Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Food for Thought for Students

I have a section of the bulletin board in my study aids library where I post a quote for the students to consider.  Having collected quotes for several years now, I thought some of them might be of use in your work with students.  Here are the ones that I use most often:

  • If you study to remember, you will forget; but, if you study to understand, you will remember.  Unknown
  • You'll never plow a field by turning it over in your mind.  Irish Proverb
  • Borrowed brains have no value.  Yiddish Proverb
  • Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought with ardor and attended to with diligence.  Abigail Adams
  • Every step you take is a step away from where you used to be.  Brian Chargualaf
  • There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving...and that's your own self.  Aldous Huxley
  • You will never find time for anything.  If you want time, you must make it.  Charles Buxton
  • It's not the time you put in, but what you put in the time.  Burg's Philosophy
  • Dost thou love life?  Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff that life is made of.  Benjamin Franklin
  • Yesterday is a cancelled check.  Tomorrow is a promissory note.  Today is the only cash you have, so spend it wisely.  Kim Lyons
  • The leading rule for a lawyer, as for the man of every other calling, is diligence.  Leave nothing for tomorrow which can be done today.  Abraham Lincoln
  • If you nurture your mind, body, and spirit, your time will expand.  You will gain a new perspective that will allow you to accomplish much more.  Brian Koslow
  • Finish each day and be done with it.  You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can.  Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.  Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • You can eat an elephant one bite at a time.  Chinese Proverb
  • To succeed, we must first believe that we can.  Michael Korda
  • Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.  Thomas A. Edison
  • Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.  Confucius
  • Once we realize that imperfect understanding is the human condition, there is no shame in being wrong, only in failing to correct our mistakes.  George Soros
  • A man can fail many times, but he isn't a failure until he begins to blame somebody else.  John Burroughs
  • Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.  Thomas A. Edison
  • We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.  Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Remember, no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.  Eleanor Roosevelt
  • Hold fast to dreams for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly.  Langston Hughes
  • Stress is an untransformed opportunity for empowerment.  Doc Childre and Howard Martin
  • It's not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.  Hans Selye
  • People who cannot find time for recreation are obliged sooner or later to find time for illness.  John Wanamaker
  • Laugh every day.  It is like inner jogging.  Unknown

If you have favorite quotes that you use with your students, please share them with me!  (Amy Jarmon)

April 25, 2007 in Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Why do we do what we do?

We are all well aware of how tired our students are at this point in the semester.  However, we need to remember to take care of ourselves as well as them.  Most of us are probably feeling a little "shop-worn" as the semester slides into final exams.

Have you noticed that almost every committee is trying to get one or two more meetings in before the end of classes?  Are many of your deadlines converging to the same one or two days?  Is there at least one dinner, reception, or other end-of-the-year event scheduled every week?  If you are a student organization advisor, are you involved in semester wrap-up and training of a new set of officers? 

Yes, I have accomplished many things already in this last rush to hooding ceremony.  And, I have a number more to accomplish.  I am often glad that my profession gave me skills for time management, stress management, and project management.  But, I must admit that I would not mind a slower pace at the moment.

However, just as I begin to tire, I am reminded of the importance of what we do each day as academic support professionals.  If I get really drained of energy, I pull out a file that I have added to over the years.  The file includes thank you notes, Christmas cards, e-mails, and other items sent to me by students who wanted to let me know that I made a difference.

I really enjoy my law students - not only as learners, but as people.  Being a cheering squad of one when they need it has definite rewards.  Their accummulated successess (even the tiny ones) remind me of why I do what I do.  Just this week, my students gave me several reasons for ignoring my tiredness and waking up with new energy. 

All of you have the same reasons for an infusion of new energy in your role.  But, in case you are wondering during this frenetic time why you do what you do, here are some reminders of what makes our work so rewarding:

  • Seeing a student smile for the first time in days because an exam study schedule has emerged during an appointment.
  • Having a student drop by to relate excitedly that the grade on the returned midterm was a good one.
  • Creating solutions with a student for a problem that was believed by the student to be insurmountable when the appointment began.
  • Providing a student with an awareness about learning styles that has immediate practical implications for success.
  • Helping a student keep perspective on grades in the scheme of life.
  • Sharing the celebration with a student who has gone from less than a 2.0 GPA one semester to over a 3.0 GPA for another semester several academic terms later.
  • Seeing a stressed student's pleasure at finding a Laffy Taffy at the bottom of the candy bucket in the study aids library.
  • Having a student drop by for a five-minute pep talk because academic support is seen as an encouraging place.
  • Eating cookies, cakes, chocolate, and other unexpected goodies left as thanks.
  • Drinking morning coffee from a mug presented as a thank you gift.
  • Watching a student who has struggled finally walk across the stage for the traditional hooding ceremony.
  • Talking with grateful parents who know that academic support helped their student survive first year or finish law school successfully.
  • Greeting new babies, seeing wedding photos, hearing about vacations, learning of job offers, and sharing all the other joyful moments in students' lives.
  • Remembering what it was like to go to law school when academic support professionals were few and far between.

