Friday, May 22, 2015

The Angst of Grades and Academic Standards

Professors are grading stacks of exams as the due date for grades quickly approaches. The law school is like a ghost town when it comes to faculty presence. The few colleagues who prefer to grade exams in their offices rather than at home give daily updates on how many questions/exams down and how many to go.  

Some courses are already completed and the grades posted. Our trusty Registrar's staff members post grades as soon as all of the procedures for a course to link names to exam numbers and grades are completed.

The emails, telephone calls, and visits are starting from anxious students who are waiting to see whether they will meet the academic requirements. Many of them have one or two of their grades posted at this point and are frantically calculating what they need in their other courses to make the minimums. They are losing sleep over whether the next course posted will help or hurt them.

Their angst is increased because of their prior feelings as they came out of their exams.  In some courses, they felt confident and visualized getting some kind of B or A. In other cases they felt discouraged by rules recalled after leaving the exam room, running out of time, or "flipping a coin" between two good answers for the best answer. Add those post-exam discussions with classmates, and they have worried about missing things other people saw.

When the first posted grades were not the hoped for As or Bs but instead Cs or lower, they likely visualized the bottom dropping out. If they were so wrong about success in those courses, what will the other grades be like? Even if the disappointing grade might be  the result of a tight curve rather than their own lack of understanding, it is little consolation.

Every law school is different when it comes to policies and procedures. Here are some thoughts to help students who are concerned they may not make their academic standards:

  • Read the student handbook, on-line policies/procedures, or other materials provided by your law school about academic standards. Answers to many of your questions are already available in these materials.
  • Review the specific options, if any, that you may have for your law school. Some law schools dismiss without any options. Some law schools have processes for immediate petitions while others require students sit out a period of time before a petition may be filed. Some schools allow readmission on probation while others only allow repeating the first year.
  • Read carefully all letters and materials you receive about your academic status. (If you were already on probation, re-read the prior letter and materials.) Answers to many of your questions are given in those communications.
  • Meet any deadlines that you are given for the options available to you at your law school.
  • If documentation is required for petitions (examples: doctor's letter, psychiatrist's letter, report on ADHD testing, etc.), make sure appropriate documentation is provided.
  • Be honest with yourself.  Law school is not the path for everyone. Is law school what you really want to do? Did you only attend because you were not sure what else to do? Do you find the law intellectually stimulating and interesting? Instead, is it drudgery for you? What is your passion? What do you really want to do with your life?  
  • Consider how to tell family and friends about your academics. Having support is important. Hiding the situation from those who care about you may add to your stress. Decide whether you want to talk to significant people in your life now or later about your law school career. Perhaps talk to someone at the university's counseling center if you need someone to help you with the anxiety and decision-making.
  • Have your Plan B (and Plan C and Plan D if necessary). Begin to devise what you will do next if law school is no longer an option. Application to another graduate program? Certification in a new skill? Return to the career/job you left before law school? Move back home temporarily?
  • Consider the implications of probation or dismissal for your financial aid. Talk to the financial aid person for your institution. Your university may have academic progress requirements that affect financial aid for probation students. Find out loan repayment procedures if you are dismissed.

As you wait for grades, realize that you are still the same intelligent and talented person you were before law school. Not becoming a lawyer (whether you decide not to continue when the grades turn out okay or you are dismissed) is not the end of your choices. You will have a positive impact on society in other ways. And the critical thinking and writing skills you have learned in law school will translate to other fields. (Amy Jarmon) 

 

 

 

May 22, 2015 in Advice | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 17, 2015

Develop Tools for Dealing with Stress

Law school is tough but so is life. Now is the time to develop your toolbox for dealing with stress. You would not use a hammer to cut a piece of wood but you won’t be able to get that nail in if you don’t learn how to use a hammer effectively. The same thing goes for stress. If you don’t develop tools for dealing with stress now, chances are you won’t handle it well later in life. Avoid- you might be able to avoid stress if you plan ahead and take control of your surroundings. Leave 10 minutes early and avoid traffic, study in a quiet area of the library where you won’t be bothered by annoying people, or say no to leading that committee or planning that event. You can say yes to some things, but you don’t have to say yes to everything. Alter- you might not be able to avoid stress but you can change the situation. Manage your time and organize your day so that you stay on task, set limits for yourself whether it’s studying or social media. Cope- if you have no choice but to accept certain things then talk to someone. Your feelings are legitimate so even if the situation can’t change, talking about it will make it less frustrating. Believing that you can’t cope is itself a stressor so changing your expectations is very helpful. You may need to redefine success or adjust your standards, especially if perfection is your goal. Oftentimes something as simple as adopting a mantra (I can do it) can help you work through that feeling of helplessness. Stress is a part of life so what matters is how you deal with it. Start applying techniques now to balance the stressors. With a little practice you’ll not only know what tools you have but how to use them.

