Monday, August 14, 2006

The Balancing Act.

Well, summer seems to be over.  I am sitting here in my office (alone) trying to wrap my brain around orientation which will begin later this week.  On the one hand, it is a time filled with all sorts of promise: new students with their fresh, sunny new faces and on the other hand, students returning under the cloud cover of academic probation (or as we call it, "Academic Warning").  It is an interesting balance as we go forward. 

Balance is the word I use to describe our orientation strategy.  We spend a good deal of time scaring the poop out of students by reminding them (endlessly) that this is NOT college, you CANNOT get away with studying only before exams, you CANNOT miss classes, etc.  Also, we tell them they are entering a foreign country where the locals appear to speaking English, but they aren't.  Instead, we are all speaking "law" which is a different language altogether and the first few weeks of law school are more like immersion in a foreign country to learn the language than anything else.  We do temper this with the revelation that we do not expect students to "get it" at first, but then we crush their shiny fresh spirits by explaining that they should "get it" really soon or else.

I think if I delivered my orientation lecture while wearing a blindfold and holding the scales of justice, I might get the point across more clearly.  Or, perhaps the students would think they got caught in one of those tourist walks that are led by folks in costume all around Boston (ask me sometime about how my nine-year-old heckled Ben Franklin).

But then, just to complete the scene, I tell the students that I am here to help; that they should feel free to come and see me for anything during those first hard weeks.  In a way, it is a cruel manipulation.  First, I tell students to be scared; really scared.  But then I tell them not to be because I can help.   It's like if Superman hung you on the edge of a cliff and then flew by (about two hours later) to rescue you (minus the tights and cape, after all it is still pretty hot here).

I sincerely mean everything I tell the students, I am not running a scam here but I often feel like I have placed the image of the monster in the students' heads only to then offer to help slay it.  But the bottom line is this:  I am offering an accurate warning and then offering to help the students arm themselves for the onslaught.  My only "profit" from student attentiveness to my orientation lecture is perhaps a slight lack of business down the road (but really, with three kids and three cats at home, I am just excited anyone would listen to me at all). (ezs)

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