Wednesday, August 29, 2007
It is that time of year again: not only is the corn in the Northeast at its sweetest, but I am starting to contact all the students who, by virtue of their final grades last year, are required to see me. Easy stuff, right? I send an e-mail, they immediately respond, we set up a meeting where we develop a fabulous and successful working rapport; and before you know it, the student is back in good academic standing (batta-bing, batta-boom). If only it were that simple.
Sadly, I often find that I have to coerce this relationship into being and I wonder if that coercion sets up a non-trusting relationship. My first contact with students is usually an e-mail where I say something like, "pursuant to the Dean's letter dated in late June, you are required to see someone in the Academic Support Program. The good news is: you have been assigned to me, your new best friend! So, contact me and we can set up a time to meet. Oh, and by the way, if you don't, I'll have to tell the Dean about it, but let's not even go there yet...."
This year, that got me less than a 50% return. So then I send out a second notice, and this one is laced with guilt (I have to say that having a little old Jewish grandmother in the Bronx puts me at an advantage in using guilt tactics...). It goes something like this, "in my last e-mail, I asked that you contact me by a certain date, but I haven't heard from you yet." This is a slightly less manipulative version of, "you don't write, you don't visit, you don't call...." Then I add (I told you, I was taught by a master!), something to the effect of: "and if I don't hear from you, I will have to tell the Dean and I really, really don't want to do that." Also known as: "this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you!"
This might get me a few more students. If I still haven't heard, I'll send the third notice cc'd to the Dean. I won't mention in the notice that I have invited the Dean to join our correspondence, but it will be obvious. I call this the passive-aggressive phase. The fourth notice comes from the Dean.
In the end, I will have some students who finally show up, but are so bitter about it that we never really develop a rapport. In ASP, connecting to students is key to a successful relationship, but sometimes beginning the relationship may be what dooms it. Think about it: if this were a dating situation it would be like having your old Aunt Manya set you up on a blind date with a friend's grandson ("a lovely boy"), who it turns out has a host of unfortunate personal grooming issues, and calling you constantly to ask how it is going and when you will see this walking CVS ad again. When you do see him again, it is clear to both of you that other people have forced this to happen and it should end quickly and as painlessly as possible.
So when a student has been forced to see me after attempting to ignore me, what do I do? Well, of course, I shower that day and then I still treat them as if I am their new best friend. All is forgiven when you walk through the door. (ezs)
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
One of the toughest challenges facing new law students is managing their time in this new environment, especially since many come directly from undergraduate school. They can find some good advice from a number of websites that give graduate students practical tips on time management. Here are a couple:
Friday, August 24, 2007
As the semester begins, my calendar is filled with appointments with anxious 1L students. My probation students are beginning to sign up for their regular weekly appointments. And, there is the flurry of meetings and beginning-of-the-year events. It is also the time of year when I weigh my commitments for my full-time ASP duties with possible opportunities to become more integrated into my law school and my university.
Each law school has its own culture. However, in every law school, there are opportunities for ASP professionals to become more visible at the law school. By becoming more involved outside our own offices, we can provide our skills in service, become better known to our colleagues, and be seen as "team players." Here are some possible ways that you can get involved:
- If you are not already assigned to committees, offer to be an ex officio member of appropriate groups. For example: student affairs committee; admissions committee; orientation committee; bar preparation committee.
- If you have a doctrinal expertise and your curriculum process provides the opportunity, offer to teach a course one semester per year or in the summer.
- If there is a passion that you have, offer to take on a special project that relates to the law school. Examples: pipeline efforts with local schools; work with the campus pre-law advisors; a summer institute for pre-law students.
- If there is a law student organization that interests you, offer to be the faculty co-advisor for the group. Alternatively, help students start a new student organization.
- If you like to write, offer to write feature articles for the law alumni association magazine or law school newsletter.
- If you are interested in career services, offer to collaborate on workshops on time management, organizational skills, or other topics of interest to students working for the first time in the summer or entering their first job after graduation. Alternatively, you might be able to assist with mock interviews or with advising students interested in the practice area that you had as a lawyer.
- If fund-raising interests you, offer to help the law school alumni and development office or your student organization for public service.
- If the teams are soliciting judges for competition practices, offer to participate.
- If the law school hosts pro bono clinics for which you are eligible, offer to take part.
- If the law school is soliciting people to attend community or local bar functions, offer to take one of the spots.
If your law school is part of a larger university, also look for ways that you can use your expertise to benefit the university as a whole. In addition, become familiar to the resource people on the main campus. Again, here are some ideas:
- Meet the professionals in the counseling center, student health services, pre-law advising center, writing center, and other offices that have overlapping concerns for and expertise with students.