KSK

 

April 17, 2015 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 23, 2015

Nix the Acronyms

The Legal Skills Prof Blog recently posted this reference to a short piece on acronyms. I agree that acronyms and other abbreviations can cause confusion, ruin the flow of an essay, and cause the reader frustration. The article suggests a few useful guidelines on when to use them and when to avoid them. I have even had one bar examiner tell me to instruct students that their bar exam essays should not read like a text message. In an acronym, twitter/text, abbreviation heavy culture, this is a good reminder. Thus, I advise my students that when they are in doubt, they should write it out.

(LBY)

February 23, 2015 in Advice, Bar Exam Preparation, Miscellany, Teaching Tips, Writing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, February 20, 2015

Teenage Lobotomy

To paraphrase the late, great Romantic poet Joey Ramone, "technology did a job on me, now I am a real sickie …"  

A very nice and very lost old woman with a pie showed up on my doorstep at 8 p.m. last night.  Unfortunately, the pie was meant for the occupants of another house on a nearby street.  She asked me where the street was, and, as I considered the ethics of grabbing the pie and slamming my door, I gave her some vague directions.  Mainly, I pointed and said, "It's kinda over there."  In my mind, I was picturing the street that was one street over and perpendicular to my front door.  The old woman disappeared into the night.  I went inside and ate two Entenmann's chocolate donuts (the rich man's Hostess!) and watched my son play either a freeform jazz version of "Baba O'Reilly" or "Hot Cross Buns" on his clarinet.

The next morning on the way to school, I realized the street the old woman was looking for was actually the street behind my house.  I have lived here for three years, and I know of the existence of the street, that friends of mine live on it, and that it is somewhere in my neighborhood, but I was wrong about where it actually sat.

Now, I may simply be a clueless bozo, and I realize that any success I have ever had was because of my staggering good looks, but I started wondering about why I didn't actually have my neighborhood (or city for that matter) mapped out in my head by street names.  I can get anyone anywhere in Columbia as long as I am driving, but if someone asks me to explain HOW to drive somewhere, I'm pretty sure I couldn't do it.

Street names seem like a basic piece of information I should know -- clearly, they represent the physical structure of the world around me and are meant to provide points for my memory to grab onto -- but I don't know them.

In the past couple of years, I have had more than one conversation with a law student where I have asked, "And who is your professor for ….."  More times than I would've thought, they actually didn't know the professor's name.  At first, I found this completely mind-boggling, and then I started thinking about my problem with streets.

The thing is, with GPS and Googlemaps and my phone I have no reason to learn street names, and that technology has basically made me stop paying attention so I never learn them.

I think the same thing has happened with our students, but over a longer period, and without a B.T. ("Before Tech") Era where they had to rely on their own memory to get places or know things.  Tech has made a lot of memorization absolutely unnecessary.  During the old days, for many classes, at the end of the day I probably didn't HAVE to know my professors' names -- I knew where the class was, I knew the class hour, and I was studying the material so I could handle myself if called on -- but, because I was used to having to memorize things like streets and state capitals, my brain naturally picked up the professor's name and threw it in Ye Olde Memory Hole.

With the amazing amount of computing power sitting in all of our pockets, memorization is pretty much as dead as disco.  If I want to know a state capital or how many hits Ted Williams had, I can immediately look it up on my phone.  For the digital natives we are currently teaching, they had a schooling where it was basically unnecessary to ever memorize anything.  I think in many ways their brains are not used to having to memorize and "know" things to be able to use the information, so many of them don't naturally grab pieces of information by default.

