Friday, June 28, 2013
One of the most difficult aspects (I admit there are many) of bar review, is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Many of us hate being wrong and we try to avoid failure at all costs. However, making mistakes is the only way that you will fully understand what you know and what you don’t yet know when studying for the bar exam. I actually begin each semester by telling my students that I expect and want them to make a lot of mistakes. This especially rings true when they are studying for the bar.
Instead of being in denial about their mistakes, they should abandon their perfectionist tendencies and force themselves to own up to their missteps. Much like when we are children and told to learn from our mistakes, bar students need to embrace their mistakes and find lessons within them. Deeper learning will occur if students focus on improving their knowledge instead of being hung up on a score.
For example, many students who are studying for the MBE have difficulty reaching passing scores on their early practice tests. Instead of throwing in the towel, I suggest that they keep going. Continued practice and self-evaluation will help their scores improve.
After assessing their progress on their practice questions, students should begin to diagnose their mistakes. In order to determine their weaknesses, they can ask themselves a series of questions to help them pinpoint areas to improve upon. Are they reading the facts too quickly? Did they misinterpret the law? Did they have an inadequate grasp of the legal concepts being tested? Did they get seduced by the seducer? If yes, why did they get seduced? Did they incorrectly identify the central issue?
In asking questions such as these, students are reflecting on their learning. Diagnosing their mistakes is the most important step in the learning process. Their progress will become apparent and they will gain confidence in the process. Therefore, I encourage you and your students to keep making mistakes!
Thursday, June 20, 2013
I forgot how emotionally-draining, financially-challenging, and logistically complicated it is to move from one location to another. After four-and-a-half wonderful years, I am getting ready to leave UConn to join the faculty at UMass on July 1. I am very excited about the new job. However, the last two weeks (and the next two weeks) of my life have been consumed with the details of moving my life from CT to MA. These issues led me to reflect on the issues our students face when they start law school.
Many law students move long distances to start law school. For a student who comes from a family with the financial means to hire movers and take look-see trips for apartments, this is an arduous process. Just coordinating dates and times is challenging; apartment complexes either fill up very early (in college towns) or apartment managers do not know vacancies until the last minute (rural and suburban areas, law school detached from larger universities). Apartments that are beautifully photographed can be in terrible neighborhoods, or have serious issues. Look-see trips are very helpful when sorting out these problems. But for our students who have to look for apartments while living far away, and need to move their life in a U-Haul truck, this process is incredibly stressful and emotionally-draining. These students usually can't leave their jobs until the last moment, so they are moving, and starting law school, within a one-to-two week period. It doesn't leave much time to adjust to a new area, or relax before the whirlwind of 1L year.
This is something to think about as ASP professionals plan orientation and the start of school. We may not being seeing the best of our students in those early weeks. We may be seeing students still stressed out, exhausted, and not-yet focused on academics. (RCF)
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
If you don't run a bar prep program (in which case, this is your busy season) but you have a 12-month contract, this is an awkward time of the year. You may be savoring a well-earned vacation (but most people put off vacations until later in the summer) or you may be tallying numbers for an annual report or review. But for many people, you have just come from a crazy-busy exam season, and you feel a little at loose ends; there is nothing pressing, but you know there is stuff you should be doing. Here is a quick list of things you can do now to make life less insane later in the summer:
1) Pre-orientation: Get other stakeholders on board so you can advertise the program to students.
2) Orientation: Let students know early when they need to be at the law school.
3) Syllabus planning: The earlier you finish your syllabus, the more time you have to tweak it before the start of classes. It's always helpful to start syllabi early, so you can think about how to teach the material before classes begin.
4) Scheduling workshops: If rooms in your school fill up lightening-fast (they do at UConn), think about scheduling your fall workshops during the early summer months.
5) Meetings with people outside of the law school: This is the ideal time to meet with other educators, practitioners, and professionals. Take the time to reach outside of the confines of your law school.
6) Website: If you have an ASP website, this is the time to take a fresh look at what can be updated, and what should be changed for next year.
