Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Inevitable Roller Coaster: Bar Review

As we slowly approach the one month mark for the bar exam, strange things begin to happen. Bar Studiers we did not realize were in town surface in the building with questions and concerns and Bar Studiers we have seen regularly seek more and more encouragement to intensify their bar exam preparation. Interactions with Bar Studiers is normal but what is out of the ordinary are some of the things they share with us believing they are the only ones experiencing them. Bar Studiers do not realize there are other students who also experience similar series of challenges and misadventures. It is as if the universe knows that the bar exam is looming and sets up a number of obstacles along their path to test resilience, persistence, and character. Bar Studiers may not always recognize they are up for the challenge and we are here to remind them of this fact, help them strategies, and get them to their seats on bar exam day with a sense that they can tackle this seemingly impossible, yet possible obstacle.

Below are a handful of issues that surfaced this year and in the past and some of the approaches we have used, depending on an individual Bar Studier’s unique circumstances and needs.

Health Plays Games

Last week and this week, I heard sneezes in the hallways and several Bar Studiers have been missing in action for a day or two. Some notified me that they will not be around as they know that I will inquire about their whereabouts. I parted with two boxes of Kleenex and a giant bottle of hand sanitizer was in significant use. I understand that allergies are in full swing and immune systems struggle to keep up with the pace many adopted to manage bar preparation. To put things in perspective, it is better to temporarily get sick now than on exam day. In response to panic about falling behind in bar review and feeling unprepared for the exam, we discuss how to rearrange schedules, move tasks around, and use small spurts of activity with scheduled rest. I prescribe sleep and okay short naps emphasizing the importance of sleep even though it seems impossible to have restful sleep due to constant thoughts about bar preparation. We insist that Bar Studiers see a doctor if need be and fill necessary prescriptions so as not to exasperated preexisting conditions and developed new ones.

If Bar Studiers are concerned about falling behind, we suggest low-intensity activities that allow them to complete tasks, go through flashcards on an app or physical cards, and memorize information. We discuss a plan for the next day so all they do is implemented with some room for adjustment. We try to find habits that can be implemented in the days and weeks to come so they are ready for the exam. We also explore worse case scenarios and how they will manage such situations on exam day. Of course, nothing is a guarantee but it is a start.

Life Happens

At a bar exam program presented several years ago, a speaker announced that everything that can go wrong will go wrong during bar review and everything you have ever wanted to do will become a possibility during bar review. She continued that bar review is only a few weeks and months out of your entire life and you will likely have the opportunity to experience many of the things you miss out on at some point in the future. Over the years, I note that Bar Studiers experience a range of life occurrences including: death in the family, breakups with significant others and spouses, issues with character and fitness on the bar application, car accidents, financial challenges (even with planning), lack of food, familial demands and expectations, emotional and physical impact of socio-political events, and much more. Life does not simply stop because you are studying for the bar exam. You will have both good days and not so good days and your reaction to and feelings about everything will be amplified.

You might waste a day or a half a day attending to real life situations and that is okay and necessary but it does not mean that you will be unable to complete your preparation for this exam. If however, life completely takes over and when you assess the situation you recognize that you are unable to sustain the pace and expectations of bar review then you might want to have a conversation with someone. You want to discuss alternatives or develop a new game plan to achieve your goals. Be open and honest with yourself and those helping you.

Fear Sets In

Obsession over percentile performance on the MBE and scores on the essays breeds fear and sometimes avoidance for many Bar Studiers. As Bar Studiers compare themselves to others through grading or communication with each other. Some academically strong Bar Studiers become disappointed and recoil. Others decide not to complete essays or MBEs until they have mastered the subject area. Each score becomes a determinative factor of whether they will pass or fail this exam. This is not necessarily true but it takes a lot to convince a student otherwise. I am always more concerned about those Bar Studiers who are left to their own devices than those who communicate these concerns and communicate their plans.

Here again, it is all about perspective. We like to use the experiences and advice of individuals who recently took the bar exam and were successful. We ask them what they did, how they did it, how they felt at various points of bar preparation, and I deem this more effective than anything else. I also try to put things in perspective by reminding Bar Studiers of what they should get from completing the practice, discuss the expectations of the exam with regard to time management, and remind them that exposure adds to the knowledge and confidence with which they approach the exam.

