Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Failure as a choice

ASP'ers want students to succeed.  We want them to live up to their academic potential.  We want them to get A's and B's as often as possible.  We want to congratulate them on their hard work.  We want to see them blossom as they learn management skills to deal with stress, time, and organization. 

Let's face it, most of us are practical problem solvers at heart.  We desire to point students in the right direction.  We suggest strategies and techniques that are based on learning or memory research.  We teach all of the basic legal study skills.  We brainstorm with students for possible solutions to their unique issues.    

A few students get sidetracked by obstacles beyond their control: undiagnosed learning disabilities, hospitalization, family emergency, personal tragedy.  They may have chosen to succeed but had their efforts cut short.  These students' resulting academic difficulties may well reflect their exceptional circumstances rather than a choice to fail.

However, other students choose failure rather than success through a variety of daily decisions.  They choose not to attend ASP workshops.  They choose not to ask their professors for help.  They choose not to attend structured study groups or tutoring sessions as 1L's.  They choose not to use appropriate study aids to clear up their confusion.  They choose not to complete practice questions for feedback.  Even students who are required to participate in ASP can choose not to implement what they learn.

Some students compound these choices with other behaviors.  They skip appointments for the flimsiest excuses.  They do not prepare for class.  They take their maximum absences without concern for learning.  They party rather than study.  A few may even feel entitled to good grades merely because they pay tutition and have succeeded in the past.  A few may try to coast on their gifts of gab and ingratiating charm.

At law schools where there is not a second chance, students are suddenly faced with the consequences of their decisions.  At law schools where a period of probation allows "rehabilitation" for prior decisions, many students will make new choices to succeed so that the consequences will not be dire.  However, some probation students will have damaged their GPA's so severely that academic dismissal will become an almost certain mathematical conclusion.  

ASP'ers can offer services, warn about bad choices, and counsel students about behaviors.  But, sad as it may be, we cannot stop some students from exercising their personal right to fail.  (Amy Jarmon)

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