March 1, 2007
Our Spring Break is coming up in a week. While I plan to use it to tackle Mt. St. Laundry (which is threatening to erupt), many of my students are planning on using the time to actually take a vacation. And yes, I do often tell students they need some “me time” to stay physically and mentally well, but I worry about those students who are in academic distress not taking this opportunity to really catch up before the semester comes to its inevitable crashing conclusion. I warn them that it goes really fast after spring break, but to what end?
In the spring, our program sees students who performed poorly on their midyear (or one final) exams. We even see those folks who midyear GPA’s would put them on Academic Warning if it were their year-end GPA. At this time of year when I am scheduling our next appointment, I always ask my students: so, what are you doing for spring break? The answers shock me.
What I really want to hear is this: “I plan on outlining, not every single day, but a significant part of a significant number of days until I am caught up. You know, Professor Stillman, this is a golden opportunity to catch up without more material piling up, and I could still plan a great vacation at the end of May or early June (when it’s even cheaper than in March). I also plan to do a few fun things, so I am not burnt out by the time exams come.”
But, what I really do hear is this: “going to Florida” (I wonder if the folks in law school in Florida come here to Massachusetts); “going on a cruise;” “going to the Caribbean;” and the most troubling: “planning a few sober and non-hangover days to do some work, maybe two.”
Now, while my academic support style has been deemed maternal by many (including one contributing editor to this blog), it would be overly mom-ish of me to say, “Don’t go!!! Catch up on your work and get ready for those spring finals! They are worth more towards your grades and while we never dismiss students on the basis of their midterm grades, we will dismiss you if your GPA is below 2.0 at the end of the year.” That doesn’t always stop me, but more often I tell students to take work with them. I know this as likely to happen as them taking me with them, but I feel the need to at least try to convey that this time would be better spent on outlining.
I know if it a feeble attempt, certainly outlining isn't nearly as much fun as snorkeling, etc. So as I do my laundry over spring break, I find myself wondering two things: 1. Can (and would) a student really outline on a cruise ship? And, 2. How can students afford to take these vacations when I work full time and am at home doing laundry??? (ezs)
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