Friday, December 19, 2008
Today is the last day of exams for 1L's. I woke up this morning with a terrible headache, and an all-over illness feeling. These are the lingering effects of absorbing student stress. It's an occupational hazard with ASP. Especially virulent during exam time, when the school is filled with stress and anxiety, and the students who come to our offices are usually in some form of crisis. It's when our work is critical, but also the most draining.
One of the "cures" for the stress is to follow Amy's advice; take a few minutes to reflect on the things that worked this semester, and all the wonderful results from our hard work throughout the year. It's important personally and professionally to tally your triumphs. It feels discomforting to many of us to "toot our own horn", but if we don't, we go unthanked and unappreciated. These feelings leave us much more vulnerable to student stress.
Another way to beat student stress syndrome is to appreciate the beauty of the season. During fall exams, appreciate the beauty of winter, even if you aren't a fan of the cold. Snow is beautiful. If you are in a snow-less climate, appreciate the beauty of the holidays. Remember what is felt like to be a kid during the holiday season, the excitement and anticipation of gifts and family and days off from school. Try to recapture that joy.
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, student stress gets the best of us, and we feel it physically. It happens to the best of us--I am feeling it today. Understand that is is a natural reaction to what is all around us. It is also a sign that we have really empathized with our students, and listened with the compassion they deserve throughout the semester.
I am pretty sure the postings will be a little more sparse over the next week. I wish everyone a very merry holiday, and I can't wait to see everyone at AALS in San Diego.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
My students completed their last exams this past Friday. So, I am in a period of reflection before the university closes down for a few days. It has been a good semester for Academic Success not only within the law school, but also in the university and local communities. I am fortunate to work with students on several educational levels through my office.
Some of the positive reflections on the past semester include:
- A wonderful new space for Academic Success programming. It was the first full semester for our new area which includes a library, classroom, workroom, and office space.
- An expanded study aids library was compiled to fill the larger library space. Many opportunities opened up for me to discuss wise use of study aids with students.
- The energetic and dedicated fall Tutors were able to make excellent use of the workroom and classroom spaces in working with the 1L students both in groups and individually.
- I finally have space to meet with students in my office without literally climbing over them to get to the bookshelves.
- Additional oppportunities to work with the Advising Center on pre-law activiities for TTU undergraduates opened up through the Pre-Law Stakeholders Council.
- Discussions with the Residence Life and Advising Center staffs took place regarding a possible residential learning community for pre-law undergraduate students in the future.
- The opportunity to include our pipeline partnership high school students in the Law and Justice Magnet Program as VIPs for Justice Antonin Scalia's visit and for a group photo with Justice Scalia.
- Successful hiring of a new group of Tutors for the spring semester including some experienced Tutors from prior semesters.
- Hundreds of student appointments that made a difference in students' learning how to study more efficiently and effectively, having an advocate for their abilities to succeed, and having someone to talk with when things looked bleak.
Some reflections on the upcoming semester include:
- Plans for our Summer Entry Program course with a new colleague teaching with me and a new overlap topic.
- A series of Saturday workshops for students who wish to improve their grades.
- Work with a subcommittee exploring the possibility of a bar course.
- Groundwork for a mentoring program with our law students and high school students.
- Teaching a new seminar course in European Union law.
Was everything I tried in fall semester a success? Of course not. But that does not stop me as an ASP professional from enjoying the successes. Instead it fuels my desire to take the lessons learned and use that information to make improvements for this next semester.
Spend a few minutes in all of the post-exam and pre-holiday bustle to congratulate yourself on your successes. Reflect on the lessons you learned and the changes you will make in the new year. But never underestimate that you made a difference one student at a time. (Amy Jarmon)
Saturday, December 13, 2008
At the NECASP meeting, it was mentioned that the Legal Writing listserv also functions as a place for scholars to bounce ideas around about things they would like to publish, questions about publishing, and general advice on writing as scholars. For a variety of reasons, that has not happened within Academic Support/Success.
Is there interest in creating a TWEN site (or something similar to a TWEN site) where people who want to publish on ASP topics can go to as a resource as well as a place to get advice from peers? I volunteer as the point person for creating such a site if there is enough interest. I know the (invaluable, wonderful) Mike Schwartz has mentored several of us through our first published pieces, and I have heard from a handful of other people that Mike is currently mentoring as they prepare their first pieces. The site could be a place for us to share ideas, but also share our accumulated knowledge.
