June 5, 2010
The Summer School Experience
Like most law schools, we have an assortment of summer courses - some required and some elective - but it is not a heavily subscribed phenomenon. Things are pretty quiet throughout the summer.
For most law students, summer school is an adjustment. Having the same class five days a week for five weeks is new. They often find that their usual friends are not here for the summer. They may be juggling a part-time job for the first time with school obligations. And the heat of a Texas summer is often a jolt for those who normally attend August to May.
For many students the summer is a plus. They like being able to focus in depth on one or two courses rather than juggling four or five subjects. They find that the five-day immersion helps their understanding and retention because they constantly have to grapple with the material. Classes are often smaller than the academic year sections of the same required courses so there is more time for questions and "face time" with the professors. They become more efficient and effective in their study habits to keep up with the daily pace.
For procrastinators, the fast pace can be a negative; one cannot put off doing any work until the end of the session and succeed. Summer school students need to jump in with both feet from day one. Otherwise, they will become quickly overwhelmed and fall behind. Everything will seem on fast forward for students who do not have good time and work management skills.
For those without a built-in group of friends, it is an opportunity to work in study groups or partnerships with new people. They often discover much in common with classmates they previously overlooked during the academic year.
For those with their first part-time job (or perhaps an externship), they discover the excitement of applying what they have learned in the classroom to practical situations. Legal concepts and procedures that before were merely knowledge are experienced within the reality of a client's case. Understanding is increased because of doing rather than just reading or memorizing.
As the temperature is expected to rise to new records in the low- to mid-100's during the coming days, summer school students will find new ways to stay cool. Staying in the air conditioning to study does not seem like a bad idea after all. (Amy Jarmon)
June 4, 2010
Welcome to Summer!
For most ASPer's, summer is here. Depending on your roleat your school, this may be a quiet time to catch up on reading and planning for the upcoming year, or it may be the beginning of your busy season, if you are involved in bar prep. Regardless of your role, be sure to take some time to reflect on your hits and misses during this past school year. Re-evaluate what programs you want to continue, update, change, or throw out for the upcoming year. Be sure you take some time to re-evaluate your program for yourself. We spend so much time justifying our programs to our schools, that we sometimes forget that everything is a work-in-progress, and not all programs are meant to survive year after year. It's okay to have a program that flops, sometimes in spite of your best efforts. Use your misses as an opportunity to re-evaluate the needs of your students. Sometimes students change faster than we do, and our programs are just not reflecting their current needs. Sometimes a program misses and there is no explanation why it did not work. The key is not to be afraid of failure, and not to take successes for granted. Sometimes it seems as if law school curriculum is set in stone (and from the Stone Age) but ASP needs to be flexible and adapt to the changing needs of our students.
If you do have some spare time this summer, there are a handful of new or revised ASP books on the market that could be helpful to you. I suggest everyone take a look at Carolina Academic Press (CAP) website and check out their new titles, as well as West and Aspen. Don't be afraid to ask for a desk copy; publishers offer them so you can check out their books and recommend them to students.
Even if you are involved in bar prep, take some time for yourself to recharge your batteries. Staycation, vacation, or just a couple of days off--everyone needs a break.
Everyone should take advantage of the wonderful conferences being offered this summer and early fall. As always, LSAC has some amazing conferences planned, as well as the Institute for Law Teaching and Learning conference in Topeka. (I am an presently out of the conference loop because of time constraints and budget cuts, so I may be missing some.) It is wonderful to catch up with colleagues and share successes and horror stories (we all got 'em!)
For the next couple of weeks I will be leading orientation sessions for incoming freshman, and then I am off to teach 4th, 5th, and 6th graders at Stanford for a couple of weeks (my version of a vacation), so my posts may be a bit more sparse than usual. Here is to wishing everyone a wonderful, healthy, relaxing summer! (RCF)
June 3, 2010
Wishing for a crystal ball and instant answers
Grades have come out. The probation and academic dismissal lists have been drawn up now. There are some surprises. And some not. Now begins the process of talking with students who will be petitioning.
Of course, the students want to know "yes" or "no" as to whether their petitions will be approved. It is not that easy, however. Each petition is decided case by case on its unique circumstances and merits. There is not a formula that calculates whether a petition will get approved or be denied. There is no crystal ball.
And there is the waiting time. Decisions on petitions for readmission to continue with one's own class do not take too long because a committee reviews the petitions. Petitions for re-entry to start over again as a 1L are the problem. With summer, it is the task of getting a faculty quorum to meet on these petitions (also on appeals of the readmission committee).
Depending on the student's circumstances, the petition itself might get delayed. For example, a student may need time for testing for previously undiagnosed learning disabilities/ADHD and following up with the process for accommodations. That information may be critical to the petition's chances of success. Delay on being able to petition means delay in an answer, especially if it is a re-entry petition and the process goes beyond the scheduled June faculty votes for re-entry.
In talking with students, I try to help them realistically assess the strengths and weaknesses of their petitions. We also talk about their options within the process. And I often talk with them about back-up plans if their petition is not approved. Although most of them would rather avoid the latter discussion, I find that if their petitions do not get approved, they are better able to handle that decision if they have already thought about their alternative plans. Often they will apply to another graduate program here or closer to home.
How can I help the most as an ASP'er during the process?
- By answering questions and explaining procedures.
- By listening to concerns and reading between the lines.
- By being available for appointments and phone calls.
- By giving an honest assessment of the pros and cons of each case.
- By making appropriate referrals.
- By being someone they can talk to about their fears, concerns, and anxiety.
- By reminding them, should things go awry with the petition, that law school is not the only path in life and they are still talented individuals.
I cannot make things instantly right for the students. But I can make things less lonely for them during the process. (Amy Jarmon)