Friday, October 3, 2008
Most of us work with multiple students who have been diagnosed with ADD, ADHD, or learning disabilities of some type. In fact, with each new 1L class, our Student Disability Services usually sends letters of accommodations for at least 5 or 10 students.
Those numbers reflect the students that we know about first semester. The numbers increase the second semester as grades come out, and additional students come forward. A few more students come forward at the end of the first year when further probations and academic dismissals are announced. I suspect even then that we have seen the tip of the iceberg, and some other students may hover just above our academic minimums without being identified.
I am always glad to see accommodations letters from Student Disability Services before fall semester begins or during that semester in time for at least exam accommodations if not classroom accommodations. It means that those students have a level playing field in place. The Associate Dean for Students and Diversity meets with them, and many students will follow up for discussions with me.
It is the students who go through the procedures to gain a level playing field after bad grades that concern me greatly. The damage to their self-esteem, the stress of probation, and the academic hole from which they have to dig out exacerbate their situations. With new accommodations and hard work, we see them succeed at new levels. But some are unable to turn it around because of the extremely low grades before they received accommodations.
Occasionally a new diagnosis is made for students who surface after bad grades. The problem never showed up in prior education because the student could compensate and do very well. Let's face it, the national statistics tell us that high schools, colleges, and universities often have grade inflation and require little work for bright students to excel. When undiagnosed students start law school they suddenly come up against an overwhelming amount of reading, the need to stay focused for longer periods of time, course grades based on one exam, exams with strict time mangement requirements, and competition from the best and the brightest. It is no wonder that they get surprised by bad grades.
However, I have found more and more that the students were previously diagnosed with one of these disabilities and had prior accommodations, but decided not to ask for assistance as law students. Some students (with their doctors agreement) decided to discontinue medication before law school to be "like everyone else." Other students decided to forego accommodations because they did not want anyone to know. Some students decided that dropping prior accommodations would create a level playing field because it would be unfair to other students if they had accommodations.
I can understand these students wanting to be like everyone else and not wanting anyone to know. However, the potential damage to their academics makes these desires high-risk for some of them. Because they do not realize the many ways in which law school will be a different academic experience, they make their decisions on insufficient information. There is a summer communication to all students about accommodation requests. In orientation, an announcement is made to all students to encourage disabled students to apply through Student Disability Services for accommodations if they have not already done so.
Some undiagnosed students or students who had initially decided against accommodations will be identified during the first semester. Our Legal Practice professors often recognize problems because of the intensive writing assignments and the small class sizes. Others are identified by doctrinal faculty or administrators. Timing is important if accommodation requests are to be processed before the semester ends (especially for undiagnosed students who must also undergo testing) .
A new twist has developed regarding identified students who have acommodations for laptops in the classroom. Several students have told me that even though a laptop helps their learning they will not use this accommodation if a professor has banned laptops. Other students will realize that they must be disabled if they are allowed to have a laptop when everyone else cannot. It is very sad that students who need this legitimate accommodation have to make this decision. The banning of laptops is vogue right now, but the consequences for students with disabilities (and different learning styles for that matter) are not always recognized.
As an academic support professional, I can refer students for accommodations, work with students on strategies to improve their learning, and advocate for them. Hopefully, more students will self-identify or be discovered before the semester results in bad grades. (Amy Jarmon)
An incorrect URL link was given in the final paragraph of this posting instead of the correct e-mail address. The correction is included in the revised job description below:
The University of Nevada Las Vegas (Boyd School of Law) is hiring a new Director of Academic Support. Nancy Rapoport is the appointments chair and has information on her blog at Nancy Rapoport's Blogspot on UNLV Hiring about the selection committe, the position, and nominations or applications. The job advertisement is included below. (Posted by Amy Jarmon)
DIRECTOR OF ACADEMIC SUPPORT at the WILLIAM S. BOYD SCHOOL OF LAW, THE UNIVERSITY OF NEVADA, LAS VEGAS (Position #4497; Search #8282)
The William S. Boyd School of Law of the Unviersity of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) invites applicants interested in joining our faculty as an Assistant Professor in Residence – Academic Support. The qualifications for the Director of Academic Support position include a record of academic success in law school and experience suggesting the aptitude to direct a creative and ambitious academic support program. The faculty also expects that the Academic Support Director will be a resource for the faculty to increase teaching effectiveness. The existing program is administered by the Director, with the assistance of an Associate Director, and includes workshops, tutoring, special classes, orientation programs, bar preparation classes, counseling, and other strategies to enhance the learning environment at our law school. The Director may teach substantive, non-bar, non-ASP related classes. The position is a 12-month, non-tenure track, renewable contract position.
