Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ways to prevent zoning out in class

Although the reasons for zoning out in class may vary for students, there are some techniques that work for many students so that they can stay focused.  All of the techniques have active learning in common.

  1. Sit where you will be less distracted by hallway noise or classmates who chatter during class.   

  2. Avoid the back rows in a large lecture hall.  These seat choices can be deadly because students feel less part of the class and tend to not pay attention.

  3. Ask a question in class to stay engaged in the discussion.  If you are well-prepared you will not have to worry about whether it is a "dumb" question.

  4. Volunteer in class rather than sitting on the sidelines.  Participation makes it impossible to zone out.

  5. Whenever the professor calls on another student, answer the question silently in your head.  Compare your answer with the other student's answer and listen/watch for the professor's reaction.  You will be an active listener using this technique.

  6. Avoid distracting yourself by surfing the net, emailing, or playing solitaire.

  7. Prepare thoroughly for class and review for 1/2 hour before class.  You will be less likely to become confused during class.  And, you will be more confident about volunteering or asking questions.

  8. List four or five questions that you hope the professor will answer during class so that you stay engaged listening for those answers.

  9. If you take notes on your laptop but are a visual learner, keep a pad handy so that you can convert information into visuals that occur to you during class.  You can also capture the professor's graphics more easily. 

  10. Get enough sleep during the week.  You should aim for 7 hours minimum.  Tiredness can cause you to zone out very easily.

  11. Avoid distractions that you can control.  Wear layers so that you can adjust for classrooms that are too warm or too cold.  Carry light snacks to eat before class so that hunger will not distract you.  Stay hydrated so thirst does not have you wishing for the end of the hour.

Professors often draw out legal nuances in class discussion that students miss because they were not paying attention.  I even talk to students who missed out on discussion about the exam that other classmates clearly heard in class. 

Becoming a better listener is an essential skill in law school.  It is also essential in practice.  (Amy Jarmon)   

October 28, 2009 in Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Director of ASP Position at Michigan State

Job Posting for Director of the Academic Success Program Position

Michigan State University College of Law invites applications for the position of Director of the Academic Success Program, with an anticipated starting date of July 1, 2010. This is a full-time position and, depending upon the applicant’s qualifications, the Director of ASP will be hired as a faculty or staff member.

The Director of the Academic Success Program will have primary responsibility for working with students to help them adjust to the academic demands of law school and to develop skills to reach their full academic potential for performance in law school, on the bar exam, and after graduation.  Responsibilities include:

  • Designing and implementing innovative academic support programs;
  • Teaching workshops and/or classes for students who need academic support;
  • Working with students in individual and small group sessions;
  • Designing and assisting with the law school’s bar exam preparation classes, workshops, and events.

Applicants should have a J.D.; a solid academic record; strong organizational and interpersonal skills; the ability to work collaboratively with faculty; and excellent writing and speaking skills. Applicants should also be licensed to practice law in at least one jurisdiction. Experience in a law school academic support program or other relevant teaching experience (including experience as a teaching assistant during law school) and/or an advanced degree in education, psychology, or counseling is desirable. Law practice experience without teaching experience will generally not be sufficient.

Applications should be sent by email to Kathy Payne, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, at

Michigan State University is the nation’s premier land-grant university, established in 1855. More information about the Law College can be found at

MSU is committed to achieving excellence through cultural diversity. The University actively encourages applications from and nominations of women, people of color, veterans and persons with disabilities.


October 27, 2009 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Learning Buffet for Visual Learners

When working with my visual learners, I remind them that visual learning has a "buffet" of strategies and techniques from which they can choose.  Each visual learner will have an individual assortment of favorites from that buffet. 

Some visual learners have to remind themselves of their favorite selections from secondary education or college.  Somehow at the start of law school, they abandon what worked for them previously as if the strategies could not possibly work with legal information.

