Friday, October 6, 2006

Workshop in New York

Kris Franklin has asked me to post an announcement of what looks to be a great workshop coming up.  Below is the announcement. (dbw)

The New York Area workshop, originally scheduled for the second weekend in November, has been moved to November 17th. We were not aware of the LSAC southwest regional ASP conference when we chose dates for our NY area workshop, so, to avoid that conflict we have rescheduled our meeting. 

Almost everyone who responded to our initial e-mail was excited about a two-day event, but were unable to agree on which two days of the week were best.  So instead, we will do an intensive full day workshop on Friday, November 17, at Brooklyn Law School.

The morning session will be focused on our own professional development.  Each of us should be prepared to explain to the group some project that we are beginning to, or would like to, undertake.  The projects described can be anything that would help us grow in our jobs, which might mean ideas for writing, teaching, building new programs, and so on.  We will offer feedback and assistance to each presenter in turn. 

The agenda for the afternoon session is open.  We ask that each participant lead a short discussion (about 20 minutes or so) on a topic of your choosing.  Examples of things that people have done in the past that were very helpful include: sharing specific exercises that have worked well with students; explaining what they have learned about working with students with learning disabilities; asking for collaborative brainstorming from the group about a particular problem they want to tackle with their students or in their schools.  We are not asking that people be masters of what they talk about, only that each of us share our thoughts, questions and expertise in a structured way.

If you have read carefully you’ll have figured out by now that we are actually asking those who come to present twice.  We hope that everyone will take us up on that, but we won’t be rigid about it – if you would prefer to present in only one of the sessions, that’s fine, too.

We plan to start the morning workshop early (breakfast will be provided!), break for lunch (that too!) and work through the afternoon.  We hope everyone will also be able to join us at a local restaurant for dinner. 

For people outside the immediate NY area, this will likely mean at least an overnight stay on Thursday and perhaps Friday as well.  This is a small gathering rather than a formal conference, so we are not charging for attendance and will not be able to arrange hotels, etc.  But if you want recommendations for local hotels let us know, and if you would like to come but think that your travel budget might not cover a hotel for a one-day workshop, Kris can probably have one or two people stay at her house.  Just ask.

If you plan to attend, please e-mail Kris Franklin at kfranklin@nyls.edu or Linda Feldman at Linda.feldman@brooklaw.edu and let us know what topic(s) you would like to discuss.  We will circulate a full agenda in a few weeks.  If there are short materials that you would like us to circulate to workshop participants before the event, please send it by Tuesday, November 7.

            We hope this sounds interesting to you and that you’ll be able to join us on the 17th.

October 6, 2006 in Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 5, 2006

Are We Counselors?

 As I move into my tenth year of teaching in the law school setting, I have begun to wonder whether I have become more of a counselor than a traditional teacher. I’m not suggesting that one is necessarily preferable to the other; I’m just wondering how I should describe my job when others ask me what I do for a living. Am I alone in having the following (or similar) exchange with new acquaintances?

“So, what do you do for a living?”

“I’m teacher.”

“That’s great. What do you teach high school? Grade school?”

“Actually, I’m a law school professor.” (I usually puff my chest out a bit at this point).

“That’s great . . . so what do you teach?”

This is where I usually get stuck. I can say that I run an Academic Excellence Program, which will generate a quizzical look from my new, and quickly becoming confused, acquaintance. I know that I help first year students transition into law school. I know that I also work with students who are in academic difficulty. Digging a little deeper, I teach skills like outlining, legal synthesis, and bedrock concepts like legal analysis. Some of this teaching takes place in the classroom, but I spend a great deal of time meeting with students to discuss these concepts, and others, on a one-on-one basis. This is where I get stuck again.

 Typically, students will schedule a meeting to discuss their outlines or to review an answer to an exercise that I have posted. Regardless of the proposed reason for our meeting, many students have other issues on their mind that require attention. What are they?

I’m having trouble sleeping

I just got into a fight with my significant other

I don’t have time to spend with my family

I’m the dumbest person in my class

I’m no longer sure that I want to be a lawyer

The list goes on and on, however, these issues have one thing in common. They have little to do with academics, which brings me back to where I started. Am I a counselor? Maybe many of you don’t deal with these issues when students raise them, but I feel that I have to. My students have academic problems that must be dealt with, but their personal issues are a part of the problem as well. In fact, dealing strictly with academic issues strikes me as a waste of time when I know that the personal problems, at the very least, contribute to the student’s academic difficulty.