The Boyd School of Law, a state-supported law school, is the only law school in Nevada. Located at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in one of the fastest growing cities in the country, the law school commenced classes in August 1998. It has a faculty of 42 new and experienced legal educators drawn from law schools around the country, and is located in a state-of-the-art facility in the center of the University campus. With nearly 500 students, the law school offers a full-time day program, a part-time day program, and a part-time evening program.
The Boyd School of Law is a diverse community of faculty, students, and staff who work together, collegially and respectfully, to maximize the potential of its students and to help the law school fulfill its aspirations. We welcome applications from those who wish to participate in this sort of community, and we strongly encourage women and people of color to apply. For more information on the Boyd School of Law, see our website at http://www.law.unlv.edu/. Please contact Professor Nancy B. Rapoport at (702) 895-5831 or email@example.com if you have questions about the position.
APPLICATION DEADLINE: Review of credentials will begin immediately and the search is to remain open until the position is filled. If you are interested in applying for this position please apply on-line at: https://hrsearch.unlv.edu and submit a letter of interest, a detailed resume that highlights relevant professional experience and qualifications, salary history, and the names, addresses and telephone numbers of three professional references who may be contacted.
For assistance with UNLV's on-line applicant portal, contact Jenn Martens at (702) 895-3886 or firstname.lastname@example.org. UNLV is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action educator and employer committed to excellence through diversity.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
The law school has been attacked by the first onslaught of cold and flu season. I have been tempted to replace the large candy bucket in the office with an enormous vat of steaming chicken soup. I am constantly dispensing tissues as well as advice during appointments. I find that my advice has started to sound very much like my mother.
Although much of what I say is common sense, my law students have forgotten these tried and true measures because they are so intent on doing well and not missing too many classes. I find myself repeating the following litany multiple times a day:
- Do yourself and everyone else a favor and stay home in bed while you are contagious.
- Go to see the doctor if the illness pesists.
- E-mail your professors to let them know that you are ill and will not be in class.
- E-mail any appointments to let them know that you are ill and will have to reschedule.
- Get notes from classmates as soon as you return to school.
- Go in to see your professors to ask questions about the material once you have reviewed the notes.
- Wash your hands throughout the day to avoid a new germ contingent that is on the prowl.
- Start getting more sleep, eating better, and taking vitamins so you will not have a relapse.
After the stream of sick humanity through my office, I started to succumb myself. I went home early to chicken soup and extra sleep. So far, crisis averted. Knock on wood. (Amy Jarmon)
Monday, September 29, 2008
Steven Friedland, a law professor at Elon School of Law, and Jeffrey Scott Shapiro, an attorney and investigative journalist who now works at the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia, have written a recent Thomson/West publication entitled The Essential Rules for Bar Exam Success. Although I have only had time to dip into several chapters, it is clear that the book contains a great deal of useful information for bar takers.
Chapters 1 and 2 provide an introduction to bar study and the bar exam. Chapter 3 covers common mistakes bar takers make, while Chapter 4 describes the qualities of successful bar takers. Chapter 5 covers goals. Chapter 6 focuses on several techniques. Chapters 7 through 9 discuss critical reading, critical thinking, and critical writing. Chapters 10 through 12 provide strategies for three weeks out, one week out, the day of the exam, and the aftermath. Chapter 13 provides a workbook section for applying the studier's knowledge of the law. (Amy Jarmon)