October 27, 2008
Aesop's Fables for Law Students I
As I was contemplating some common student problems recently, I realized that Aesop had covered similar behaviors in some of his fables. So, I rewrote some fables to apply to law students and distributed them through my weekly study tips column. I thought that the fables might be of interest to others, so I shall include a fable in each of my next few postings.
The Ant and the Grasshopper:
The Ant works all semester long at studying for exams and spends hours reveiwing knowledge to store it away in long-term memory. The busy ant reads for every class, reviews before class, makes personal outlines, goes to the professors with questions, reviews all outlines regularly, and practices many questions to apply the material.
The Grasshopper visits with friends over long lunches and dinners, goes away on weekend trips for fun, spends hours on weight training, attends a variety of organizational meetings, and volunteers for multiple committees. Having been called on for the semester quota in all classes, Grasshopper merely scan reads the cases for class. Grasshopper delays outlining because it is such drudgery.
In October, Grasshopper sees Ant in the library yet another day. "Why do you toil so diligently on learning the law, Ant?" "Because I want to understand and remember what I learn, Grasshopper." "But that is so much work, Ant. Surely, you are overdoing it! I shall enjoy the semester far more than you and still have time for learning closer to exams."
Ant has reviewed all but a few days of new material when the exam period begins. Thre is plenty of time for more practice questions. Ant is not stressed because the work has been done over several months. Ant gets A and B grades on the exams.
When Grasshopper gets to exam period, a frightening amount of material is still unlearned. Grasshopper is anxious in the exams and cannot remember some rule variations because short-term memory is fuzzy. Grasshopper cannot choose the "best" answer on multiple-choice questions because the nuances are beyond his understanding. Grasshopper gets only low C grades and mourns that "The Great Middle of the Class" will be his eternal destiny.
Moral: The law student who works hard throughout the semester will reap rewards including less stress. The law student who plays away the days will reap lower grades than could have been earned with diligence. (Procrastinators can morph into consistent studiers by changing study habits.)
At the end of the weekly e-mail, I always encourage students who are having problems with that week's skill to make an appointment for assistance. A number of Grasshoppers have taken advantage of individual appointments since the posting. (Amy Jarmon)
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