November 24, 2012
The Last Week of Classes Is Like Leftovers
I did not cook for Thanksgiving this year. My best friend and I decided to go out to dinner instead. I realized in the days after Thanksgiving that I basically was content not to have leftovers crowded in my refrigerator. Except maybe the from-scratch cranberry sauce. And the stuffing. But the turkey, green beans, succotash, gravy, potato au gratin, sweet potato casserole, crescent rolls, pumpkin pie, pecan pie - well you get the picture - were not missed.
I realized for many of my students, the last week of classes (at our law school immediately after the holiday break) is a lot like leftovers. More reading, briefing, and new class material up to the last minute are now no longer appealing. One is already sated with those items and ready for something else. The professors who wrap up or review material are like the favorite leftovers that one is happy to have servings of for the next 5 days after the holiday.
Like all of us who ate too much and sat overstuffed on the couch after the holiday meal, our students are lethargic when it comes to more class sessions. They are focused on exams and want the leftover classes to be over. Wrap-up and reviews make sense because they go along with the exam purposefulness that students have. (Amy Jarmon)
November 21, 2012
Happy ThanksgivingAll of us here at the Law School Academic Support Blog wish our readers a pleasant and memory-filled break from law school. May you have delicious goodies to enjoy and time to relax before the last hectic weeks of the semester.
What should I do during reading week?
This is a question frequently asked of us in ASP. "Reading Week" is a misnomer; we should call it "fine-tuning your exam approaches and taking practice exams" week. Here is a list of things students should and shouldn't be doing during reading week:
1) Students SHOULD have their course outlines/summaries completed before reading week. Reading week is the worst time to complete a course outline, because it's too late to internalize the material and use it to study.
2) Students SHOULD use reading week to create exam approaches. Exam approaches fine-tune the course outline, and reshape the contents to help students anticipate exam questions. An exam approach for negligence would look like this (but with a lot more detail!)
1) Was there a duty? Definition.
Cases that examine duty: X, Y, Z
Exceptions to duty:
2) Did the D breach the duty?
Cases that examine duty: A, B. C
Things to look for if breach is at issue: res ipsa, per se...
3) Students SHOULD be rest during reading week; reading week should NOT be cram week! Students should be rested and ready for exams. It does not help them if they use reading week to cram in any reading they haven't finished, or write papers that should have been finished earlier in the semester.
4) Students should be taking practice exams in all their classes during reading week. I give the advice that was given to me: the first practice exam should before the class the student feels least confident. Tackle what is hardest first. Students should NOT do practice exams together; they SHOULD take practice exams independently, and then get together to compare answers.
November 20, 2012
The Paper Chase
I have watched this classic law school film multiple times over the years and vividly remember seeing it in the cinema when it first came out (long before I ever ventured across a law school threshold as a 1L student). Recently I decided to watch it once more because it had been several years since my last viewing.
The film has always seemed to me to be the perfect commentary on how not to have a study group. I was reminded of those points once again. Here are some of the things we learn from the movie:
- A study group needs to have members with the same goals and purposes to avoid logistical and group dynamic problems.
- A study group needs to have some ground rules so that each member knows the responsibilities and etiquette of the group.
- A study group will falter if each person is assigned one course to specialize in because only that one person learns the course well and the others suffer if the expert drops out of the group.
- A study group will have conflict if its members become overly competitive, are argumentative, refuse to negotiate on tasks, or hold others hostage by refusing to share information.
- A study group does not belong to the person who invites others to join; it belongs to everyone and should be cooperative.
- A study group will be disrupted by members who become overwhelmed and are unable to pull their weight in the group.
- If one does not study outlines all semester long and distribute learning the material, it may require holing up for days with no sleep at the end in order to cram.
- Learning styles within a group vary; one person will consider an 800-page outline a treasure while the others will view it as a curse.
- Always have a back up copy of your outline in case your computer crashes (or your outline is accidentally tossed out a window).
My wish for all law students would be to have supportive, cooperative, hard-working study groups without drama and negativity. (Amy Jarmon)
November 19, 2012
Tips for Repeat Bar Exam Takers: Support, Encouragement, and Chocolate
At this time of the year many of us have the honor of congratulating grads who successfully passed the bar exam this past summer. However, what takes more time and attention is assisting those grads that did not pass the bar exam on their first (or second…) attempt. I find that working with this group of students to be one of the most heart-wrenching yet also one of the most rewarding aspects of my job. At one of the most fragile times in their lives, I am a shoulder to cry on, a beacon of hope, and a giver of sweet treats.
Having a plan in life is essential. More importantly, having a plan for retaking the bar exam is critical to repeaters success. Thus, since grads need a clear plan in place for retaking the bar exam; I need a clear plan to help get them started. After some thought, I have identified three steps/phases to this plan. First, there is the “Support, Encouragement, and Chocolate” step. Next, the “Diagnose, Deliver, and Destroy” (no this is not a new Hollywood action film) step. Lastly, there is the “Let’s Make a Deal and a Plan” step. In this post I will highlight the first step in this three step approach.
Grads often email or call me within a week or two of the receiving their bar results. Since directly after the results are released I am occupied assisting students with bar exam appeals, I typically make appointments with repeat takers for three weeks later. Although I mainly schedule these appointments a few weeks out because my time is otherwise occupied, I find that it is also beneficial for these individuals to take time to process their bar results.
Applicants who have failed the bar go through many emotional phases, much like the phases of grief. There is denial and isolation, pain and anger, possibly some guilt, shock, or depression, and ultimately some level of acceptance. While each individual moves through these phases on their own time-line, I usually meet with them once they have reached, or gotten close to reaching, some level of acceptance. This timing is beneficial because our time together can be spent more productively with an eye to the future instead of dwelling on the past.
“Support, Encouragement, and Chocolate”
During our session, I first provide support by listening to their story and asking pointed questions. How did they study? What worked best for their memorization? What was the hardest part of studying or taking the bar exam? Were their scores somewhat expected or were they surprised by them? Do they want to take the bar again? What do they think they need to change? These questions help me understand their emotional state and help me to understand how I can best help them for their next attempt at taking the bar.
But before I begin to fully diagnose their weaknesses or help them to construct a new study plan, I listen; and, then I listen some more. Then, I give them encouragement. I do not have a canned speech that I recite, nor do I pretend to have all of the answers. But, I do know that they can do this and I help make them believe it. I give them hope that they can take the exam again and be successful. I channel Bandura so that these bar applicants wholeheartedly believe that they are competent and that they have the power and ability to pass the bar exam...because they do.
Let’s not forget the sweetest part…chocolate. I always have chocolate in my office in a big red basket (next to the tissues). The chocolate (and tissues) come in handy for times like these. No matter what takes place during this meeting, they typically leave with a smile and feel empowered and more optimistic about conquering the next bar exam.