Thursday, December 3, 2009

Thanksgiving, and Reminding Students to Really Be Thankful

Every once in a while I will recommend an article or story to students that has nothing to do with law school. The article usually reflects on what it means to really appreciate everything they have, even in a terrible job market, with debt, with grade-anxiety.  I think that taking a look outside the law school (and legal market) echo chamber to  read about real struggles and real triumphs does not diminish their concerns, but reminds them that they still have reasons to smile.  Law student concerns are real, significant, and can be debilitating, but it is also good to remember that the world is much bigger than their law school.

There are not a lot of articles that I believe fit the bill; many are just depressing (and law students don't need any more reasons to be depressed) or have a negative tone. I seek the rare article that discusses a real challenge, where there may not seem to be a lot of hope, but perseverance of spirit makes all the difference. It doesn't need to have a traditionally happy ending, but it needs to remind students that the basic things in life are, indeed, things not be forgotten.

The first article I recommended to students was more than a few years ago, while at was at Arizona State. The article was "The Ballad of Big Mike" about Michael Oher. Michael Oher story's is now in movie theaters as "The Blind Side" with Sandra Bullock (I haven't seen the movie).The article made me cry, but made me happy to be human, an American, to be blessed with so many things I don't think about (like a bed or parents). Law students concerns don't go away when they read a story like Michael Oher's, but it can remind them that law school, as well as friends, family, and health, are tremendous blessings not to be ignored.

This week I read an article that I will pass on because it had the same effect on me; "Would My Heart Outrun It's Pursuer?" by Gary Presly. The author is a quadriplegic, at both the beginning and the end of the story. It's not about miracle cures or treacly sentiment. It does, however, remind the reader of why friends are amazing things, limbs that work are a gift, and why we need to believe in ourselves, even when we have real reasons to think we are not worthy. 

I don't feel that I am preparing students for careers in the legal profession if I don't help them remember their humanity and their worth.  Right now, law students are in a pressure-cooker, and positive news in a law school is rare.  But theirhumanity, their spirit is something that needs to be nourished no matter what the economic conditions look like, no matter how many exams they are facing. (RCF)

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