I don’t have any specific training as a counselor, but I am a good listener. Thankfully, a good listener - who discreetly moves a box of tissues within reach when the need arises – seems to be what most of my students need. I rarely have to offer very much in the way of advice, except to say that there feelings or problems are normal and can be dealt with. On occasion, I do have to give more specific advice about managing one’s time more efficiently, or the need to take part in non-law school related activities, or to be sure to get enough sleep. I feel like I’m on pretty safe ground with these recommendations as they sound like the kind of advice my mother would have given me! 

In the end, I guess it doesn’t make any difference whether counseling has become part of my job description. As for explaining what I do to new acquaintances . . . maybe I’ll just say that I teach contracts. (hnr)

October 5, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Do we need a PTO in Law School?

I don’t know if this is a phenomenon that you are experiencing in your Academic Support Program, but every Professor in our program has received some communication from a student’s parent and/or other older relative this academic year. One of my colleagues heard from the uncle of a student asking if our office provided private tutoring or could recommend a tutor. Another colleague was asked to report the progress of a student on academic probation to a parent. I was sent an e-mail from an anxious parent yesterday morning asking if I could recommend any techniques for more efficient reading since this parent’s child was having a hard time.

I find this troubling. And not just because I consider myself the only maternal influence a law student should need, but because it seems to go hand in hand with a general sense that although our student body is getting chronologically older, they are getting academically younger.

In the hip new lingo (that I had to look up on the internet because I am neither hip nor new), these parents are called “helicopter parents.” (See, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helicopter_parent). Although these parents are most often found at the undergraduate level, it appears that their children have graduated and come to law school.

According to some of the literature on this "helicoptering" thing, the blame falls squarely on the cell phone which is evidently the wireless equivalent of an umbilical cord (now, wouldn’t childbirth be easier if we could all go wireless? But I digress).  I imagine E-mail and IM share the guilt here too. Does it all start with the daycares that now have fulltime webcams? Will we be forced to do that in law school too?

What worries me most about this trend is that students who do not take full responsibility for themselves are, I find, least capable of removing themselves from academic difficulty. Students who do not recognize that their grades are the result of their behavior will not seek to change their behavior. Instead, they will blame others: “my professor hates me,” or, ”the exam wasn’t fair.” I think this small, purely anecdotal, epidemic of parental involvement is a symptom of more of this to come.

In the end, no matter how much they wish to assist their children, parents who intervene on their behalf at the law school level will find that their efforts will instead hinder their child’s success. But, I suppose the Bar Examiners should start expecting the calls….. (ezs)

October 5, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Workshop Update

LSAC SOUTHWEST REGIONAL ACADEMIC ASSISTANCE WORKSHOP AT TEXAS TECH UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW NOVEMBER 10 - 11, 2006

MORE INFORMATION ON THE WORKSHOP

When is it: Friday, November 10th (starting at 12:30 p.m.) and Saturday, November 11th (all day)

Where is it: Texas Tech University School of Law in Lubbock, Texas

What is the topic: Best Practices in Academic Support

Who should attend: Anyone who is concerned about best practices in our field - and who is not! You do not have to be from the Southwest region to attend. Maximum number who may attend: 70.

Can you tell me more about being a presenter or topics as a participant: A wide range of sub-topics is under consideration. More information for potential presenters and participants will be available next week. In addition to several large group panel or speaker presentations, there will be opportunities for concurrent small group workshops.

How much will this cost me: The registration fee is expected to be $50 and will include lunch and dinner on Friday and a light breakfast, lunch, and dinner on Saturday. All materials for the workshop will also be included in the registration fee. Registrants will pay for their own travel and lodging.

How do I get to Lubbock: The closest airport is Lubbock International Airport (LBB) 20 minutes northeast of Texas Tech University School of Law. Southwest, American, and Continental airlines have flights that connect through Dallas, Houston, and other cities.

Where will I stay: A block of rooms has been reserved at two hotels near the campus for the nights of Thursday, November 9th through Saturday, November 11th. You must reserve your room before October 31st to receive the workshop rate. You may reserve rooms by contacting the following hotels:

Hawthorne Suites: (806) 765-8900; queen rooms are $85 per night and king rooms are $105 per night; the conference rate code is "LSAC"

Lubbock Inn: (800) 545-8226; rooms with 2 double beds or king rooms are available for $65; the conference rate code is "LSAC, #G00022-04"

Why should I stay through Saturday night: Because you are going to be treated to real West Texas hospitality with a barbecue dinner at the National Ranching Heritage Center. If you want an excuse to wear your jeans, cowboy (or cowgirl) boots, and Stetson, this is it! Entertainment is in the works! So, y'all stay for the night and have a real good time.