- Offer to assist on university-wide task force groups that match your expertise; many times the law school needs a representative for such groups. Examples: mental health task force; student assessment task force; alcohol education task force.
- Participate in teaching and learning workshops held on main campus and offer to present a workshop on a topic in which you have expertise.
- Become an advisor for an undergraduate student organization on campus.
- Offer to be a mentor in one of the campus programs for diverse students, pre-law students, or other groups.
- If there is a freshman seminar program for undergraduates, offer to teach a section of the course if it is open to faculty across campus to teach.
- Participate in university-wide groups that match your interests. Examples: faculty book discussion groups; university ski club; Faculty Women's Caucus; Christian Faculty and Staff; Hispanic Faculty and Staff.
Obviously, you need to make sure that you can cover your job duties before you become involved. And, you need your dean or associate dean to approve any participation. But, by broadening your experiences and contacts, you will enrich your own life, increase the visibility of ASP and the law school, and benefit your own students through your new knowledge and expertise. (Amy Jarmon)
Monday, August 20, 2007
The start of a new semester is a good time to take stock of our teaching methods and make conscious improvements. One place many of us need to begin is with techniques for increasing active learning among our students.
Because students remember about ten percent of what they hear and about ninety percent of what they do, those things that encourage active participation in classroom discussions can be exceptionally effective in helping our students retain concepts and develop sound reasoning skills. Several fairly simple techniques can greatly increase active learning even for those not directly called upon to respond during a particular class period.
For example, while your teaching method may be to focus primarily on one student while discussing a case, you can draw the rest of the class into that discussion by frequently asking other class members to comment on what they are hearing: "Ms. Jones, what is your reaction to Mr. Smith's characterization of the court's reasoning?" You need not spend much time with Ms. Jones before returning to Mr. Smith, but all students are immediately on alert that they cannot afford to drift during the discussion.
You can also pull everyone in by "beaming" questions to the entire class: "When I call on you, be prepared to explain the IRAC syllogism." Give the class thirty to forty seconds to think about the answer, and then call on a particular student. By the time that student is called on, most of the class will have formulated a response that is correct and will be better able, as a result, to retain the concept and evaluate their colleague's response.
Sometimes, having students take sixty seconds brainstorm on paper a list possible answers to a question (for example, possible causes of action springing from a complex hypothetical) can put them in a much better position to answer the question more thoughtfully.
Similarly, posing a question and having students discuss potential answers briefly with those sitting next to them can deepen their thinking and enrich the conversation when individual students are subsequently called on to respond before the whole class.
A number of other effective strategies exist, of course; but these few are easy to implement, take little class time, and need be used only infrequently to have a significant effect on students' learning. (Dan Weddle)
Friday, August 10, 2007
The editorial staff members for the ASP Blog are taking next week off (August 13 - 17). Like many of you, we are trying to catch our collective breath before the new semester is in full swing. We hope that all of you will have some rest and relaxation time as well. See you at the beginning of the next semester!
I would like to recommend highly a book that introduces students to the American legal system by following a case through all of its stages. Aspen has recently published John Humbach's book entitled Whose Monet? An Introduction to the American Legal System. Professor John Humbach is a faculty member at Pace University.
The DeWeerth v. Baldinger case regarding a Monet painting is used as the common thread throughout the book. This case illustrates the strategy and analysis required by lawyers as well as the procedural steps in a civil law suit. The book is very readable and includes commentary about the legal system, analysis of the case, and study questions in each chapter. Examples of correspondence and court documents are included as well in some chapters.
This book could be used in a number of ways. It would be a great summer reading requirement for entering law students; it could be used as a supplemental text in a course; or it could be a valuable addition to an academic success program library. (Amy Jarmon)
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
Whatever our position status in our law school, we work regularly with the faculty to help our students succeed. The relationship can be a "two-way street" if we consider both 1) how faculty can help us in our work with students and 2) how we can help faculty in their work with students. Sometimes, we focus only on the first of these relationships and forget the second.
Faculty members can help us more if they know about the specific ways that we work with students. Faculty members can also help us more if they know what assistance they can provide. So, our relationship becomes part publicity and part solicitation!
There are a number of ways that we can provide faculty members with more information on how we can help students:
- Send an e-mail to all faculty members each year explaining the services ASP offers to students: the population served; the workshops or classes provided; the individual assistance offered; any assessments provided; library facilities; or other services.
- Add a page to the Faculty Handbook and/or the Advisor's Handbook regarding ASP services.
- Provide faculty with the ASP workshop schedule for students.
- Provide faculty for 1L students with the schedule for tutoring, supplemental study groups, mentoring, etc..
- Schedule meetings with new faculty to introduce yourself and explain in more depth how ASP can help students.
- Provide faculty with the opportunity to get copies of study tip e-mails that you send your students throughout the semester.