7) Reply to all those non-pressing emails: I know I get roughly 25-100 emails a day. On the 100-email days, I sort them into the "right now" category, the "today-but-not-now" category, and the "yes, it needs a response, but not today" category. Unfortunately, the last category sometimes gets neglected entirely, because tomorrow comes, and the next 100 emails arrives in my inbox. This is the time of year to respond to the neglected emails.
Happy summer, folks!
Thursday, June 13, 2013
I would like to start with a wonderful experience I just had, that is, attending the AASE conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. As I was coming home on the plane, I got to thinking about the importance of being ASPish when attending a conference. Here are some thoughts:
Before: The week beforehand, think about what your goals are for the conference. This could include gaining a specific area of knowledge, a skill, getting started on publishing, finding a mentor, joining leadership, acquiring course materials or relevant syllabi. Read the program and think about which sessions you will go to. If you have a buddy, agree to exchange information from the sessions you attend.
During: Make a friend. We all need someone you can call in our dark moments when we need advice or support from someone who knows what it is you are going through. Having someone you can bounce ideas off of without embarrassment is a wonderful thing. Be a friend. Offer to send someone your materials or give some advice about something.
Take good notes. For my learning style, it is essential that I take notes. Whether you use a computer or handwrite, keep a section in your notes with action items to do when you get home. Add to the action items as you go through the conference and as ideas you want to use arise. Monitor your progress on your conference goals. Sit at a table for a meal with people you do not know and get to know them. Take advantage of the social activities (board games!). It is a great way to get to know people and also to have fun.
Find and tell a presenter from last year how what they spoke about made a difference in what you did over the last year. Fill out evaluations as you are in the presentation. We all know the importance of feedback and since we are all ASPish, the feedback will be positive and concrete. Pace yourself – take a nap? Even extroverts can be overwhelmed at ASP conferences! If provided, put handouts in your folder on left side, program on right. Keep receipts in you folder on left side so that when you return you can do your reimbursement request right away.
After: When you get back, print your notes and put them in a binder. Or, if you are not a paper person, scan handouts, especially those that are lessons “in a box” and put them on a thumb drive or in a computer file for easy access. If the conference materials were provided on a thumb drive write on it with a Sharpie or tag it with the date, conference title and location. Follow up with emails or phone calls to your new friends. Send out at least one email to students (and your Dean) with a nugget you got from the conference the first week you are back. Send a thank you to the dean of one of the coordinators, presenters or send thank you to a sponsor. Fill out you reimbursement request. Scan your notes and materials for the best websites referenced and add those websites to your favorites. Order desk copies of new books you heard about. Practice using tools you learned about i.e. pollev.com (thanks Russell!)
Finally, prepare a lesson or workshop using a technique or information you gained from the conference. Conferences provide a wonderful experience, looking forward to seeing you all next year in Indianapolis. (Bonnie Stepleton)
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Job Title: Director of Academic Support
Whittier Law School seeks experienced candidates to direct our Academic Support Program ("ASP") and work with our ASP and Bar Preparation professionals as part of a team dedicated to student success. The ASP Director will be responsible for leading the ASP department, which includes but is not limited to teaching skills courses for first and second year students, teaching and mentoring in summer skills and orientation programs, working during the academic year and summer session with at-risk students and the general student population in one-on-one and group settings, counseling, and helping students build academic success skills. The Director will work on program and curriculum development and innovation.
We seek candidates with excellent academic backgrounds and significant teaching experience who have worked in, directed, and created curriculum for law school academic support programs. Applicants must exhibit leaderships skills, a passion for teaching and learning, have a strong work ethic, and enjoy working on and collaborating with a dynamic team of professionals. The Director will also be responsible for maintaining and analyzing statistical data on student learning outcomes so candidates should have a strong background in assessment and the use of technology in teaching and learning.
Salary and benefits depend on level of experience. Candidates must be law school graduates with a JD degree who have passed a bar exam. (California Bar Exam preferred.) Whittier Law School is an equal opportunity employer that welcomes applications from all qualified individuals.
Please submit resumes and letters of interest that describe the applicant’s qualifications for the above position directly to Sara Berman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday, June 10, 2013
It’s summer now. All of the exams are scored, grades assigned. It’s time for a little reflection….
It occurred to me at the recent inaugural AASE conference (which was great, by the way!) that
this last year was really busy for me. Not in a “Wow, I surely did accomplish a lot this year” way, but in a “Man,this year was so busy that I feel like I got very little accomplished” way.
