Saturday, April 9, 2011
This point in the semester is always difficult for me as an ASP'er.
I have so many student appointments that my calendar looks like a major airport with circling planes waiting to land. Not only do my regulars come in, but now is also the time for triage appointments. It is when I do crash consultations in the hallways, at the coffee pot, and in the parking lot. I regularly expand my slots by coming in early, eating lunch at my desk between appointments, and staying late.
Group workshops are still on the schedule. Hmmm, those handouts for next week need to be revised.
There are three application and interview processes that I am involved with in some way for student positions for ASP. It is great working with students who want to be Tutors, TAs, or Dean's Community Teaching Fellows - but the paperwork end is a drag.
Several major project deadlines are on the horizon. It seems that after 5 p.m. and on weekends are the most ideal times for those to get done. Ahhh, more administrative support would help - is anyone out there listening?
Of course, there is committee work. It is crunch time for those duties as every committee tries to wind down for the academic year.
And, I am teaching EU law: juggling student presentation appointments with finishing Power Points, writing my exam, grading assignments, and planning review sessions. I really enjoy my seminar students, but often shake my head at the extra hours needed in my day.
It is the time of the semester when I have so many coughing, sneezing, flu-carrying students sitting in my office that I inevitably fall deathly ill at least once. Ah, that puts me behind on an already crammed schedule!
There, I have that off my chest (literally and figuratively). So, I manage this time of the semester by doing what I tell students to do:
- Use windfall time during the day when a student shows up late for an appointment or the appointment ends earlier than I expected.
- Match small tasks to small time slots. Even 5 or 10 minutes can be useful for an e-mail or phone call or administrative task.
- Evaluate five or six times a day what my priorities are and how to re-organize my time.
- Work on major projects in small increments to get forward progress.
- Let no one task consume my entire day so that I do not get hopelessly behind on all other tasks.
- Negotiate deadlines to remain as realistic as possible in what can get done when.
- Cut out the non-essentials: what is mere frills, what provides little payback, what can wait until the summer.
To all of you getting tired at this point of the semester, I understand your plight. May your time and stress managment skills conquer! (Amy Jarmon)
Thursday, April 7, 2011
As you know, we are in the midst of a national survey effort to learn more about Academic Support Programs at the nation's law schools. Our legal writing colleagues have just finished up their survey with something like 187 of 199 schools responding. Our ASP response rate, as of this morning, is lagging at something under 100 schools. I know legal writing professors are helpful people, but are they really more helpful than ASPers? I have my doubts.
We know it is a busy time. We know you have more demands on your time than time to meet the demands. But, we also know that a survey like this is going to gather precisely the sort of data that will persuade deans about the need for additional staffing, the scope of appropriate programming, and the benefits to the entire legal community of having Academic Support (and Success and Strategy and whatever your "S" stands for). Please, if you are the person who received the survey link for your school, take a few minutes to fill out the survey. If you are missing the link, please contact Ruth McKinney (email@example.com) so that we can get you connected to the right information to help out.
Thank you. John Mollenkamp Clinical Professor of Law and Director of Academic Support Cornell Law School 607-255-0146
Clinical Professor of Law and Director of Academic Support Cornell Law Schooljohnfirstname.lastname@example.org
A common theme in my discussion with students this week is that there are not enough hours in the day. Many of them are starting to get stressed over the amount of work to fit into the amount of time left in the semester.
Part of the problem is that they are trying to juggled end-of-the-semester assignments and papers with ongoing daily tasks and review for final exams. It can seem overwhelming if one does not use good time management skills.
Here are some tips:
- Realize that you control your time. With intentional behavior, a student can take control of the remainder of the semester rather than feeling as though it is a roller coaster ride. Make time for what really matters.
- Work for progress in every course. If one focuses on one course to the detriment of the other courses, it creates a cycle of catch-up and stress. A brief might be due in legal writing, but that should not mean dropping everything else for one or two weeks. Space out work on a major assignment over the days available and continue with daily work in all other courses.
- Use small pockets of time for small tasks. Even 15 minutes can be used effectively! Small amounts of time are useful for memory drills with flashcards or through rule recitation out loud. 20 minutes can be used to review class notes and begin to condense the material for an outline. 30 minutes can be used for a few multiple-choice practice questions or to review a sub-topic for a course.
- Capture wasted time and consolidate it. Students often waste up to an hour at a time chatting with friends, playing computer games, watching You Tube, answering unimportant e-mails, and more. Look for time that can be used more productively. If several wasted blocks of time during a day can be re-captured and consolidated into a longer block, a great deal can be accomplished! For example, reading for class can often be shifted in the day to capture several separate, wasted 30-minute slots and consolidate them into another block of perhaps 1 1/2 hours.
