Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Falling into temptation

It is the time of the semester when students are surrounded by temptations.  Of course, temptations were present earlier in the semester.  But now, temptations have greater negative consequences: lost time in exam studying; greater stress about tasks unfinished; greater concern about doing well.  And, some temptations are not as innocent as they may first appear.

Law students tend to have their individual lists of tempting distractions.  Some skip studying to e-mail and IM friends constantly.  Some turn the half-hour sitcom into multiple hours in front of the television.  Some "political junkies" watch hours of television commentary on the presidential campaign. Some play video games for hours.  Some decide to mega-clean the apartment rather than outline income tax. 

I spend a great deal of time with self-tempters.  We identify the temptations, raise awareness of the patterns and self-justifications, construct time management schedules, and implement strategies to turn temptations into rewards for completed work.  Many students can gain the self-discipline to corral their individual temptations.

However, I have noticed that  other law students are becoming more prevalent as the "tempters" during this time in the semester.  It seems that by luring fellow law students into wasting time, some are able to justify their own time wasting. 

The tempters have a variety lead-ins.  "Come join me for lunch.  You can't get anything done in an hour."  "What do you mean you are starting your memo.  It isn't due for three weeks."  "You aren't really reading for class are you.  You are a 'Z' and won't get called on for weeks."  "Come on, exams are six weeks away.  You have plenty of time."

The tempters also have a variety of ploys.  "I don't want to eat dinner alone.  Come with me.  We'll be back in no time."  "Take a break and come see the movie with me.  You deserve it."  "We always go out Friday night.  You can study over the weekend."  "You told me yourself you need to shop for a dress for your parents' Christmas party."

Often, these types of tempters are merely procrastinators who want someone else to procrastinate with them.  One can recognize that they have a time management problem and forgive their need to find a co-dependent relationship.  It is easier to say "no" to these tempters because the temptation is really more about them than the person they are trying to get to join them.   

However, some tempters are more dangerous and truly ill-intentioned.  A few students see a competitive edge in tempting others.  Usually these tempters are on top of things academically themselves and want to undermine others' studying.  They tend to be more sly in their attempts to cause others to falter. 

Some will lure another by appealing to that student's desire to be seen as bright.  "That class is so easy; surely you have time to play raquetball with me."  Another inroad might be: "You obviously understand that class, so don't worry about missing the study group session with me."  Some will try to shake the good student's confidence by boasting:  "I read every one of Professor Smith's law review articles.  Did you?  No!  You really should have.  You won't have time now."  Or, they might raise unimportant information at the exam room door to psych out another student: "Did you understand X (not covered in the course)?  I hear from 2L students that he always asks one question on it." 

At their meanest level, these tempters will prey on the "weaker" members of the class.  Although these weaker students are not really competition, tempters gain a sense of satisfaction in defeating their study efforts.  Some will denigrate others to crush their confidence: "You must be the only person in Torts who doesn't understand everything already.  It's nice to know who the class 'F' will be."  Some will use another's tragedy to defeat them: "I hear that Dan dumped you this week.  Too bad.  No wonder you are a mess with all the gossip.  I heard that he told...."  Some will smirk, laugh, or whisper to others every time the weaker student goes by to make her uncomfortable.          

Students are beginning to realize who their "real" friends are.  They are beginning to sort out who really wants them to succeed.  Real friends encourage one another to study.  Real friends help one another with difficult material.  Real friends give pep talks.  Real friends do not gossip, snipe, or sabotage. 

Students need to recognize their own temptations and take action to gain control over them.  Students need to "just say no" to the procrastinators looking for co-dependents.  And they need to give the scheming tempters a very wide berth.  (Amy Jarmon)      

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