Here are some selections from the learning buffet for them to consider:

  • Bullet-points for lists
  • Numbered lists
  • Bold, underlined, italics
  • All capitals
  • Different fonts
  • Different sizes for fonts
  • Text in different highlighted colors for printing
  • Different indentation levels for hierarchy
  • Symbols
  • Abbreviations
  • Textboxes
  • Graphic organizers
    •  Mind maps or spider diagrams
    • Tree diagrams
    • Yes-No decision maps
    • Venn diagrams
    • Time lines
    • Tables
    • Columns
    • Pie charts
    • Graphs
    • Organizational charts
  • Use of different colors for
    • Case categories: facts orange, issue yellow
    • Brief categories: facts orange, issue yellow
    • Points in handwritten notes: rule orange, methodology purple, important point red, policy green
    • Different parts of outline: rule orange, methodology purple, policy green
    • Categories for book tabs: formation of a contract red, statute of frauds green, parole evidence yellow OR topics red, subtopics green, sub-subtopics yellow
    • Memorization prompts: intentional torts blue, negligence green
    • Hierarchy within graphic organizers: main topic orange, subtopics green, sub-subtopics blue
    • Courses: torts orange binder and highlighters, contracts green binder and highlighters

Thre are a number of different options for students who wish to convert text into something more visual.  To name just a few, students can turn to:

  • PowerPoint
  • Smart Draw
  • One Note
  • Inspiration
  • Mindmeister

We often are unaware of the variety of graphic organizers that are available to us.  A number of helpful sites with examples can be found by doing an internet search for "graphic organizers free" or "graphic organizers for teachers."

Most visual learners have other absorption learning styles that they should use in addition to their visual learning: aural/oral and/or kinesthetic/tactile.  And, visual learners still need to use verbal learning effectively - they cannot ignore reading and writing.  (Amy Jarmon) 

October 27, 2009 in Learning Styles | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Assistant Director ASP Position at UNLV


The William S. Boyd School of Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas invites applications for the position of Assistant Director, Academic Success Program. The law school seeks a person who will be responsible for assisting the Director of the Academic Success Program in administering programs aimed at improving law students’ academic skills and ensuring success on the bar exam. 


UNLV is a comprehensive research university of approximately 28,000 students and 3,100 faculty and staff dedicated to teaching, research, and service. The university has internationally recognized programs in hotel administration and creative writing; professional degrees in law, architecture, and dental medicine; and leading programs in fine arts, sciences and education. UNLV is located on a 332-acre main campus and two satellite campuses in dynamic Southern Nevada.  For more information, visit us on-line at:


Reporting to the Director of the Academic Success Program and the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, responsibilities include counseling students in order to assist students with their legal studies, monitoring and training student mentors, assisting in curriculum development for the bar passage program, counseling current students and alumni on bar passage issues, and conducting seminars for the first year class. 


A competitive applicant for the Assistant Director of the Academic Success Program position must have excellent writing and editing skills, a strong ability to counsel and mentor students, superior public speaking skills, very strong grades and a Juris Doctor from an ABA-approved law school, and membership in a state’s bar.  Prior academic support experience (either professional or as part of a graduate or law school program) or teaching experience (i.e., legal writing or comparable teaching experience in writing and analytical skills training) is preferred.


Salary competitive with those at similarly situated institutions.  Position is contingent upon funding. 


Submit a letter of interest, a detailed resume listing qualifications and experience, and the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of at least three professional references who may be contacted. Applicants should fully describe their qualifications and experience, with specific reference to each of the minimum and preferred qualifications because this is the information on which the initial review of materials will be based. The review of materials will begin immediately, and will continue until the position is filled. Materials should be addressed to Professor Robert Correales, Search Committee Chair, and are to be submitted via on-line application at  For assistance with UNLV’s on-line applicant portal, contact Jen Martens at (702) 895-2894 or

UNLV is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Educator and Employer Committed to Achieving Excellence Through Diversity.

October 26, 2009 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Count our ASP blessings

Do you ever have weeks that seem extra long?  Or days that have been so hectic you don't know where the time went?  Or times when you wonder if you are making a difference? 