- Make announcements at faculty meetings during the semester about particular programs, concerns, or other items that they need to know.
- Develop a brochure that outlines the ASP services and give copies to faculty as a reminder as well as a handout for students to facilitate referrals.
There are a number of ways in which we can ask faculty for assistance so that we can do our jobs better:
- Meet with individual faculty members for required courses to find out more about their courses and exams: what are common problems that students have in the course; what study tips would they give for their course; what are their study tips for their exam; what are the most common "point losers" on their exams.
- Meet with 1L faculty to learn their impressions of the new class and any concerns that they have about the skill levels.
- Ask faculty whether they would be willing to write hypotheticals with answer keys for you to use in your skills workshops with students. (They may have archives of old ones you can have without their having to produce something new.)
- Ask a faculty member if you can see the exam, answer key, and student's exam answers for the past semester when you are working with a student who did poorly in that class and needs exam-writing help.
- Ask 1L faculty members to talk about their teaching and exam styles at a training session for your tutors, study group leaders, or mentors.
- Ask 1L faculty members to be part of a panel on exam-taking skills for a workshop with the 1L students.
- Ask faculty members for required courses to recommend study aids that they particularly favor for their courses (you may want to purchase them for your own ASP library).
Now, to the second relationship of what you can do to assist faculty members:
- Encourage faculty members to refer students who have problems with study skills and/or life skills (time management, stress management, etc.) after the faculty member has worked with the student on the substantive material.
- Offer to meet with the faculty member's 1L class section to discuss reading and briefing cases, note-taking, outlining, exam-writing techniques or other study or life skills.
- Be available to faculty for consulting on using learning styles in classroom teaching, test construction review, or other specialty areas in which you may have training.
- Offer to assist with training on study skills and learning styles for teaching assistants, tutors, or other upper-division students who work with faculty in "teaching" functions.
- Offer to meet with students whose performance was poor on mid-term exams in addition to the time that the faculty member and/or tutor is working with the students.
- Offer to consult with a faculty member who is concerned about a student's performance or other indicators that the student is struggling.
Our faculty colleagues are valuable resources for us. And, we are equally valuable resources for them. (Amy Jarmon)
Drexel University College of Law in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, invites applications for the full-time position of Director of Academic Support. The College of Law is seeking an innovative, energetic academic support specialist to build an integrated academic support program for students from orientation to graduation. The Director will teach and work with students (in groups and individually) to prepare them for exam-taking in law school and for the bar examination, and will serve as a resource to faculty members.
Responsibilities to the College of Law include –
- teaching as part of 1L Orientation;
- teaching 1L academic support program, including outlining and exam-taking skills;
- identifying students academically at risk;
- assisting students needing additional skill development, including students on probation;
- preparing bar preparation materials and programs, providing information to students regarding bar requirements, as well as serving as a liaison to commercial bar preparers;
- providing counseling to students on a range of academic/personal issues;
- teaching a course in the law school curriculum;
- working collaboratively with other faculty to develop innovative programs, and coordinating academic support services with law school faculty.
- Salary Range: $70,000 - $75,000
- Will report to the Senior Associate Dean for Student Affairs
- J.D. from an ABA-accredited school;
- At least three years experience teaching in a law school, working in an academic support program, and/or counseling law students;
- Ability to work with a diverse community of students, faculty, and administrators;
- Self-directed, creative, and a team player;
- Well-organized, able to set goals and implement them;
- Ability to handle highly confidential student matters;
- Flexible work schedule.
Interested candidates should complete an on-line application at www.drexeljobs.com and send a cover letter and resume (via regular mail or e-mail) to Jennifer Rosato, Senior Associate Dean for Student Affairs and Professor of Law, Drexel University College of Law, 3320 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday, August 6, 2007
I cannot believe that it is actually August 6th. Where did the summer go? I remember May 13th and hooding ceremony as taking place yesterday.
If you are like me, you still have miles to go before you are ready for the fall semester (my pardon to Robert Frost). I have had a very productive summer, but there always seem to be more projects than hours. However, I have concluded that having so much more to do is a result of loving my job and wanting to be better at it each day. I want to excel for my students, just as I encourage them to excel.
If you think about it, we are blessed in the ASP profession. We spend each day helping students succeed. We spend each day learning new study and exam strategies from diverse students. We have great books to read by ASP experts to guide us to new strategies, paradigms, etc. We are surrounded by a learning community with people who actually want to learn. We are surrounded by colleagues with fascinating experiences and specialties in law. And, we get to share our students' successes.
As I look across my office, I see my framed poster from the 1980 opening of the U.S. Education Department. It reads, "Learning never ends."
So, the summer may have flown by me. But, I have been busy learning. And, I hope my learning never ends. (Amy Jarmon)