So, when I have a student in trouble, I counsel them to memorize law the old fashioned way -- by memorizing their outline, putting it aside, and then writing it out, by hand, on a yellow legal pad.  I'm not a big fan of turning them to online types of techniques, like apps or sites with flashcards or what not.  As much as I can, I want to get the computer out of it, because I feel like that caused the problem in the first place.

(Alex Ruskell)

 

   

February 20, 2015 in Advice | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 16, 2015

How to Know if You are Studying

Law students spend hours and hours studying. A 60 hour week is the norm. The law school study standard is 3 hours of prep for every hour of class. This means actual study time, not time spent in the library. You may think you are productive but are you? Of those 4 hours you spent in the library last night, how much of that time was spent on actual studying? One way to measure it is to track your “billable hours.” Make note of the time you start studying and use the timer on your phone to track how long you are on task. Stop the timer every time you stop studying. Even if it’s just a few seconds, stop the timer. How many times did you stop to read a text, send a text, check twitter feed or facebook updates, talk to someone, get up and stretch, re-organize your materials? This adds up and you are probably not as productive as you think. Once you realize how much time you waste, use the timer to keep you focused. If you plan on studying for 3 hours, you know that reading and responding to a text means stopping the timer and 3 hours can turn into 4 or 5. Would you rather spend that time at your desk or in the library, or would you rather spend it doing something you enjoy? The choice is yours. (KSK)

February 16, 2015 in Advice, Exams - Studying, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Tips for Publishing

This is my very short list of tips for ASPer's looking to publish in the February 2015 cycle. I also put this out on the listserv (thank you Courtney Lee for starting the thread!)

As someone who just went through this process for the first time in August, these are my lessons-learned:
1) Let it go. Don't sit on your work. It will never be perfect.
2) Make sure you have a beautifully drafted cover letter, a perfect, typo-free abstract, and the best (not perfect) version of your paper when you are ready to send on to ExpressO and Scholastica. Check, double-check, and triple-check that the attached version is NOT the one with editing mark-ups (it's difficult to turn off editing mark-ups on a Mac).
3) It's all about the marketing. Don't be afraid to reach out to law reviews, explaining to them why your article is a perfect fit for their journal. Make your case.
4) Once you have a contract in hand, make sure you retain the rights to post on SSRN and Digital Commons.

(RCF)

January 31, 2015 in Advice, Publishing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 19, 2015

There is still time to take stock of your fall semester.

If you are a first year law student - especially - it is important to take stock of your law school learning and progress.  Regardless of the results of your fall exams, there is much to be learned from your exam results. 

* Get copies of your exams -- all of them -- to the extent that your law school permits.  Review your exams carefully. 

* Ask yourself how your best essay answers differ from the essays that you are less pleased with. 

* If your professors have made rubrics or sample/model answers available make good use of those resources.

    - outline the model or sample answer & look to see how it compares with your own.

    - does the model or sample answer use the IRAC structure?

    - does your answer follow the IRAC structure, using IRAC is a good way to ensure that you include     the necessary components of legal analysis, such as the rule and use of the exam facts?       

    - what points of law or analysis are noted in the rubric or sample/model answer  -- but not in your     answer?

    - did your course outlines contain the information needed to do well on the exams?  If not, learn     from this experience as you prepare outlines for the spring courses.

* Make appointments to meet with your porfessors -- even for courses that ended in December.  Meeting with your professors helps you to learn from the exam experience.  But be prepared for those meetings by thoroughly reviewing your exams  - before the meetings.

(MGO)

January 19, 2015 in Advice, Exams - Studying, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Back in Black

Every year at the beginning of the second semester, I send out the same email to the first years.  It seems to help.  So, if you are a student who has stumbled across this blog, you might appreciate this story.  I bet most of your professors have a similar one (and, like me, turned out better for going through it):

"By now, the grades have started to roll in, and you may be less than happy with how things are turning out.  

In all honesty, the best thing that ever happened to me during my schooling was after I turned in my first English paper in college.  I had never gotten less than an A in anything in my life, I was the “English” guy for the Academic Decathlon Team, I’d won several creative writing contests, and I wanted to major in English.  On my first paper, I got a C.  

When I went to talk to the professor, a man who wore seersucker suits and looked like a cross between Mark Twain and Colonel Sanders, he said in his genteel Virginia-tidewater accent, “Is English your first language?  Your name is Russian.  Are you translating as you write?”  

The unfortunate thing was that he was genuinely curious and English is my first, and only, language.  

