Monday, December 12, 2005

ASP- Your Home Away from Home?

Exams are here. The building is eerily quiet and students appear to be afraid of talking out loud in the hallways lest they disturb someone else’s exam taking. Yet, with great regularity, they meekly appear in my doorway, “just to say hi.” They browse my bookshelf for study materials; they partake of my chocolate supply and chat about their plans for the holidays. And then, they leave.

So, what is that? I think the students are just checking in to see if we are here so if they have a bad day (or a bad fiduciary relations exam), we can comfort them. Personally, I think there is nothing more comforting this time of year than coming home to house that is warm and lit, ideally with cocoa waiting for you and oddly enough, I think Academic Support is that little cottage (within the law school) during exams (if you are reading this in a warmer state, replace warm and cocoa with air-conditioning and lemonade and don’t send me any e-mails telling me how warm it is where you are since I have three kids to outfit for the frigid temperatures here, not that I am bitter…).

Is ASP the law school comfort zone? Well, we don’t grade anything, we aren’t judgmental and basically we are here to help. Often we can provide some exam tip or even practice exam questions. Hopefully, no one leaves without feeling like they have a viable plan to get through exams. Isn’t that the key to a successful exam period?

In my annual reviews, my style in ASP has been deemed “maternal.” Not that I am hugging students and providing band-aids and such (after all, I am a lawyer and I do know better than to touch students and practice medicine without a license). But my question is (insert Harvey Fierstein from “Torch Song Trilogy” imitation here), is that so wrong? I understand that we are training lawyers and that there is no crying in law school (insert Tom Hanks imitation from “A League of Their Own” here), but sometimes there are tears.

Certainly we are not asking students to forget about being human beings who are involved in relationships with other human beings? Would you want to hire a lawyer who forgets that his/her clients have something at stake; something so important that they are willing to seek a legal remedy? In short, isn’t law about people and their relationships?

I think at exam time we have to remind students that an exam is merely a measure of how they answered a set of questions on a particular day in their life and not much more. I worry about students who have defined themselves as academically talented throughout their lives and then suddenly, with the first C in law school, forget who they are.

So, maybe in addition to chocolate and tissues, I should keep a mirror here in my office so students can see who they are, both before and after exams. I hope it the same person. (ezs)

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