   Would it entail collaborating with a professor to make something happen or do we already have things in place?
  4. Empower. I actively listen to students as they share their experiences and take mental notes with the goal of later empowering students. I remind students of their accomplishments over the summer when they are disappointed. I use their practical experiences when we meet one-on-one because I know what their interests are and can help them bring the material to life. I also highlight how their experiences and individuality can contribute to the legal profession. Finally, this is an opportunity to highlight skills that they developed and explore how they can use those to be a successful student. Also, simply reminding a student about a positive comment made by a supervisor or professor can be helpful at times.

Since we are in the business of helping students succeed academically and on the bar exam, we need to pay attention to other aspects of our student’s development. We need to help students recognize the skills and gifts they possess and have developed.  (Goldie Pritchard)

August 17, 2016 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Report from SEALS

The Southeastern Association of Law Schools just held its 2016 Annual Conference at Amelia Island, Florida. Academic support educators sometimes overlook SEALS as a conference to attend. Over the last few years, SEALS has made a concerted effort to include more programs that would appeal to academic support educators and legal writing professors.

The Workshops on Legal Education and Discussion Groups especially covered a number of ASPish topics (with ASP or prior ASP colleagues presenting on some of these panels). Just a few examples in an extensive 7-day conference were: Incorporating Mindfulness into Legal Education (Jane Grise and Courtney Lee); Formative Assessment and Learning Outcomes (Barbara Gleisner-Fines); Adapting to New Realities in Legal Education (Amy Jarmon); Preparing Students for Solo and Small Firm Practice (Cynthia Fontaine); The Art and Science of Mentoring Law Students (our long-time friend at LSAC Kent Lollis and Laurie Zimet).

In addition, there were many sessions on teaching methods, scholarship and getting published, the changes in ABA standards, and more that would interest ASP professionals. Next year's conference will be held in Boca Raton, FL during July 30 - August 6. Keep it in mind if your travel funds provide for a regional conference (though you do not have to be from the region to attend or present).

August 16, 2016 in Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 15, 2016

Registration Open for AALS

AALS ANNUAL MEETING
January 3 – January 7, 2017
San Francisco, CA

Register | E-Brochure


Online registration is now open for the 111th AALS Annual Meeting! We are delighted to return to San Francisco next January with the theme “Why Law Matters,” selected by AALS President Kellye Y. Testy.

Reasons to Attend

1. Programming. This Annual Meeting will provide a forum for novel thinking and fresh perspectives on the role of law in society and the academy’s role in advancing respect for and understanding of the rule of law. Our program, which you can preview here, offers valuable sessions for every stage of your career, whether you’re a dean or an adjunct, a first-year teacher or emeritus. Attend a hot topic session, a discussion group, or a session from our 100 volunteer-led Sections. You are certain to find programming to suit your needs and interests.

2. Connection. As always, you’ll have the opportunity to catch up with colleagues and renew relationships at more than 50 networking events, both formal and informal, sponsored by law schools and legal education organizations.

You’ll also be able to take advantage of events held in the Exhibit Hall, where you can mingle while connecting with vendors and sponsors who support the legal academy and the Annual Meeting and provide us with necessary products and services.

3. Affordability. We’ve continued our efforts to keep the Annual Meeting affordable:

  • Registration fees have not been increased from last year
  • 50% registration discount for new teachers and emeriti/retired faculty
  • Discounted registration fee for early bird registrants — register by November 17
  • Reduced rates for guest rooms at our headquarters hotel – $171 per night plus taxes for single/double occupancy at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square and Parc 55 Hilton

Click here to register now.

4. New topics, including a new President’s Program on Diversity. Diversity is a core value of AALS and is critical to our law schools, the legal profession, and the world. Recognizing its importance, the current and incoming AALS Presidents have joined together to launch a two-year focus on diversity, encompassing its many facets, starting with this Presidential Program at the Annual Meeting.

For more information on the 2017 Annual Meeting visit our website or download the Registration Brochure. View our request for proposals page for more information on open RFPs including the AALS President’s Program on Diversity, Hot Topic Programs, and Discussion Groups.

We hope you’ll join us in San Francisco in January.

 

August 15, 2016 in Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0)