What if I am eager and cannot wait to register: Hold on, Pardner. Reserve your room and your flight now. On-line registration for the conference should be fenced off on our web pages next week. More information will also be on the ASP listserv and ASP Blog next week.

Who is the ranch foreman for this workshop: Dr. Amy L. Jarmon, Assistant Dean for Academic Success Programs, Texas Tech University School of Law, (806) 742-3990, ext. 294, amy.jarmon@ttu.edu.

As Roy Rogers used to say, "Happy trails to you, until we meet again."

October 4, 2006 in Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Workshop Opportunity

LSAC REGIONAL ACADEMIC ASSISTANCE TRAINING WORKSHOP TO BE HELD NOVEMBER 10 - 11, 2006 AT TEXAS TECH UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW

More details will be available shortly on the final program topic, attendance at the workshop, and solicitation of presenters. Please mark the event on your calendar now if you may want to attend. As soon as more information is available, it will be posted on this Blog site and on the ASP listserv.

Texas Tech University School of Law will host the workshop. Texas Tech University is located in Lubbock, Texas in the Panhandle South Plains.

October 3, 2006 in Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 2, 2006

When Little Ideas Become Traditions

Having a study aids library that is open to all law students at whatever level in the three years is useful.  The advantages are that students who cannot afford personal copies of the study aids are grateful, students who might otherwise never venture into my office appear happily on my doorstep, and students who would make uninformed choices about study aids ask for advice.  I have many good conversations with students about study problems as we peruse the shelves for volumes that might help them.

 

Once I had this regular contact with so many different students each day, I became more in tune with the moods of students during the semester.  What happened next started as a gesture of goodwill.  I just wanted to cheer up the tired, stressed, and worried masses of law students who came to my study aids library in days prior to and during exams.  I started small and soon ended up with a tradition that grew to gigantic proportions.  The tradition spread from exam period to every period.  I had accidentally found a common denominator for the consumers and purveyors of legal education.

          

What am I talking about?  It is green, fifteen and one-half inches high, and twelve inches in diameter.  It is “The Candy Bucket.”  Initially, when my study aids library was new and relatively undiscovered, the candy would last for many weeks.  I now have to re-fill it about every three weeks.  Not that it is entirely empty in three weeks, but the tradition of The Candy Bucket has spawned certain rules of procedure that are as cherished as its contents.

 

First, The Candy Bucket must always contain a wide variety of wrapped candy - only one or two types would be frowned upon by all.  Second, one is allowed to "dig for gold" looking for personal favorites - no embarrassment necessary.  Third, there is no limit on the number of visits per day or the number of pieces at a time - adult self-discipline is assumed.  Fourth, students are allowed to report when their favorites are no longer within the mix of candy - subtle hints are rare.  Fifth, faculty, staff, children of anyone, and student workers share The Candy Bucket access with my law students - even our Admissions Office tours stop by (to discuss my program, of course) with many visitors departing with a sweet or two.

 

The Candy Bucket was one of the best ideas I ever had.  Faculty stop by to chat as they look for their favorites.  Many students confide their worries and triumphs as they look for their personal version of gold.  I have discussed the fine points of briefing or time management or outlining around The Candy Bucket on many occasions.  After a chat over candy, students who would not have thought to make an appointment often sign up for time with me to work on problem areas in their studies.  And, nothing can compare to the joy on a law student's face when a Laffy Taffy or a box of Nerds is plucked from the layers of candy just when all such treasures seemed to be taken by prior gold diggers.

 

Should you decide to embark on a candy tradition for your law students, I have several suggestions.  This generation of law students has a passion for candies that I never knew even existed.  I suggest Laffy Taffy, Nerds, Sweet Tarts, StarBursts, sour apple bubble gum, and Bottle Caps as starters.  Faculty and staff seem to like toffees, caramels, Mary Janes, and Bit O' Honey.  Get a membership at Sam's Club, CostCo, or your local equivalent.  Salt Water Taffy is not popular in Texas - how was an Easterner supposed to know.  Do not make your candy run in 105-degree weather no matter how empty the bucket is.  And, as your tradition grows in popularity, I suggest you add a line to your budget unless you think that the IRS will consider your candy donation as a deductible charitable expense.  (alj)                  

October 2, 2006 in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)