ASP work takes a lot of emotional and intellectual capital if it is going to be done well.  We have to invest major energy into our appointments, meetings, classes, and presentations.  Our students need to know that we care about their success.  We need to listen to, sometimes console, and often encourage our students.

When I find myself worn-out at the end of the week (not the same as burned-out, please note), I remind myself to count my blessings.  So, here I go with a list:

  • Students who are hard workers with solid values.
  • Students who say "thank you" often enough to let me know ASP matters.
  • Support staff who magnanimously pitch in even though they are not ASP staff members.
  • Faculty colleagues who share articles and books.
  • Law library staff who make the study aids library possible.
  • Excellent second- and third-year students as Tutors for the 1Ls.
  • Excellent second- and third-year students who are Dean's Community Teaching Fellows for our pipeline partnership with a local high school's Law and Justice Magnet Program.
  • ASP facilities that let me do so much more for my students than the old ASP offices.
  • Wonderful ASP colleagues at other schools who share strategies.
  • Lots of great ASP authors who inspire us with their books.
  • Wonderful ASP regional and national conferences sponsored by LSAC.
  • The new Law School Academic Success Project website.

Gosh, I feel more energized already!  Now to the next item on my "to do" list. . . .  (Amy Jarmon) 

October 23, 2009 in Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Students struggling because of illness

I am seeing lots of students who have fallen behind because of the cold and flu season.  Some students have missed five days of classes straight; some students have relapsed missing several days a week over a series of weeks.  Just when most people seemed to be getting better, a second cycle has hit the law school.  

Here are some tips to help students who have fallen behind because of illness:

  • Get plenty of sleep and eat well.  You will risk a relapse if you stay up late and skip meals to catch up on your law school work.
  • Focus first on reading current material for classes so that you can follow the discussions.
  • Catch up on back reading in small chunks.  Slip in one case or a few pages as you can.  It is almost impossible to find time to catch up for a course in one sitting.
  • Consider scanning a study aid for missed material to fill in gaps in your understanding until you can do all of the back reading to learn a topic thoroughly.
  • Get notes for your missed classes as soon as possible from classmates whose note-taking skills you trust.
  • Unless the material builds on what you missed, outline the current class material and catch up on outlining the back material as you can.
  • Arrange for mid-term makeup times or paper extensions as available for your courses.  Try to complete these missed tasks as soon as possible, but be realistic about dates if you have options.
  • Ask your professors questions about the material you missed as soon as you have sorted out your areas of confusion.  
  • If you are a 1L student and your law school has teaching assistants or tutors for your courses, make appointments for some one-on-one assistance.

The academic support professional(s) at your law school can probably help you with time management if you are at a lost as to how to begin to catch up.  A structured schedule can assist you regain control of your studies.  (Amy Jarmon) 

October 22, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hofstra University Law School Professor of Academic Support Position

Professor of Academic Support

Hofstra University School of Law

Hofstra University School of Law invites applications for the position of Professor of Academic Support. This is a full-time faculty position with a renewable contract potentially leading to a long-term renewable contracts. Academic support professors at Hofstra serve on faculty committees and vote in faculty meetings.

The Law School's Academic Support professors have primary responsibility for teaching and counseling students to help them make adjustments to the academic demands of law school and to develop skills to reach their full academic potential for performance in law school, on the bar exam, and after graduation. Responsibilities include —

(1) Teaching first-year and upper-level classes and workshops for students who need academic support;

(2) Assisting in planning and implementing first-year orientation programs;

(3) Working with students in individual and small group sessions;

(4) Identifying and assisting students who need additional academic support;

(5) Designing and implementing innovative academic support programs;

(6) Assisting with the law school's bar exam preparation programs and events.

Applicants must have the following: a J.D.; a strong academic record; a background demonstrating a potential for excellence in academic support; an understanding of developments in legal pedagogy; strong organizational and interpersonal skills; the ability to work collaboratively with all members of the law school community; and excellent writing and speaking skills. The following are not required but would substantially enhance an application: experience in law school academic support programs or other relevant teaching experience (including experience as a teaching assistant during law school); and/or an advanced degree in education, psychology, counseling, or a related field. Law practice experience without teaching experience will generally not be sufficient. Salary will be commensurate with experience.

