December 8, 2008
Dust Storms and Tumbleweeds
When our new law school wing was completed in April, I was privileged to move over to a new office suite on the second floor. The view is spectacular because of a floor-to-ceiling windowed wall that looks out over the northwest section of campus. As the Broadway musical and song state, "On a clear day you can see forever."
Today I am watching a mammoth red dust storm roll in and the tumbleweed hurtle through the parking lot. Black clouds are collecting high in the sky above the red dust. The wind gusts right now are approximately 40 miles per hour. It was 70 degrees earlier, but snow is predicted by the morning commute. I can barely make out the university hospital at the northern edge of campus. Visibility outside town on the farm roads must be dangerously low.
No doubt, the storm outside reflects the turmoil in some of my students right now. For some of them, they never saw the storm coming. It was a blue-sky, sunny day before exams started. They did not know there was a cloud on the horizon because they did not realize how unprepared they were. After all, they were always successful in prior exams. All the warnings fell on deaf ears because they were so sure we all meant that everyone else might have problems, but not them.
On the first day of 1L exams, the sky suddenly grew black with storm clouds and red with dust. Their usual secure feelings of success during past exams had violently blown away. They probably feel right now as battered by winds and prickly tumbleweeds as the vehicles outside in our parking lot. Visibility is so dim for these students that success seems merely a memory. For most, it was too late to retrieve the situation after the first exam despite the gracious scheduling for 1L students.
As Rebecca stated in her posting yesterday, it is a time of distress for many students. We know that the storms will blow over with varied results: some students miraculously unscathed; some students' grade points decimated; and some students finding shelter elsewhere than law school.
Academic support professionals are often the ones dealing with the intensity of the storms and the aftermath. I agree with Rebecca that we need to remember that for each individual the storm is new. And, I agree that we need to listen with caring and compassion. After all, telling them that the Weather Channel predicted the storm does nothing for the clean up. (Amy Jarmon)
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