…But We Finish Strong

Bar Studiers, compete with yourself and no one else. Do your best and ensure that you reasonably do what you need to and can do so you have no regrets on exam day. You will not know everything, you will have a working knowledge of all subjects, and you have a plan for the more challenging areas. When you need a break, take a reasonable break and remain focused on the task ahead. Many before you went into the exam feeling just like you will feel and they came out on top; they passed the bar exam! Develop a plan for the days and weeks ahead. You have time to cater to your weaknesses and build strength. You can do this! (Goldie Pritchard)

June 20, 2018 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Studying vs. Learning: A Matter of Perspective

It's the time of the year when one group of graduates are taking their oaths of office while another group of graduates are preparing for the bar exam this summer.  That brings me to an interesting conversation with a recent bar passer and his spouse about studying versus learning.

You see, with an introduction in hand, I asked the bar passer's spouse if she noticed anything different between her spouse's law school experience preparing for final exams and her spouse's bar prep experiencing in preparing for the bar exam.

Without hesitation, the report came back: "No. It was much the same, same hours, same long days, the same through and through."  

In rapid response and without the slightest hesitation, the recent graduate - who just passed the bar exam - exclaimed that it was "totally different. No comparison between preparing for law school exams and the bar exam."  

You see, according to his spouse's perspective, preparing for law school exams and bar exams outwardly seemed identical, but, according to the recent graduate, in law school he spent most of his time reading...and reading...and reading...and then learning as much as he could just a few days before final exams.  In other words, he spent his law school years studying.  In contrast, even though outwardly he put in similar hours for bar prep as for law school studies, his focus was on practicing...and practicing...and practicing.  In other words, for law school he was studying; for the bar exam he was learning.

So, for those of you preparing for the bar exam this summer, focus on learning - not studying.  What does that mean?  Well, a great day is completing two tasks: working through lots of actual bar exam problems and then journaling about what you learned that very day.  Yep...that very day.  That's key.  Learn today.  Spend less time studying (reading commercial outlines, watching lectures, and reading lecture notes) and more time learning (doing lots and lots of practice problems).  That's because on bar exam day you aren't going to be asked about what you read but rather asked to show what you can do.  So, be a doer this summer!  (Scott Johns).

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 14, 2018 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Learning Styles, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 7, 2018

A "Get-To" vs. "Got-To" Attitude as a Spring Board to Learning!

We're just about three weeks into bar prep.  The excitement of graduation seems so long ago.  We're back in the same 'ole schoolhouse setting, watching bar review lectures and working through hypothetical legal problems.  Sure seems like the same old pattern as law school.  But, it need not be.

But first, a bit of background...

In aviation, air traffic controllers will often query pilots about their altitude.  It's a bit of a hint from the controllers to the pilots that something might be amiss.  And, it almost sounds sort of polite:  "Easy-Go Airline Flight 100, Say Altitude."  

In response, the pilots make a quick check of the altimeter - the instrument that measures altitude (i.e, height of the airplane in the skies) to confirm that they are at proper altitude as assigned by air traffic control:  "Roger Denver Approach Control, Easy-Go Airline Flight 100, level at 15,000 feet."  

In between the two communications, however, you can bet that the pilots were quickly making some fast-footed adjustments to the aircraft's altitude to make sure that they would not be busted by the air traffic controllers.

That brings us back to the world of bar prep.  A quick "attitude check" might be similarly helpful for your learning.

You see, as Professor Chad Noreuil from Arizona State University puts it in his book entitled "The Zen of Passing the Bar Exam," it can be mighty helpful for your learning to have what I call an "attitude check."  In particular, as Professor Noreuil cites in his book, researchers have identified a positive relationship between an optimistic approach to learning and achievement in learning.  Consequently, Professor Noreuil counsels bar takers to take on a "get-to" attitude rather than a "have-to" attitude towards bar prep because a "get-to" attitude improves one's chances of succeeding on the bar exam.  That's what I refer to as a "get-to" versus a "got-to" attitude.

But how do you change your attitude from a "got-to" to a "get-to" attitude?  Well, here's a possible approach that might just help provide some perspective about the wonderful opportunity that you have to take the bar exam this summer.  You see, very few have that opportunity.  That's because the numbers are just stacked against most people.  They'll never get the chance that you have this summer.  

Here are the details.  According to the U.S. government, there are about 7.5 billion people worldwide, and the U.S. population is close to 330 million.  https://www.census.gov/popclock/   Out of that population, according to the ABA, there are about 35,000 law school JD graduates per year.  That's it.  https://www.americanbar.org/content/  And, because most states require a JD in order to to the bar exam, very few people get to take a bar exam, very few indeed.  

That brings me back to you.  As a JD grad preparing for the bar exam, you are one of the very few who get to take the bar exam.  So, take advantage of that opportunity this summer by approaching your bar exam studies as once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to "get-to" show your state supreme court all the wonderful things that you have learned about practicing law.  You've worked hard in law school for just such a season as this, so, to paraphrase a popular slogan, "Just do it...but do it with a get-to attitude this summer!  (Scott Johns).