So, have a good night's sleep tonight.  Indulge in one of your favorite meals.  Wear your favorite outfit tomorrow.  And, get ready for making a difference one student and one day at a time.  (Amy Jarmon)


April 17, 2007 in Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 16, 2007

Tragedy at Virginia Tech

We extend our deepest sympathy to the faculty, students, staff, friends, and families affected by today's terrible tragedy at Virginia Tech. 

April 16, 2007 in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 13, 2007

A Healthy Fear

The pastor of my church happens to be an avid mountain climber (I'm sure it is painful for him to now be serving a church in Kansas), and his sermons often incorporate stories of his mountain climbing experiences.  A couple of weeks ago, he told a story about a time when he led some novice climbers on a non-technical climb up a mountain he had never scaled before. 

His experience in climbing is extensive, and the mountain did not look particularly challenging.  The night before the climb, he studied the mountain in a cursory way and felt confident that he could lead the group safely to the summit and back.

The climb went well until the group came within a few hundred feet of the summit.  He had been keeping an eye on a thunderstorm that was moving toward them, and he decided that trying to reach the summit would be too dangerous.  A storm in the mountains can be deadly because of lightning, so he knew that they had to get back down the mountain before the storm overtook them. 

Unfortunately, the storm moved more quickly than he expected and cut off the path he had planned to follow back down from the summit.  He then began to look for another way down, but because he was unfamiliar with the mountain, he could only guess which way to go.

He chose a route that looked good, but it led them into a ravine with no cover.  The storm overtook them in the ravine, and they could only crouch down among the rocks as lightening began striking all around them.  He realized at that point that some in the group would very likely be killed in that ravine and that his cavalier approach to the climb had put them there.

The storm finally passed; and, happily, everyone survived; but he was very shaken by the experience.  He had relied on his experience in those mountains to carry him if anything were to happen; but his experience was not enough, and his failure to prepare carefully for the climb very nearly cost several climbers their lives.

The moral (for my purposes) is not that he should have been terrified of the mountain or that he was incapable of leading a group safely to the summit.  Instead, the moral is that he should have had sufficient respect for the mountain to prepare carefully for that particular climb.  He should have known the several routes of escape in the event of a sudden storm, and he should not have found himself and his group stranded in a ravine above the tree line at the worst possible moment.

A few days ago, I suggested that as our students approach the bar exam we should "scare 'em into success."  My pastor's story captures fairly well what I meant by that.  The bar exam, of course, is not a matter of life and death.  That aside, however, it is otherwise very much like a mountain that is deceptively familiar to the experienced climber. 

Like the overconfident climber, law students run the risk of approaching the bar exam with a serious lack of respect for its demands.  Relying upon their training and experience, many assume that they need not prepare deeply and carefully for the exam because it sounds as though it will be like every other exam they have taken in law school.  Many will find out too late that they have underestimated its particular hazards.

On the other hand, like the experienced climber, they need not be terrified of the exam or fear that they haven't the training and experience to conquer it.  Rather, they need to have sufficient respect for the exam to prepare carefully for its particular challenges.  It isn't an exam completely unlike any other exam they have ever taken; but it isn't those other exams either.

If we "scare" them in the right way, we will inspire them to prepare thoroughly for an exam that will present its own particular hazards for the unprepared.  They can all pass the exam, and they need to know that.  They can all fail it, too.  The trick for them is to develop a healthy fear, not so much of the exam itself, but of taking a particular high stakes exam as if experience is all they need. (dan weddle)

April 13, 2007 in Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Students' Advice on the "Do's and Don’t's" of Exam Preparation

Yesterday, I asked my ASP workshop and study group leaders, who are second and third year students, what they would list as the "do's and don't's" for the last two weeks of class and the exam period.  I thought you might be interested in their advice.