Applications should be sent by email (not hard copy) to Professor Roy Simon at Please attach a cover letter, curriculum vitae, and writing sample. The subject line of your email should include the words "Academic Support."

Hofstra University is an equal opportunity employer, committed to fostering diversity in its faculty, administrative staff and student body, and encourages applications from the entire spectrum of a diverse community.

October 21, 2009 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Updated Position Announcement: St. Mary's


St. Mary’s University

St. Mary’s University School of Law, located in San Antonio, Texas, invites applications for the position of Academic Support Professor.  This advertisement is dated October 16, 2009, and applications will be received at any time after that date until the position is filled.  The Academic Support Professor will begin employment in the summer of 2010.  


The law faculty has voted to create this full-time position for a person who will be a voting member of the law faculty with multi-year contracts.  The initial four-year contract will be followed by presumptively renewable five-year contracts.  The salary for the position of academic support professor will be commensurate with the qualifications and experience of the person employed, and also comparable to salaries paid tenure-track teachers with similar experience.


Our acting director, Kathryn Tullos, has begun the process of designing programs to assist our students in acquiring more efficient study and exam-taking skills.  The new Academic Support Professor will administer these programs and design others that he or she deems necessary.  These tasks will be undertaken with the support and supervision of the Academic Support Committee of the law faculty.  We want programs that help our students improve their study, analytical, and test-taking skills so they will obtain the greatest benefit from the educational opportunity offered at the



.  Our broader goal is to help students prepare themselves to be competent and ethical legal professionals.

The Academic Support Professor will work with law school faculty and administrators to support first-year students in adjusting successfully to law school and to enhance the educational development of second- and third year students.  Depending on interest and qualifications (and subject to
faculty approval), the Academic Support Professor may also occasionally teach academic or skills courses within the law school. In addition, the Law School encourages, and will provide support for, the Academic Support Professor to engage in research and professional development activities in the academic support field.



A juris doctor degree from an ABA-accredited law school is a very desirable qualification. An applicant should also have a strong academic record.  In addition, an applicant should have excellent written and verbal communication skills, and should have substantial (2-3 years) experience with an existing law school academic support program.    


To apply, send your resume with a cover letter by email to Professor David Dittfurth, chair of the Academic Support Committee at <> or by mail to him at School of Law, St. Mary’s University, One Camino Santa Maria, San Antonio, Texas 78228.  


All applications will be answered.  Applicants of interest to the Academic Support Committee will initially hold a teleconference with committee members.  After the teleconference, committee members will decide whether to invite that applicant to visit campus.  During the campus visit, an applicant will provide a written description of the programs he or she would design for our students and will make an oral presentation on that subject to the faculty.


Professor Laurie Zimet of the University of California, Hastings College of Law, has agreed to act as consultant to the Law School during the search.  You are also invited to contact Ms. Kathryn Tullos, Acting Director of the Office of Academic Support at (210) 436-3541 or at


St. Mary’s University School of Law is located in the City of

San Antonio

.  The city is known for its tourist attractions, but also boasts a multi-cultural environment with an active legal and business community.  The Law School seeks to serve the South Texas region of the state, but also enrolls a geographically and ethnically diverse student body. 


St. Mary’s University School of Law is an equal opportunity employer. Women and minorities are strongly encouraged to apply for this position.


October 20, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Why do college athletes do well in the legal profession?

A study by Kerma Partners and Redwood, a unit of LexisNexis, on the "stuff" that causes some associates to thrive in the legal profession can tell us a lot about the skills law schools and law firms actually value in new attorneys. Law school grades and law school rank matter less than some less-intuitive measures, like participation in college athletics. The results of this study were less surprising to me, because my late fiance, and law school classmate, was a college athlete who thrived in law school and during his brief experience in a large corporate law firm, as did many of his friends.  While the study specifically identifies the team work and leadership skills that are developed as a college athlete, there are a number of other skills honed in high-stakes athletics that translate to success in law firm life.