Types of questions from newbie writers:
Where should I publish an article about ASP? Are there options outside of the Journal of Legal Education?
What is the best software for citations? How expensive is the software? Should I be able to get it from my school's IT office?
Although I have checked Westlaw/LexisNexis, and Googled, the topic I am interested in writing about, does anyone know of sources that I may have missed?
I am doing empirical research, but I need a few more schools as controls for my study. Does anyone know of a good school to contact? Who at the school should I contact for permission?
If you are interested, email me and I will get started if there is enough interest.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Regional Academic Support Organizations: Report from the New England Consortium of Academic Support Professionals Organizational Meeting
Here is a summary of what was discussed and decided at the first meeting of the New England Consortium of Academic Support Professionals (NECASP). I am posting the summary of the meeting in hopes that other areas will decide to launch their own local ASP groups. The meetings do not need to be as formal as NECASP; but here is an idea of what one group decided to do.
The members in attendance reached the following decisions:
1. The primary goal of the New England Consortium of Academic Support Professionals will be to organize and present conferences on subjects relevant to academic support professionals.
2. Holding joint conferences will be a future goal of NECASP.
3. The primary focus of these conferences will be on practical topics (e.g. the methods of law school academic support), but conferences may also include presentations or sessions on academic/ scholarly topics relevant to academic support.
4. NECASP will establish a TWEN Webcourse to facilitate easier communication and to enable members to post documents, links, and other relevant information for the use of NECASP members. There will be a link from this TWEN webcourse to the ASP-blog’s compilation of academic support scholarship.
5. A Board of Directors will be established for NECASP. The current Board of Directors is: (1) Melinda Drew (Northeastern); (2) Rebecca Flanagan (Vermont); (3) Sunny Mullligan (Franklin Pierce); (4) Herb Ramy (Suffolk) (co-chair); (2) Louis Schulze (New England) (co-chair).
6. NECASP will hold one conference annually. It will also conduct a business meeting and/ or “local ASP discussion,” at a time and in a manner determined by the NECASP Board of Directors. A Business Meeting will be conducted in the Spring of 2009 to discuss the first conference.
7. The NECASP Board of Directors, based upon input from NECASP members, will determine when and where to hold the conferences and business meetings.
8. At the first Business Meeting, the membership will determine the scope of conference topics (i.e. very broad topics vs. a themed conference vs. specific topics).
9. A brief set of by-laws will govern NECASP. NECASP will also create a Mission Statement.
10. Membership in NECASP will initially be open to academic support professionals in the field of law, only.
Monday, December 8, 2008
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)
It's that time of the year again, and here is a brief reminder that we are entering the period when we will be seeing students in distress.
Types of distress we see immediately before finals:
- Students who are unprepared to take final exams due to lack of preparation.
- Students with anxiety or test-taking issues.
- Students with unexpected personal, familial, or financial issues that need immediate attention.
Strategies for students in distress:
- If they are unprepared to take exams, academic counseling is usually in order. Help them decide if law school is the right choice for them. Reassure them there is no shame in deciding law school is not the right path for them, or at this point in their life. Many, many very successful people started law school but decided not to complete law school; Gene Kelly, Carly Fiorina, Lex Wexner (he started The Limited stores), and Presidents Lyndon Johnson, Woodrow Wilson, both Roosevelts, and Harry Truman. Nobel Prize winner Al Gore also decided law school was not for him.
- If their test anxiety or generalized anxiety is untreated, let them know there is no shame in seeking professional help. The first semester of law school only happens once; it is a shame to waste the opportunity to do their very best because of pride.
- Students that experience unexpected life challenges need to assess their ability to take exams. I have no clear advice on this; if the student has been prepared all semester, it may be best for them to take exams rather than postpone them. If the student has struggled throughout the semester, it may be best for them to start over the following year.
The most important piece of advice is to remember than each student is an individual, and there is no one solution to a challenge. We may have seen or heard about their type of problem multiple times, but for the student, their challenge is heartbreaking and often, new to them. The most important thing to do is to listen; listen without judgment, listen without preconceived ideas, and listen with compassion. (RCF)
Friday, December 5, 2008
I have always enjoyed finding quotes that inspire me, make me think, or pique my interest. Perhaps it is the ex-English major in me. As a result of my own interest, I tend to pass quotes on to my students to get a point across to them.
Below are several web sites with quotes on education, learning, or teaching which may be useful to you. Many of the sites also have links to quotes on other topics.
