Sunday, June 5, 2005

Cura Personalis

Treating each individual holistically

A student recently handed me a page torn from The Chronicle of Higher Education.  Take a look at it.  The "First Person" article is entitled "No Harm Intended."  The author is Christine Hurt, an assistant professor of law at Marquette University.

Hurt Professor Hurt describes her first year teaching Torts.  She describes the cases discussed: " ... blood and guts and crazy freak accidents ... car wrecks, gun accidents, fraternity parties, medical malpractice and mean dogs."

She details her conscientious teaching strategies and concerns, and explains, " ... I thought things were going great.  I loved my students, they seemed to love me, and everyone was learning."

The learning included fun.  Humor.  "We laughed and laughed, in the way that people do when they spend large amounts of time talking about horrible tragedies."  Only near the end of the semester did Professor Hurt discover (ironically) the pain that she had inadvertently caused at least one student, whose siblings had been killed in a car accident during the semester. 

"Cura personalis," Professor Hurt points out, "means to treat each individual holistically."  Her attempt to practice CP was frustrated by her inadvertent failure to ... to what? ... to inquire into the circumstances and sensitivities each individual student carries to each class?  I'm not sure about how to deal with these issues in the classroom context - but I am a little more sure in the Academic Support setting.

As Academic Support professionals, we deal with more than TRAC and IRAC and memory techniques and briefing strategies and learning styles.  We deal with individuals holistically.  More often than not, we deal with individuals who have reached levels of anxiety, stress, depression, lack of self-esteem, or even panic, that they have never before approached.  And not all of it is caused by Torts, Contracts and Civil Procedure.  Students have lives, too.  Although most wunnelles tend to put romance, physical fitness, religious practices, family relations and leisure "on the back burner," or move such irrelevant enterprises out of the kitchen altogether, we know they can't. 

As appealing as it may seem to a beginning student - to hold her breath for three years while she ingests massive quantities of law - that is not only impossible; it is lethal.  It kills the spirit, at least.  And a law student without spirit burns out.  Fast. 

When students come to our offices seeking guidance, especially in their first year, we owe it to them to offer them coaching in the area of "balance."  We need to invoke a bit of the Cura Personalis that Professor Hurt mentions.  Don't we? 

Let me know your thoughts. (djt)

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