If you are like me, then any given day during the semester could look something like this:
9:00 a.m.: Eat breakfast while returning yesterday’s e-mails.
9:45 a.m.: Make a to-do list of the things I want to accomplish today.
10:00 a.m.: 1-on-1 meeting with struggling 2L.
10:30 a.m.: 1-on-1 meeting with 1L.
11:00 a.m.: Prep for 1:00 class.
11:15 a.m.: Interrupt prep to meet with a walk-in student.
11:30 a.m.: Return to class prep.
11:45 a.m.: Another drop-in.
12:00 p.m.: Skip lunch to complete class prep.
1:00 p.m.: Teach class.
3:00 p.m.: Return to office for office hours.
4:00 p.m.: Grab lunch.
4:15 p.m.: Eat lunch at desk while reviewing a past exam for the next student meeting.
4:30 p.m.: Place partially eaten lunch on credenza and meet with struggling 1L.
5:00 p.m.: Ask 5:00 appointment to be patient, because the 4:30 meeting is going long.
5:10 p.m.: Begin 5:00 appointment.
5:30 p.m.: Ask 5:30 appointment to wait about 10 minutes.
5:50 p.m.: Apologize to 5:30 appointment for the late start.
6:55 p.m.: End 5:50 appointment, which went over an hour due to my “late start guilt.”
6:56 p.m.: Look at partially eaten lunch on credenza. Decide to take a bite.
6:57 p.m.: Throw partially eaten lunch away. It has turned.
7:00 p.m.: Call my wife, and tell her that I’m working late tonight.
7:05 p.m.: Work on faculty committee work.
8:30 p.m.: Begin reviewing today’s e-mails.
8:45 p.m.: Begin reviewing student work sent in today’s e-mail.
9:30 p.m.: Look at the list of things I meant to accomplish today.
9:35 p.m.: Choose to leave work notwithstanding 90% of my to do list is not done.
9:36 p.m.: Promise to do better tomorrow.
10:15 p.m.: Grab dinner at a drive through to eat at home.
11:00 p.m.: Go to bed.
1:00 a.m.: Wake up with indigestion.
1:05 a.m.: Check e-mail before going back to sleep.
1:10 a.m.: Return e-mail from a troubled student.
1:11 a.m.: Troubled student responds.
1:13 a.m.: Respond to troubled student.
1:15 a.m.: Troubled student responds.
1:17 a.m.: Respond to troubled student with a very clear, “I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
1:20 a.m.: Troubled student responds with “just one last question.”
1:22 a.m.: Respond to troubled student.
1:25 a.m.: Troubled student responds.
1:30 a.m.: Turn off my phone and promise to e-mail troubled student tomorrow.
Does this seem at all familiar to you? Am I crazy? Because I have to be honest with you, I originally was trying to be funny when drafting the sample day above. But it occurred to me by the time that I finished that it was all too realistic. I absolutely have days like this. A lot of them. And please note that as I string days like these together, there’s nothing on that list that says “spend six uninterrupted hours working on scholarly writing” or “go off-campus for a weekly afternoon of community service at local high school” or “work out” or “read for fun” or “eat lunch at a reasonable hour” or “write that blog post that you promised Amy Jarmon months ago.”
As I think about this, I wonder how I get anything done. I’m so busy, and there’s always so much to do. I’m not complaining, mind you. I like to be busy. But I realize, looking at the schedule above, that my days are so full that a lot is getting missed. I realize now, in my head, that my thoughts sound a lot like a law student’s:
“I don’t have time to do everything.”
“Where am I supposed to find the time?”
“I’m working really hard, but I always feel behind.”
“I have so much to read. I can’t get anything else done.”
“I can’t think beyond tomorrow.”
“I’m not sure how I’m going to get everything finished.”
“I’m not getting enough sleep.”
“I don’t have much personal time.”
“I’m not procrastinating. I just can’t get to things until just before they are due.”
“I don’t know where I’m going to find the time to get all of my work done.”
“I guess I’ll just do the best I can.”