As painful as it was at the time, I truly believe that that C made me a better student — I learned from my mistakes, buckled down, and did a lot better in school than I probably would have had I never experienced that setback."

(Alex Ruskell)

January 15, 2015 in Advice | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Growth Mindset

Winter Break is over and the semester has begun. Regardless of whether you have your fall semester grades, it’s important to start the new semester with the right approach: optimistic, determined, and with an open mind. The last one is the toughest because it means having an open mind about yourself and ability to grow and change. When a friend experiences a set-back we are quick to encourage but when it comes to ourselves, we aren’t very forgiving. This semester, try doing for yourself what you do for others. Instead of giving up because something is too hard, accept that success will take some time and effort. Don’t think you can’t make your situation any better because you can improve if you keep trying. See mistakes as something to learn from; and before you settle, ask yourself if this is really the best you can do. Think back to something that didn’t come easy to you (learning to swim, ride a bike, drive a car). What if you quit instead of persevering? You certainly wouldn’t be where you are today. Keep your head up, keep working hard, and keep that mind open. (KSK)

January 13, 2015 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 12, 2015

If you can't say it, it does not exist.

When it comes to legal writing, "if you cannot say it, it does not exist." 

While attending the 2015 meeting of the American Association of Law Schools, I had the opportunity to attend the Blackwell Reception.  The Blackwell Reception is put on by the Legal Writing Institute and the Association of Legal Writing Directors.

At the 2015 Blackwell Reception, these organizations presented two awards:

The Blackwell Award went to Helene Shapo.

The Golden Pen Award went to the Honorable Michael Ponsor, Judge  for the United States District court for the Western District of Massachusetts.

So, finally -- the significance of the title of this blog post:  "If you cannot say it, it does not exist."  Judge Ponsor made this statement as he accepted his award and, not surprisingly, received much applause from the roomful of legal writing professors.  Judge Ponsor's statement goes well beyond the confines of legal research and writing classes. 

Even if this bloger did not do double duty in both Academic Support and Legal Writing and even if this blogger did not work at a law school in Western Massachusetts (where Judge Ponsor is a welcome and respected speaker) his statement would be worthy of this blog.  The statement applies to every aspect of a law student's journey toward success in law school and in law practice.  As law professors, law students, or lawyers, if we cannot explain or articulate our analysis, that analysis does not exist.  I have already used Judge Ponsor's statement -- in the first class of my upper level course.

Have a great Spring Semester!

 

(MGO)

 

January 12, 2015 in Advice, Meetings, Writing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Writing Presentation Proposals- You Can Do It!

Interested in presenting, but do not know where to start?  There are many great conferences in the coming year and you should share your insights, practices, and teaching methods with the ASP community at one of them. If you have never presented or feel like you need a fresh perspective to writing your proposal, I have included a few ideas to get you started:

  • Carefully read the call for proposals and craft your proposal by using that as your template. If there are samples, even better. Use them as a guide, but add your unique viewpoints to set yours apart.
  • Think about the audience that is attending the conference. What do they want to know? And, how would they like you to deliver it? Lecture, poster presentation, or interactive involvement.
  • Be specific, but not too specific. Make a few broad statements and support them with a few specific examples. You do not want your proposal to be too amorphous, but you also do not want it to be too narrow. This flexibility will allow you to make changes between submitting the proposals and giving the presentation.
  • Brainstorm ideas:
    • Think about the best presentations that you have seen. Why were they meaningful to you? What did you take away from those presentations?
    • Think about your year.  What is something impressive that you accomplished in the classroom or within your school? What was your lightbulb moment? What was your biggest challenge in the classroom, with your co-workers, or with your students? How did you overcome those challenges? What was the best article your read, book you read, or class you attended? What did you learn? How did it change your teaching?
    • Write ten things that are you really good at doing. Go!
    • Write ten things that you wish you were really good at doing. Go!
    • Look over recent listserve threads, blog posts, or news stories. Think about how you can add to the discussions or elaborate on the issues.
    • Make a bold statement- something provocative, debatable, or controversial. Go boldly where no ASPer has gone before!
    • Once you have brainstormed your ideas, draft the outcomes you expect. What do you want the participants to be able to do or do differently after they hear your presentation?
    • Revise, edit, and redraft.  Use spell check and have someone you trust read through your draft. This will help you appeal to a wider audience and will ensure that you do not have typos or confusing goals.
    • Submit your proposal and do not get discouraged if it is not selected. It is not personal! There are typically many more submissions than available openings. The important thing is to keep trying if your proposal is not at first selected.
    • If your proposal is selected- congratulations!  Now, begin thinking about your presentation straightaway. Record your thoughts and start preparing while your ideas are still percolating.