1) Law school rank-order, or "curved" grading is less jarring when you (or your team) are used to being ranked.

2) High-stakes competition is not new to college athletes, and prepares students for the highly competitive law school environment.

3) Practice only makes perfect when the practice is disciplined, relevant to critical skills, and there is an adequate foundation of basic preparedness. Time-on-task matters more to success than overall practice hours.

4) College athletes are accustomed to performance evaluations that can be very critical, and take the suggestions as useful input, not an evaluation of their worth as a human being.

5) Many college athletes have been in competition with people who cheat, cut corners, and behave unethically, but they do not use it as a litmus test of the sport.  When a college athlete finds out a peer has cut corners or cheated on a test or assignment, they are less likely to blame the school, the profession, and let the experience taint their entire career.

6) Most college athletes have to be very disciplined with their study time, because most are not aided by tutors and endless hours to complete assignments. That discipline carries over into law school study time and career management. 

7) Team sports are excellent practice for study groups in law school. You need to rely on each other to be prepared and each member must carry their own weight.  Everyone needs to be prepared before they practice as a team.

I am extrapolating on the study, and many of these observations are based on what I saw first-hand as a law student as an ASPer.  Not all college athletes thrive in law school, but finding the common skills that lead to success in both fields helps us direct all law students. (RCF)

October 16, 2009 in Advice | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Things we do as professors that drive students crazy

I am often privy to information from students about the things we do as professors without realizing they are driving students crazy.  If I hear it from just one student, I figure it might be an individual misunderstanding or problem.  But when I hear it repeated by multiple students, I assume that the concern is genuine.  

Whenever students mention a legitimate area of frustration, I try to take note so that I will not do the same thing in my own courses and drive my own students nuts!   Over my years at different law schools, I have accumulated a list of the "crazy-makers" that have gotten multiple mentions:

  • Regularly mumbling or speaking so softly that at least 1/3 of the lecture hall cannot hear the professor - and then refusing to use the microphone when students get up the courage to ask for that solution.
  • E-mailing or posting lengthy reading assignments the night before or the day of class so that students cannot predict their workload and organize their work efficiently and effectively in light of other coursework, deadlines, and commitments.
  • Posting office hours and regularly not being there for them - and then not posting makeup hours or scheduling other individual times to see students.
  • Scheduling an appointment with a student to go over a paper/exam that the professor has and then not being able to find it, resulting in a re-schedule.
  • Assigning class seats alphabetically (instead of letting students choose) so that students are in seat locations inappropriate for their learning styles or disabilities - and then not allowing students to relocate when other seats are available.
  • Regularly answering every student question about something the professor just stated with the exact same statement that was not understood by the questioner the first time.
  • Banning laptops for all students when some students learn better with a laptop because of their learning styles or disabilities - and making no adjustments in how the course is taught from previous semesters to take into account that students are handwriting notes.. 
  • Requiring other presentations, workshops, or section meetings without adequate warning so that students must cancel long-scheduled appointments or decide which of two requirements they will attend.
  • Announcing that there will be an "open code or rule book" exam early in the semester and then a few days before announcing that there can be no writing/highlighting in the book so that students who have learned by annotating and highlighting must buy a new book for the exam. 
  • Not providing any practice questions to the class or old exams for the law school database so that students are unable to use appropriate study strategies for that professor's unique exam style.
  • Telling the students in class what the exam formats will be and then giving an exam including different formats.
  • Telling the students in class that a particular topic will not be on the exam and then testing on that topic.
  • Testing only on the last two weeks of the semester's material when students have been told that the exam will be comprehensive covering the entire semester.
  • Returning a first assignment of the same type after the second similar assignment was due so that the students had no feedback and opportunity to adjust their performance accordingly.
  • Changing the instructions significantly for a paper or memo after students have already completed work under the initial instructions so that those hours of work are totally wasted.