For those of you who are interested in favorite quotes, I did two postings in the past: one of my own favorites and one on those offered by other readers of our Blog. You can find them in the archives in postings for April 25, 2007 and May 1, 2007. (Amy Jarmon)
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Tomorrow is the first New England Regional ASP Meeting. It will be held at New England Law School in Boston. This will be an organizational meeting, and we will be discussing a variety of issues. I am posting the agenda so other regions can use this as a possible jumping-off point for organizing their own groups. An abbreviated agenda follows:
Goals of NECASP
1. Discussion of methods of Academic Support?
2. A forum for presentation of academic papers?
3. A forum for presentations of a more practical nature?
4. Should we do more than just hold conferences?
5. Should the organization provide leadership opportunities for those in the field?
Format of NECASP.
1. How often should we meet?
2. When should conferences be held?
3. Should each conference be practical or should one of them include more academic topics?
4. To what degree should we restrict or direct the topics?
5. Should each conference focus on a specific theme?
(i.e. Learning Disabilities, ESL, Pipeline Initiatives, Learning Styles, Bar Exam) or should presenters be given wide latitude to choose their own subject?
C. Organization of NECASP
1. Should there be officers, a steering committee, or no formal leadership?
2. Does this organization require the formality of by-laws?
If you have any questions about the meeting tomorrow, such as how to get to NE Law, please contact Louis Schultze at LSchulze@nesl.edu.
I will be posting a report from the meeting shortly.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Because of our concerns about minority enrollment and innovation/creativity in legal education, a new book should be an interesting read for ASP professionals. The book is titled The Gathering Peasants' Revolt in American Legal Education and is written by two Massachusetts School of Law Andover faculty: Dean Lawrence Velvel and Assistant Professor Kurt Olson. The publisher is Doukathsan Press.
Sherwood Ross, the media consultant for the law school, reports in a press release that the book challenges the ABA in a number of areas (including the two mentioned above) regarding how its policies affect legal education. According to Ross, seven deans from ABA-accredited law schools are quoted in the book on how specific ABA policies are detrimental to legal education. The press release quotes the authors as saying that "all missions but the one approved by the ABA" are stifled. Massachusetts School of Law Andover is currently not accredited by the ABA.
Thanks to Terence Cook, Assistant Dean for Admissions and Recruitment, here at Tech Law for the press release. (Amy Jarmon)
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Exams are here at many schools, and they are starting shortly at schools were they have not started already. The very short post-exam period is sometimes marked by drive-by students running past the ASP office on the way to a plane, train, or automobile taking them home for the holidays. This is a great opportunity to recommend books to read over the holiday break. Students now know what to expect from law school, but they may not have put all the pieces together yet.
Before I jump into my recommendations, I stress what things students shouldn't read:
1) Random blogs by other law students. They will just make them feel anxious about their grades, and overstress the importance of grades during the first year.
2) Anything content-related. They need to rest, and I rarely hear of students who found content-based reading helpful during the semester. Your brain can't be "on" all the time.
The most important thing students can do over break is enjoy themselves and reconnect with the reasons they chose law school.
And then I move on to my recommendation. First and foremost, holiday break is the time to read Getting to Maybe by Fischel and Paul. It uses too much content as examples to read before or during first semester. By second semester, students are ready for the material, and understand the technical law school terms-of-art that are used throughout the book. This book is the roadmap to "A" exams at most schools and in most classes.
My recommendation to students who will likely to be in the top half of the class is Charles Calleros Law School Exams: Preparing and Writing to Win. It is a bigger picture book, and it may be too abstract for students who are struggling with the basics. But for an analysis of the thinking and logic skills necessary for exams, it is excellent.
My recommendation for students who still don't seem to get the basic organization or structure of exam writing is Suzanne Darrow-Kleinhaus Mastering the Law School Exam. There are many of these students who tend to crawl out of the woodwork too late in the semester for an ASP professional to provide the intensive help they need. Suzanne's book is an excellent guide to breaking down the essential parts of a great exam answer for students who may need explicit instruction in the nuts-and-bolts of law school exams. These are the students you know you will see once grades come in, and this book gives them a foundation for your work with them in the spring.
And for students who are taking the bar exam in July...they need to get Denise Riebe and Michael Hunter Schwartz Pass the Bar! as soon as possible. The book is best used at the start of the 3L year, but it is perhaps most helpful, if not essential, to students who need checklists and timelines in order to get paperwork in on time. (RCF)