I can’t wait to hear your presentation!

Lisa Bove Young

 

January 10, 2015 in Advice, Meetings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 9, 2015

New to ASP? Propose a Presentation for AASE!

I have attended a few conferences this fall, and it has been wonderful to meet new ASPers. So many new ASPers have fantastic new ideas, new programs, and new skills. As program co-chair for this year's conference, I want to encourage professionals new to ASP to submit a proposal to AASE. We need you to talk about your new ideas! Don't worry that you are "too new"--"too new" is exactly the right time to present at AASE, a community of friends, colleagues, and helpers who want to see new professionals succeed. Don't worry that other people have already done what you are doing; we need people who will remind us of what it is like to start out in the field. And everyone approaches the same challenges in different ways, so chances are your methods will be new, and helpful, to members of our community. And don't worry that you can't commit to a presentation on your own; if you would like to present with a more experienced member of our community, we are happy to arrange a joint presentation--you don't even need to suggest your co-presenter! 

The bottom line is that new ASPers are critical to our success as a community, the vitality of our organization, and we want YOU to add to this year's conference. Presentation proposals are due Jan 12, to aaseconference@gmail.com. 

(RCF)

January 9, 2015 in Academic Support Spotlight, Advice | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, December 28, 2014

AALS and Networking

AALS is about the begin, and here is my near-yearly reminder to network, network, network. The best part of AALS is the networking; network in ASP-specific sessions (which I encourage everyone to attend) as well as general networking at breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. The amazing thing about our field is the spirit of giving between colleagues. We will share everything we have, and everything we know, with anyone who asks. Most of our current programs are built on the shoulders of the giants in our field (and I won't try to name them, because I'll miss someone). The most beneficial learning experiences come from working with peers at other schools, sharing programs and advice. And in this time of budget-cuts and right-sized enrollment trends, it's wonderful to be able to share anecdotes and stories with colleagues in the field. 

No one believes me when I say I am painfully shy and socially awkward (maybe they believe the socially awkward part, but are too nice to tell me!) I know many of us struggle to get to know people we have never met before when we are attending big conferences. One of the great learning experiences of my career came from a serendipitous connection with Joanne Koren from Miami Law. It was my first year in ASP, and my first AALS, and I didn't know anyone. I met Joanne, and she mentioned she was looking for someone to tour the D.C.  monuments with her. I said I would love to go, and it was one of the most memorable , wonderful AALS experiences. I have learned so much from Joanne over the years, but I would not have had the opportunity if I didn't take the leap and tour the monuments with someone I had just met. 

Enjoy AALS, and network, network, network!

(RCF) 

 

December 28, 2014 in Advice | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Time to Relax and Re-energize

The semester is over and you've spent the last week either sleeping or catching up on everything you put off during exams. You've still got a few weeks until next semester starts so it is time to find a balance between rest and relaxation, and reenergizing so you can start the new year off right.

The first goal is to stay healthy:

  • Drink plenty of water: we often eat when what our body      really needs is hydration. Drink a glass of water the next time you feel      sluggish or have the munchies. Odds are this will do the trick.
  • Get moving: in addition to physical benefits, regular exercise      gives you more energy, improves your mood and lowers stress.
  • Sleep:

Next, do something each day:

  • Plan your day: even if you are on vacation, identify      two or three things to accomplish each day. This prevents the stress of scrambling      at the last minute.
  • Use your brain: you don’t have to read legal tomes or      memorize statutes but you should learn something new every day. Increasing      your knowledge keeps you inspired and motivated.
  • Reflect daily: end each day with a few minutes of      reflection of what you’ve accomplished (not what you haven’t done).

Last, focus on what makes you happy:

  • Express gratitude: identifying things you are grateful      for promotes happiness and increases self-worth.
  • Clean your desk/room: doing this might not make you      happy but the end result will. A clean space allows you to focus on your      work instead of the clutter.
  • Indulge yourself: set aside time to indulge yourself      (just a little) so that you don’t resent having to work or study.