We all have realizations during teaching that "I'll never do that again."  We have the final determination of how to run our courses.  However, we can hopefully learn not only from our own insights but also from our students' legitimate reactions to what we do.  (Amy Jarmon)

October 15, 2009 in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

When life gets in the way

Some students seem to be "magnets" for life's problems.  The same student gets ill, has problems with a significant other, has a car that dies, has a delayed financial aid grant/loan, has a family member in the hospital, and has a puppy that gets sick.  Obviously, these students may have their attention diverted from their academics as life's problems accumulate.

During my eighteen years working with students with academic issues, I have noticed that academic issues rarely come along without some life issues attached.   However, not all students with multiple disruptions suffer as drastically in their academic performance.  I have spent some time trying to determine reasons why some students juggle all of their life problems and academics better than others.

Here are some thoughts why certain students cope better than others.  The items on the list are not in any specific order.  The students who still succeed academically seem to have several of the following characteristics:

  • They manage their time well.  They schedule time to study within the parameters of other things going on in their lives.  They are more efficient and effective with the time they have available.  As much as possible, they stay on top of reading, outlining, and studying despite the exigencies they are facing.  They get notes from classmates for days they were sick.  They organize rides with friends until a new car is obtained.  They take flashcards to drill with while in the vet's waiting room.  They read ahead in anticipation of going home for dad's upcoming surgery.
  • They utilize the resources available to them.  They schedule appointments with the student health services or counseling center as appropriate.  They are proactive about talking to the deans about possible options at their law school: medical withdrawal, dropping to an underload, leave of absence, re-scheduling final exams, incomplete or in-progress grades, etc. 
  • They explain their problems to their professors without using them as excuses.  They are forthright with the information and explain what they are and are not able to do.  They may well ask for appropriate extensions, patience with their non-preparedness for class, or schedule extra meetings with the professor to compensate for missed classes.  But they do not use the exigencies as excuses for not having to do the work or doing mediocre work in expectation of a sympathy grade.
  • They remember that law school is an important priority even though not the only priority.  They realize they must focus on studying as well as handle the emotional fallout of life.  They do not become consumed by life to the extent of ignoring law school.  They set aside time each day to deal with life and time to study as well.  If they become unable to handle both priorities they talk with the deans about their options.  (Sometimes they have to make the difficult decision to withdraw and come back when life is under control and they can accomplish what they need to do academically.)  
  • They maintain their perspective during difficulties.  They do not let an emergency or disruption send them into a tailspin.  They differentiate between molehills and mountains.  They count their blessings during hard times.  They practice staying calm during crises.  They often have a spiritual core that keeps them centered rather than feeling that they must shoulder the world alone. 
  • They are able to set boundaries on demands in their lives.  They limit the amount of time that others can "control" their lives.  They do not let others interrupt their lives constantly with demands that are non-urgent or unreasonable.  They can differentiate between urgent, important, and unimportant.  Examples: they will run routine errands for their grandmother once or twice a week rather than whenever they get a call; they return telephone calls or e-mails during study time on a priority basis rather than on mere occurrence; they meet their obligationis academically rather than let a friend consume hours talking about her boyfriend woes. 
  • They focus on living their own lives rather than other peoples' lives.  They realize that the only life they can control is their own.  They realize their own  limits as to how they can help others.  Ultimately, they recognize that they cannot save their parents' marriage, prevent their little brother from dating the wrong girl, or prevent their best friend from drinking too much.  They make referrals to skilled professionals, listen as appropriate, and show love to those whom they love.  But they do not take on the responsibility of solving everyone else's problems.

It is hard to juggle law school demands during normal circumstances.  When life throws multiple problems into the mix, it takes courage and hard work to balance everything and make wise decisions.  Students who reach out for help from deans, professors, academic support professionals, and the many other resources available to them are more likely to navigate the problems and law school without academic disaster.  (Amy Jarmon) 

October 14, 2009 in Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Anxiety over being called on in class

I vividly remember the first time I was called on in law school.  It was Contracts class.  I was well-prepared.  I opened my mouth to respond, and nothing came out.  It was probably only a few seconds, but it felt like an eternity.  Anxiety almost took over.  The ironic thing is that I had regularly done public speaking throughout my prior career.