- Use windfall time well. It is not unusual in a day to benefit from unexpected blocks of time that could be used. A ride is late. A professor lets the class out early. A study group meets for less time than expected. An appointment with a professor is shorter than scheduled. Rather than consider the time as free time, use it for a study task.
- Realize the power of salvaged blocks of time. If a student captures 1/2 hour of study time a day, that is 3 1/2 extra hours per week. An hour per day adds up to 7 hours per week. Time suddenly is there that seemed to be unavailable.
- Break down exam review into sub-topics. You may not be able to find time to review the entire topic of adverse possession intensely, but you can likely find time to review its first element intensely. By avoiding the "all or nothing mentality" in exam review, progress is made in smaller increments. It still gets the job done!
- Evaluate your priorities and use of time three times a day. Every morning look at your tasks for the day and evaluate the most effective and efficient ways to accomplish everything. Schedule when you will get things done during the day. Do the same thing at lunch time and make any necessary changes. Repeat the exercise at dinner time.
- Cut out the non-essentials in life. Save shopping for shoes for that August wedding (unless perhaps you are the bride) until after exams. Stock up on non-perishable food staples now rather than shop for them every week. Run errands in a group now and get it over with to allow concentrating on studies for the rest of the semester.
- Exercise in appropriate amounts. If you are an exercise fanatic spending more than 7 hours a week on workouts, it is time to re-prioritize. You may have the best abs among law students at your school, but you need to workout your brain cells at this point in the semester.
- Boost your brain power in the time you have. Sleep at least 7 hours a night. Eat nutritional meals. Your brain cells will be able to do the academic heavy lifting in less time if you do these simple things.
So, take a deep breath. Take control of your time. And good luck with the remainder of the semester. (Amy Jarmon)
Monday, April 4, 2011
Each year I have a few law students who work with me as they adapt to disabilities that are either new or newly discovered. A new disability might occur when a student has lost an arm in a car accident. A newly discovered disability might occur when a student is diagnosed with ADHD or learning disabilities after successfully compensating in earlier education but under-performing with the overwhelming amount of work and one-exam system in law school.
Depending on the timing of the new or newly discovered disability, some students will be adjusting to the diagnosis itself still as well as trying to determine different strategies for their studies. They may have some hurdles to get over before they are comfortable with their circumstances.
Some students are shaken by the fear that they are "no longer just like everyone else." They are not certain how to proceed. As time progresses, I see them grow more comfortable in their new circumstances. They learn to manage the disability, whatever it is, through physical therapy, medication, accommodations, and other appropriate methods. Some turn to our university counseling center for assistance in their adjustment. Later in the year, they will often tell me that they have accepted the circumstances and moved on from the initial uncertainties. They also comment that they have rediscovered themselves and realize that they are just like everyone else, but have a unique circumstance to manage.
Some students worry about using accommodations because they fear accommodations mean "having an unfair advantage" rather than "levelling the playing field." They do not want others to resent them because they get extra time on exams, laptop use in classes where they are banned for others, or note-takers in class. It is sometimes hard for them to realize that the accommodations are very fair - after all, that is why they are given. Even if some other students' reactions are negative, those reactions merely indicate the immaturity of those other students. After all, none of those other students would opt for the disability; none of them would give up accommodations if they had the same circumstances.
Some students are concerned that accepting accommodations will mean that "everyone will know" when the disability is otherwise invisible. This concern is often harder for students because it resurfaces the concerns about not being like everyone else and being open to criticism from students who react negatively about accommodations for disabled students. Most students realize, however, that achieving their true academic potential is ultimately more desirable than hiding their disability. (An added aspect is that many boards of law examiners will look at accommodations in law school to determine accommodations on the bar exam.)
Each student adapts differently to a new or newly discovered disability. For some, the adaptation occurs rapidly. For others, it takes a bit longer. And, for others, it is an on-going process.
How can we help as ASP'ers?
- Listen carefully. There is often a sub-text if we are alert to it.
- Provide a safe environment. Allow the student to talk about concerns and fears as well as study habits.
- Work with the student on specific study strategies tailored to the disability. Often the doctor or testing report will suggest specific strategies. Brainstorming can assist the student in selecting possible strategies.
- Make referrals. Support from your university's student disability services, counseling center, or doctors can be valuable to the student.
- Turn to the experts on your campus if you need more information about a disability or suggestions on how to work with a student on study strategies.
All law students have adjustments to make during 1L year and throughout law school. And they make the adjustments at different speeds. By layering on a new or newly discovered disability, the students may need some additional time and assistance. (Amy Jarmon)