Tuesday, December 12, 2006
The first-year students are finished with their exams now at my law school. The upper-division students finish on Friday. Students are stopping by to say goodbye and to update me on "how they feel" about their exams. One first-year student just stopped by to see if she could borrow a property study aid to get a headstart on Spring Semester!
What parting words can we pass on to our students as they focus on their semester break? There seem to be a number of possible tips:
- Have some fun! It has been a strenuous semester for most students. They need to relax and recharge their batteries. They need to forget about the law for a few weeks and be as carefree as children.
- Spend time with family and friends. It has also been a strenuous semester for the significant people in students' lives who have been "abandoned" in favor of studying. Now is the time to re-connect and spend quality time with those who are loved. Whether it is a parent, spouse, significant other, child, or buddy who has persevered throughout the semester, students should be liberal with thank you's and hugs and laughter. (And, do not forget the faithful family pet while spreading love.)
- Do not worry about grades. It does no good to fret about whether one did or did not do well. Grades will not be posted at most law schools until right before the next semester begins. How one "feels" after an exam is often of no consequence because many professors curve the grades.
- Allow rewards for having completed the semester. Recognize that praise is deserved for completing a semester of law school, spending all of those hours studying, reading all of those cases, and memorizing all of that law. Whether or not every grade is the one hoped for in the end, any student who has worked hard deserves rewards. Whether the rewards are large (a ski trip) or small (a new sweater), they should have personal meaning.
- Adopt a healthy lifestyle during the break. Despite our warnings to the contrary, most of our students right now are overtired, overdosed on junk food, overstressed, and over-sedentary. After their initial celebrations, students need to get on a regular sleep schedule, eat healthy meals, and exercise regularly before they return to classes in January. Semester break is a training period for the next law school marathon semester.
- Do not spend the entire break reading law. Although all students want to arrive on the first day of classes on top of the class reading, it is a good idea to give one's mind a rest for most of the break. Reading weeks ahead is not productive because one forgets the material. Reading a 500-page hornbook for a new course is not productive because the professor will not cover all of that material, and it probably will not be understood or remembered.
- Practice laughter. Law students often forget how to laugh. They become so focused on their books and the competition. They seem to cultivate furrowed brows and frown lines. By remembering to laugh about oneself and life and the law, it helps maintain perspective.
- Evaluate the semester and seek help if needed once classes begin. All students should spend several days, right before the new semester begins, evaluating what worked well and what did not work well in their studies. Even "A" and "B" students can benefit from evaluating their methods of study. Any student who has concerns about how to implement plans for improvement should be visiting with the academic support professional, professors, and others for help. (alj)