When my students tell me that they have a fear of speaking in class, I empathize with them.  Sometimes it is just fear of a new situation.  Other times it stems from learning styels.  Students who are listeners rather than talkers with a high degree of reflective thinking in their learning styles are unlikely to jump in and rabbit on in class.

My 1L students who avoid class participation and internally gasp when they are called upon usually fear the Socratic Method and having all eyes on them in a large section.  However, 2L and 3L students also admit that they are reticent to speak in class.  The problem for them is that class participation often makes up some portion of their grade.  So, unlike the 1L student who can silently pray that she is not called upon, the 2L or 3L has to brave it and raise a hand or forfeit a chunk of the grade.

Here are some tips that I give to my students to help them become more confident:

  • After reading and briefing (or taking notes if material other than cases is assigned), take a few minutes to synthesize your reading.  Then out loud explain the reading to an empty chair, the family pet, or an understanding friend.  Next think of the professor's usual questions and answer them out loud.  You can practice your answers and gain confidence by this recitation step.
  • When the professor asks a question in class, answer silently in your head.  Then compare your answer to what another student says.  Listen to the professor's feedback.  You will probably find that you would have answered correctly.  Again, your self-confidence should get a boost from this exercise.
  • Gain additional practice voicing your opinions, questions, and answers by talking in your study group more than usual, talking with a classmate about the material, participating in student organization meetings, or asking the professor questions on office hours.  The more you talk, the less apprehensive you will be. 
  • Pick the class that you feel most confident in about the material and/or most comfortable with the professor/class size.  Prepare carefully for each class.  Write down one or two questions that you could ask in class.  Choose one or two of the professor's typical questions that you could answer.  In each class period for two weeks, make yourself participate once.  Then particpate twice each class period the next two weeks.  Continue to increase your participation over the semester. 
  • After you have had success in one class, use the same methods in another class.  Be consistent about challenging yourself to participate every class. 
  • If you find it hard to make yourself voluntarily participate, consider going to the professor for assistance.  Explain that you are trying to get over your fear of speaking in class and ask that the professor call on you some days.  Most professors are pleased when students try to confront their fears and are willing to help in overcoming the challenge.  

Law school is a "safe place" to gain more confidence in speaking in groups.  Practice is essential in developing a new skill.  As an attorney, you will be expected to speak up in meetings, hold client interviews, and lead case/project meetings.  Why not gain those skills in the law school environment?   (Amy Jarmon) 


October 13, 2009 in Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Brain Science for Lawyers

David A. Sousa is an educator, author and consultant who has written seven books applying brain research to different groups of learners.  I just finished reading his ABA book titled How Brain Science Can Make You a Better Lawyer.  Although the book is geared towards lawyers making presentations (especially litigators, though law professors are mentioned), it has useful information for all of us.  The first chapter focuses on information about how the brain works.  The second chapter discusses using one's brain in the workplace setting.  Chapter Three looks at brain research that can be applied in practice.  The final chapter delineates a framework to use.  (Amy Jarmon)


October 12, 2009 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Dealing with negativity

Stress and anxiety are increasing as the semester reaches the halfway point.  More students are mentioning that they are not sleeping well, cannot focus, are prone to procrastinate, and feel guilty or depressed about their academics.

In many of the conversations, students share with me the types of negative self-talk statements that cycle through their heads.  Here are some examples:

  • Everyone else seems to "get it."  What's wrong with me?
  • I am way behind and won't catch up no matter what I do.
  • I will never finish this memo/paper with a good grade.
  • I should be paying more attention to my boyfriend/spouse/ children/sick aunt and am such a bad person.
  • I will never understand ________, so why not just give up.

