October 26, 2007
"Common sense is instinct, and enough of it is genius."
— Josh Billings. American comedian (1818-1885)
(This quote appeared as the "quote of the day" on my g-mail today.)
This is the magic key to good law school grades, isn't it?
Those who seem to lack common sense seem to comprise much of the lower half of the class. Okay, lower quarter. (With notable exceptions in both the top and bottom halves/quarters.)
That's why the Academic Support person doesn't know very many of the people in the top half of the class ... nor, frankly, do the other problem-solvers (example: Deans of Students).
The only times AcSup professionals and DOS's seem to encounter the students with the very good grades are at the CALI award functions, the Honors functions at the Dean's house, and other academically rich events. These students seem to have/use enough common sense to solve their own problems.
Can common sense be "taught"? Probably not. But if you start from the premise that we all have it, but some among us are in the habit of using it (while others are not), then the use of it can be encouraged. Isn't that what we do? We encourage students to follow their instincts (that they (a) may not be aware of, or (b) may not be in the habit of following [think, "study habits"]) ... and then we add some nuts and bolts to give them the equipment to use.
"...enough of it is genius...." I like that. It sure rings true in law school. Haven't you worked with students who don't give you the impression that they have the highest I.Q. in the class (I know, that's an old concept) but do exactly the right things to earn high grades and succeed? That's "genius" in my estimation ... taking what you have, applying instinct ... good old common sense (which often includes picking up the essential study tips and exam-answering methods from Academic Support professionals or the many manuals available) ... and focusing on what needs to be done to obtain the objective.
I have watched many students do just that. Whether they're MENSA material or not (qualifying scores: LINK), they're genii in my estimation! (djt)
October 25, 2007
Nature vs. Nurture
My younger daughter has epilepsy and takes anticonvulsants
every day. This is a medical condition
and I know that she has no conscious decision-making capabilities when it comes
to having a seizure or not. I know what
she would choose if she could. So
despite any misgivings about putting potent chemicals into her body every day
for the last three years, we do it. We
also educate her teachers and friends about this and make sure to avoid the
pitfalls like overtiredness and the flu as best we can. Why do we do this? Because she is seven and we are her
parents. But, as maternal as my ASP
style has been noted to be, I am not the parent of anyone in this building; and the most I can hope for (and would be appropriate) is a nurturing role.
I went to a lecture yesterday about ADHD and ADD in high IQ students and how that all relates to Executive Function. The gist of the lecture was that ADD and ADHD are chemical problems that have a chemical solution. And while I understand that this is a medical condition that cannot be consciously willed away, I was frustrated by the lecture because I was hoping to gather more insight on how to work with these students in an ASP setting. Without a prescription pad, I am, evidently, at a loss. The only advice that was applicable to my position was that we need to help provide some outside structure to keep these students on track: advice on time management but really more on how to stick to your medicine schedule while away from your real parents.
The lecture was attended by Academic Support type folks from graduate and undergraduate institutions, disabilities coordinators from a bunch of school (Deans of Students and the like) as well as at least one person from a university health services office. But, again, without being a licensed psychologist or having medical authority, I didn’t see the role ASP would play in this area. And yet, we probably see students with these issues (as well as, as our lecturer put it, other comorbidities like depression and anxiety) more than anyone. It was both helpful and then again completely unhelpful to learn that these students are not lazy (I knew that), or lacking willpower (I am pretty sure I knew that too). Why? Well, the skills I can teach a student only work if the student learns and applies them, which may not happen despite however motivated the student may be.
I cannot help a student’s brain chemistry right itself-nor can I force a student to get out of bed and take medication each day. I can cajole students and nag and sometimes even place a well timed phone call to make sure they get to class, but not much more. I have told students that the coping behaviors they engage in to accommodate themselves is far more draining than asking for help at the law school. I tell them that this energy could be better spent reading, outlining or even sleeping. But I cannot, and would not, even if I could, force students to stick to a medicine regime. Not because I don’t believe it would help, I really do think that the medication is a wonderful thing, but more because my students are adults and I need to treat them that way.
Now, let’s see if I can remember that when my children go off to college. (ezs)
October 24, 2007
Help with Stress
Now that many students have taken mid-term exams and have begun to receive grades on legal writing assignments, their stress levels are beginning to rise dramatically as they come to the realization that they may not perform as they hoped in law school. Undoubtedly, some are worried at this point whether they will fail completely.
For many, this sort of stress in something new, especially in an academic environment; and they may not handle it in healthy ways. Larry Krieger has created a couple of booklets you may find helpful as you begin to work with students who are having a tough time learning to function in the face of law school's pressure and disappointments.
The booklets are described at http://www.law.fsu.edu/academic_programs/humanizing_lawschool/booklet.html.