a. Make a study plan for the last two weeks of class as well as finals weeks
b. Finish your own outline before looking at any other outline
c. Compare your outline with one other person’s outline to spot holes in your own
d. Use supplementary materials such as hornbooks to fill gaps and clear up confusion after you finish your outline
e. Boil down your outlines into flow charts, etc.
f. Take advantage of your professor’s office hours to clear up any confusion and to fill any gaps you have discovered  (Caveat:  Do not bother a professor repeatedly.  Identify your concerns early and try to resolve them yourself; then go to the professor once to clear up concerns.)
g. Attend any reviews that your professor schedules
h. Practice with hypotheticals and sample exam questions
i. Write your own exam questions and then write answers to them
j. Pay close attention to information in the last two weeks – the concepts are likely to show up on the exam
k. Maintain a healthy lifestyle — sleep, exercise, and eat right
l. Stop working and relax before going to sleep on the night before an exam
m. Eat breakfast the day of an exam and arrive early so you can collect yourself
n. Exercise lightly the morning of exam if time allows

a. Stop your normal class preparation
b. Stop attending classes (the last few classes are great sources for exam questions)
c. Grab every outline you can get your hands on (too much information and too unreliable)
d. Depend on commercial outlines in place of developing your own
e. Use others students’ outlines in place of developing your own
f. "Over-outline” (i.e. load the outline with extraneous detail from outside sources)
g. Study with study groups if you or they are not prepared
h. Stay up studying all night
i. Expect to learn everything from after-class review or practice exams alone
j. Party after each exam
k. Give up

(dan weddle)

April 10, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 6, 2007

Three Little Questions

For our campus, it is just over three weeks until exams begin.  My students who have been working with me throughout the semester are right on schedule with their additions each week to outlines, reading assignments for class, review for exams, and practice questions.  Most of them are calm enough that they are making solid decisions about all of their tasks and the time allotted for each task.

However, I am concerned about the students who have arrived belatedly on my doorstep or who are in trouble and have not yet come for help.  At this point in the semester, I encourage all students to ask three little questions about everything that they do:

  1. What is the payoff on exams of what I am doing right now?  (And, if minimal, what would have more payoff?)
  2. Is what I am doing right now the most efficient use of time?  (And, if not, what would be more efficient?)
  3. Is what I am doing right now the most effective way of doing this task?  (And, if not, what would be more effective?)

If a study task has little or no payoff for exams, then the student needs to re-think the approach.  For example, re-reading every case in the course usually has little or no payoff since exams focus on application to new facts rather than on close inspection of cases.  On the other hand, reviewing an outline or doing practice questions would both have big payoffs.  By asking the question, a student should realize she needs to drop the first approach and focus on the other two tasks. 

Even a big payoff task can be done inefficiently if one is not careful.  For example, doing practice questions before any review of the material may be totally inefficient as a first step to studying because the student will not have the knowledge base to test understanding accurately.  On the other hand, asking a professor questions after reviewing a single topic would be more efficient than storing up all questions to the end of review for all topics.

A student may choose a big payoff task and do it efficiently, but still not have the studying be effective.  Reviewing outlines is a big pay-off item.  And, reviewing them early in the study process (rather than cramming) is a very efficient use of time.  However, reviewing topics that have already been learned well and avoiding the difficult topics would be ineffective in the scheme of preparing all topics for the exam. 

Efficiency and effectiveness sometimes overlap.  Studying the difficult topics when the student is most alert during the day would be both efficient (a wise use of those hours) and effective (more will be understood and retained when the student is alert). 

I find that students who are stressed at this time of the semester often despair over difficult courses unless they can get more control over their studying.  These three little questions help them to critique their study tactics and replace bad choices with better choices.  (Amy Jarmon)

April 6, 2007 in Exams - Studying, Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 2, 2007

Scare 'em into Success

I am not usually one who believes in scaring students, because fear is usually a hindrance to good performance.  When it comes to bar exams, however, I am not particularly bashful about scaring my third-year students.

Too many students around the country each year think that their performance on the bar exam will match their performance in law school.  They think that if they are ranked in the upper half of the class, they cannot possibly fail a bar exam.  You would think they would be right unless you have taken a bar exam yourself.

The reality is that the exam covers numerous subjects that the students have not studied for two years or more, if at all.  It is one thing to do well on a first-year Civil Procedure exam; it is quite another to handle a civil procedure question on a bar exam two and a half years later.

Deep preparation is therefore critical.  Not a review.  Not glancing over old notes.  Not reading over a bar review outline.  Not even taking a bar review course.  The bar exam requires serious, sustained preparation that includes a formal bar review course and weeks of full-time studying.

Have some students passed the bar without that sort of preparation?  Probably.  But it would scare the heck out of me to try it.  (dbw)

April 2, 2007 in Bar Exam Preparation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)