December 19, 2008
Absorbing Student Stress
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.
December 17, 2008
Time for Reflection
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)