Too much of any one thing is never good so use these next few weeks to find a balance. It will be both enjoyable and productive and you’ll have a good foundation for next semester.

(KSK)

 

December 23, 2014 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Winter Bar Study Plan

Many schools have students who graduate in December. To help them transition from the whirlwind of finals, graduation, and holiday celebrations to bar prep, here are a few things for them to consider:

  • Create a realistic, yet rigorous study schedule. Begin after graduation, but make space to savor the end of law school before jumping into your bar prep.
  • Communicate your study plans. Make sure that your significant other,  family, and co-workers know that your priority is passing the bar exam. They will be your support system through this journey and they need to understand what you will need to be successful. (Perhaps a meal delivered now and then, or help with childcare...)
  • Use Spaced Repetition to study instead of focusing on only one subject at a time.  
  • Remember to stay healthy- exercise, eat well, and get a full night of sleep. This will increase your focus and efficiency.
  • Ask for help! When you are feeling overwhelmed, or have a question about your performance or a particular area of law, ask someone. You can ask your bar review provider, a classmate, or your Academic Support for assistance.
  • Find balance. You will always feel like you should be doing more- more studying, more MBE practice, more essay and PT writing, and more outlining. However, you also need to know when to say when.
  • Give yourself mini-rewards for reaching your daily goals and bigger rewards for reaching your weekly goals. 
  • Keep a positive attitude and surround yourself with positive people. Believing in yourself is the key to your success!

Congratulations to all of the December law school graduates and best of luck getting started with your bar prep.

(LBY)

December 18, 2014 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, December 13, 2014

If you are creating a new ASP course...

Every year someone on the listserv asks for advice because they have been charged with creating a new ASP course. I remember the anxiety I felt when I had to design my first course. Kris Franklin's new book, Strategies and Techniques for Teaching Academic Success Courses, should fill this need. The book will be given away free during AALS. 

I have read the book, and highly recommend it. Although I have been teaching in ASP for many years, it was an excellent refresher on what I should do doing and thinking about when I design (or redesign) a course. 

(RCF)

December 13, 2014 in Advice, Books, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Frontwards

During law school, I took a class on environmental law and national parks that I was really into.  I knew it frontwards, backwards, and sideways.  When I took the exam, I finished an hour early and looked around at my fellow students who were still busily scribbling away (the era of Bluebooks had not left us yet).  I checked my answers a few times and then just figured I had been really prepared for the exam.  So, I turned in my exam and sat out in the hallway reading a Thomas Pynchon novel while I waited for my friends to get out.

When they finally left the exam room an hour later, everyone was going through the usual exam post-mortem, which I tried to ignore (I also believe in the credo of Fight Club stated below).  Then someone said, "What did you write for question five?"

Question five?  What question five?  I had answered four questions.  There was a fifth?

To this day, I really don't know what happened.  Whether I somehow didn't turn over the test paper, or whether there was a printing mistake, I have no idea.  I went to my professor, but he said the mistake was on me.  I still did fine in the class, although question five was something along the lines of "Explain why you like squirrels," so I probably would've really crushed it if I actually noticed question five.  But, except for waking up screaming every six months or so, I've largely forgotten about it.

Which is a roundabout way of saying I absolutely agree with the Fight Club idea of not talking about exams.  And I also agree that once you take an exam you should put it behind you and let it go (at this point, if you have a daughter between the ages of five and 11, you probably read the last three words of that sentence in a soaring alto).  

Almost everyone of my colleagues, from folks that graduated 40 years ago to folks who graduated five years ago, has a similar story.  Clearly, things worked out.  The important part is that if you do make a mistake on the exam or realize you answered a question wrong, you need to consciously throw it behind you.  Dwelling on it now won't help you.  Spending Christmas break beating yourself up over it won't help.  And, more than likely, it is less of a disaster than you think (in that environmental law class, I still pulled a B +).

The important thing is to keep moving frontwards.

And let it go!

(If you now need to get Elsa out of your head, I suggest either "What Does the Fox Say" or "Call Me Maybe").