I hear these complaints from law students every day. And I genuinely believe that I give them really good advice. So, I wonder, how might I advise myself? Here is some simple, familiar advice that I now offer to myself, and possibly to those of you who are like me:
1. Make a schedule.
Plan out what you want to accomplish each day. Don’t just put “write” or “work” on your calendar. Plan days with detail. For example, set aside reasonable stretches of time to work on
individual tasks. Keep in mind all that you must accomplish in a given day. Set aside time in your schedule to accomplish each task and to complete the tasks overall.
In addition, engage in long-term planning. Look weeks (even months) ahead to see what deadlines exists or what longer projects must be completed. Estimate the amount of total time that you need to complete those projects and then spread the bigger tasks out, working on a little bit at a time, rather than trying to accomplish all of it at once. All nighters are often a reflection of poor planning. If you plan better, hopefully you won’t be spending the last day or two before a deadline working insanely to finish your project.2. Focus on one thing at a time.
Even though we all think we can multitask pretty well, you might find it helpful to isolate certain tasks. When writing, find an environment that is free of distractions – though you should know yourself and avoid an environment that is too quiet, if you know you won’t be productive there. An hour spent meaningfully on one task is probably more efficient than three hours spent on that one task while simultaneously trying to accomplish other goals or spending those hours in a state of distraction.3. Build in time to care for yourself.
It is important to eat and work out and spend time with family. Don’t just expect that time to appear. Plan it out. Put “Lunch” in your schedule, and put “Work Out” in your schedule at specific times. Then, respect those times. From now on, you are unavailable to do work during those times. You’re going to feel better if you eat and exercise regularly, and the remaining hours in the day will be more energized and productive.
4. Prioritize tasks.
On busy days, figure out what must be done and what can wait. Reschedule a meeting if you must; ask for extra time on a task when you can. Then spend your day focusing on the most important things but avoiding the guilt about the other, less important things.
5. Do not allow one task to dominate your time.
It is all too easy to get sucked into working on one task to the exclusion of all others. Don’t let this happen. Even though you have prioritized tasks, and one seems (or is) more important than the others, do not let that one task allow you to fail on all the others. I see this all the time with my students who are working on writing assignments. The writing assignment is due this week. It will get a grade. It seemingly is the most important thing on the schedule. Students work all day and night on the writing, simultaneously falling behind in reading, outlining, class attendance, and other obligations they have. While working on the paper with extreme multi-day focus is actually an understandable decision when one is taking a snapshot view of a student’s life, less so when looking at the “movie” version. Decisions have consequences, even the well-intended decision to focus on only one thing that happens to be due this week.
Sometimes, you will find yourself in a position where you will have to grind. By that I mean that you will be busy, tired, working late, irritable (is that allowed in ASP?), hungry, and overwhelmed, among other things. But you have to press forward; keep working and check things off of that to do list. Things will settle down, especially if you plan ahead a little better, and you’ll be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
7. Just start working.
If you’re feeling paralyzed about work, sometimes the best thing you can do is start working. Overwhelmed by the amount of research you need to accomplish in order to write a scholarly article? Just sit down at your computer and start writing the article, figuring out the finer points of research focus as you go. Need to grade exams, just pick one up and start reading it. Need to give Paula Manning-type feedback on a paper, just get started. Need to write a blog post, just tap into your thoughts and get started. Don’t worry about perfection, just do some work.
One of my favorite pieces of advice for students who are having trouble outlining is the advice to just get started. The task seems so overwhelming to them, so I say this: Imagine riding a bicycle on flat ground, or maybe even a little uphill. When you first get started, you have to stand up, shifting your weight on the pedals, rocking the bike side-to-side, in order to build momentum slowly. But, after you have momentum, you find that the pedaling is easier, you can sit down on the seat, and you can still keep up your pace with less intense effort. So, dig down and spend a little extra energy to just get started. You’ll find that once you do, the going forward is much easier, as is forming the belief that you are able to keep moving forward.
I am going to follow my own advice. Starting today. (Well, maybe tomorrow, because today is almost over.) Ask me at the end of the summer if I finished my article and book. If I don’t give you the right answer, point me back to this blog post. Please. Because it’s going to be busy in the fall. Really busy. So the time for productivity and accomplishment is now.
Happy and productive summer months, one and all!