Students often believe this internal negativity without any question.  Instead they should rebut the negativity and refuse to blindly accept it as true.  The rebuttal should take a more positive position and determine a strategy to resolve any problem.  Examples of rebuttals to the negative self-talk above might be:

  • Realistically, I am not the only person who is confused.  I can get clarification from my professor/tutor/study group by asking questions.
  • I am behind in my reading and have a strategy for catching up.  I'll stay current with my new reading and slip in back reading one case at a time next week.

  • I will do my very best.  I have time for one more draft and several more edits.

  • I am not a bad person.  I am balancing my time between school and personal obligations.  My family members and friends understand the importance of school.

  • This course is hard, but I can learn it.  I shall spend some time today writing down my questions and talking to my professor.

There are other actions that can also assist in dealing with negativity in one's outlook.  By following some simple steps, life begins to look less awful:

  • Get enough sleep.  At least 7 hours.  With appropriate rest, our brains are more alert and productive.  And problems do not seem as overwhelming.
  • Exercise.  Exercise is one of the best stress busters.  By taking a break for some cardio, students renew themselves for the next round of studying.
  • Eat nutritious meals.  Our bodies and brains perform better when we include more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meat or fish in our diets.  Junk food, sugary snacks and drinks, caffeine, and processed foods provide less nutrition.  And skipping meals is total no-no! 
  • Surround oneself with positive people.  Avoid law students who are complaining, moaning, and groaning.  You can take on their negativity if you are not careful.
  • Break larger tasks into very small steps.  You will feel more motivated and confident about completing a small step when the larger task seems too overwhelming.
  • Take time to write down a "blessings" list for yourself.  Write down all the things you can be thankful for and read it whenever you begin to lose your perspective. 
  • Remember that you are the same very bright and capable person who entered law school.  You are dealing with challenging material and are among others who are equally bright.  If you use the many resources available at your law school, you can learn more efficient and effective strategies for your studies that will help you succeed.
  • Seek medical advice if necessary.  If the negativity makes you ill or turns into depression, go to a doctor or counselor for assistance.

Most law students feel overwhelmed at some point during law school.  However, it does not have to be an ongoing way of life.  (Amy Jarmon)     

October 9, 2009 in Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

New Resource on Mindfulness

A new book that I cannot wait to read just landed on my desk.  Scott Rogers has written Mindfulness for Law Students: Using the Power of Mindful Awareness to Achieve Balance and Success in Law School.  The book has many exercises and resource lists within its pages.  Scott Rogers is the founder and director of the Institute for Mindfulness Studies.  (Amy Jarmon) 

October 8, 2009 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Finishing The Week in Grand Style

I have been inspired by one of my colleagues here at UConn, who finishes up with week in grand style. As a part of her job, she writes a weekly update for students in her program. The intro to her weekly updates have become one of the highlights of my Friday. Instead of simple run-down of events her program sponsors, she riffs on what students are going through at that moment--exhaustion, break-ups, annoying rommates--all the things that drive students crazy. It helps that she is hysterical, bringing levity to a very long Friday. The most important thing about her riffs is that she lets students know that they are not alone when they feel like they are losing their mind, and exhausted past the brink of tears.  New students, be it 1L's or freshman, feel like they are carrying these burdens alone. Many are afraid to admit it's not going well for them, or think they are the only one struggling. By providing a (very funny) weekly reminder that we are all in this together, and it's a struggle for all of us, she is providing some needed support to students who won't reach out on their own. You never know which message will reach a student in crisis.

I have no doubt that the necessary part of her weekly update gets more attention because she starts with light-hearted banter. The purpose of the updates is to remind students of major events; some of them they must attend. For Academic Support programs that are new, are comprehensive (1L through bar), or have an unfortunate location, a weekly update can be a powerful tool for getting the attention of students. Even for students who need not need ASP programming, a weekly newsletter or update reassures them someone is looking out for them, and providing them with a needed break from the heavy-duty studying.  The key is make them useful, make them brief, and keep it funny. (RCF)

October 2, 2009 in Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)