(Alex Ruskell) 

December 11, 2014 in Advice | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Don't Talk About Exams

“The first rule of Fight Club is, ‘don’t talk about Fight Club.’ The second rule of Fight Club is, ‘don’t talk about Fight Club.’”  

Brad Pitt uttered these words 15 years ago in the iconic movie Fight Club (a movie about a fight club). Even today when I ask my class, “What is the first rule of Fight Club?” every single guy responds, “Don’t talk about Fight Club.”  You may wonder why I would ever ask such a question and the answer is, the same holds true for exams. Don’t talk about exams. Talking about exams is like asking a woman how much she weighs or asking anyone how much he or she makes. First, outside very specific situations (like your doctor’s office), there is absolutely no reason to ask these questions. Second, you wouldn’t ask your friends these questions because you know that no matter the response, someone walks away from the conversation feeling bad. Talking about the exams is exactly the same: there is no reason to talk about it and someone always walks away feeling bad. I’ve had students challenge me and ask, “what if you have to talk about an exam?” and “what if there really is a reason?” I throw it right back and say, “give me an example.” In all the years I've been doing this, I’ve yet to hear a legitimate reason to talk about exams. As you continue through exams, keep in mind the first rule of law school exams, “Don’t talk about exams.”

KSK

December 10, 2014 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 8, 2014

Use visualization techniques to build confidence before exams

You have studied and prepared -- will continue to study and prepare -- for your end of term exams.  You have outlined each subject and prepared exam checklists that contain the legal issues/rules, elements that yopu need to know to do well; you have reread and continue to reread your outlines; you have written practice exam essays; and you have done practice multiple-choice questions.  Keep up that good work and maintain that momentum.

As you prepare for exam day(s), you can take one more step by taking a page from athletes preparing for competitions.  Use visualization techniques to build or enhance confidence as you move into the exam period.  Breathe deeply, close your eyes, visualize a large powerful animal, visualize yourself as that large powerful animal.  Take that image of yourself with you into the exam room. On exam days, employ strong, erect, powerful posture -- posture that reflects confidence.

While there is no substitute for study and preparation for law school exams, you can sse the combination of preparation and visulaization techniques to build confidence as you approach exams.  Visualize yourself as powerful; enter the examination room with erect, strong posture; picture yourself writing exams confidently.

(This post was inspired by a presentation at the New England Consortiium of Legal Writing Teachers Conference - September 2014 at Vermont Law School  -- "The Sport of Lawyering: Using Visualization to Improve Performance," Julie St. John, Assistant Professor at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law)

(Myra Orlen)

December 8, 2014 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Life's Rich Pageant

On the morning I had to take my very first law school exam, I woke up believing I had been struck blind.  My eyes were sealed shut.  I stumbled around my apartment, tripping over my roommates who lived on the floor (long story) and made my way to the bathroom.  I got my eyes unstuck with hot water and a washcloth.  It turned out I had pink eye -- which I have never had before or since.  

By the time everything was sorted out, I had something like 20 minutes until my exam started.  I hopped on my bike, flew down the hill, and made it to the exam just in time for everyone to scatter away from me as I sat down for the exam.  I could barely see, but the exam turned out fine.  I eventually went to student health who: 1) asked me how often I hung out with young children (I was 22 and single, so never); 2) told me not to smoke (I didn't); and 3) sent me home with eyedrops, a handout on safe sex, and a condom.

Based on that exam experience (and others, including a woman who cried next to me during the entire bar exam), I always tell my students to simply expect the worst when they are getting prepared for exams.  Expect the exam room to be too cold, flooded with raw sewage, or infiltrated with wild dogs.  Expect your car not to start, your dog to eat your textbook, and a marching band to tune up outside the exam room.  Expect your computer to crash.  Expect the power to go out.  Expect weird questions on the exam.

And, if none of that happens, great.

But if something like that does, don't let it throw you.  Too many students let monkeywrenches take out the whole engine.  

After falling into a fountain, Peter Sellers, as Inspector Clouseau in the film A Shot in the Dark, says "It's all part of life's rich pageant" (strangely enough, a clip is not floating around the Internet).  Along with being the title of the best R.E.M. record, it's a pretty good attitude to have regarding hiccups and problems during exam week.

Things are going to happen -- study enough and feel confident enough that you can simply roll with the punches.

(Alex Ruskell)

December 4, 2014 in Advice | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)