 

June 7, 2018 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Veteran ASP Spotlight: Suzanne Darrow-Kleinhaus

For two years in a row, several Academic Support colleague recommended that Suzanne Darrow-Kleinhaus be highlighted in the Veteran ASP Spotlight Series. I was excited to read what Suzanne had to share. Let’s all learn about Suzanne. (Goldie Pritchard)

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Q: Please indicate your full name, title, and institution of employment.

Suzanne Darrow-Kleinhaus

Professor of Law, Director of Academic Development and Bar Programs

Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center

Q: Please briefly describe your ASP work including length of time associated with it and what initially stimulated your interest.  

The law was a second career for me so I didn’t exactly pick ASP but think that it picked me. My work in bar preparation goes back to 1998, not long after I passed the bar exam.  Having developed very close relationships with my classmates, I was devastated when I passed the bar exam and they did not.  I wanted to help so I began hosting weekly sessions on Sundays in my home to study with them. This experience helped me see the individual and highly different ways that people learned.  I was in private practice at the time, but when I shared what I was doing with Howard Glickstein, Touro Law’s dean at the time, he started referring students seeking assistance with the bar to me. By the spring of 1999, I was teaching Sunday workshops at Touro Law to guide students with essay writing and by 2000, I was offered an opportunity to teach Legal Process for a professor on sabbatical.  While I enjoyed my work at the firm, I realized how much I loved teaching and helping students so I decided to take this opportunity.  I taught Legal Process for three years and developed academic workshops focusing on developing legal reasoning and writing skills for students at all levels.  Touro did not have a formal academic support program at the time --- like many other law schools in 2000 --- so we developed one, a program at a time.  I was named Director of Academic Development in August 2003 and devoted my time exclusively to ASP functions, including teaching a first-year Contracts class that combined skills and doctrine for at-risk students. 

Q: Which aspect(s) of ASP work do you enjoy the most?  What would you consider your greatest challenge thus far and how have you overcome the challenge?

Like most of my ASP colleagues, I enjoy working one-on-one with students.  Still, as crazy as it might seem, I most enjoy that time between graduation and the bar exam when I work with our graduates to prepare for the bar exam.  This is the one of the best things about being a law professor because once students graduate, we’re all lawyers together, just peers, and I can help them navigate that next step to becoming a practitioner.  The bar prep period can be the loneliest, most anxiety-producing part of a student’s educational process. I want to make it less so by sharing that burden with them.     

The greatest challenge is helping first year students overcome their shock and loss of confidence when they do not do as well as they expected. The key to helping students in this situation is to remember that every student is unique; while the students who “get it” are pretty much alike in how they connect with the process of legal reasoning and analysis, those who struggle do so each in their own way.  It is my job to help them figure out what they need to do to get a different result.  Everything is on the table, beginning with setting up a daily study schedule.  Having said that, it’s important to stress that every schedule has to be flexible so we monitor how that schedule works on a weekly basis and make adjustments.  I am constantly surprised to learn how many students have never used a schedule before so that means they never knew how long it would take to perform a task --- which translates into not knowing how much time to allocate for a law school assignment.

Like others in ASP, I am constantly learning from my students and use what I learn in helping them to help others.  If one student has a problem, then others have it too.

Q: What do you want your professional legacy to be?

For students:  Touro Law gave me the opportunity to have the life I always dreamed of having. Each student comes to law school with a dream and I want to help them achieve it. I want them to realize their dream of becoming licensed and practicing attorneys. 

For colleagues: I’ve never really thought of a legacy because I am so busy in the here and now.  There is always another student and another bar exam.  I guess I would like to be remembered as one who was always available to help a colleague.  Professionally, I value most the work that I’ve done to try to change the National Conference of Bar Examiners’ scoring practices to ensure that the bar exam is a fair and reliable assessment of an individual's minimum competency to practice law. 

Q: What motivational advice or encouragement would you offer to new and/or midcareer ASPers or law students?

New and mid-career ASP’ers:  Do not hesitate to reach out to your ASP colleagues.  We are an invaluable resource for advice and practical materials.  And just like we tell our students, do not lose perspective.  It is easy to get caught up in our students’ anxiety and emotionally drained by all that we give of ourselves.  We need to remember to take care of ourselves!  I know that it is difficult, but you need to set limits on your availability, especially in responding to emails.  Unless it is a bona-fide emergency, you must let students know that you will respond within a certain window --- set that line and keep to it, or you will be answering emails around the clock.  Finally, remember that everything changes --- whether it is good or bad. There will always be changes in administration, faculty, and policies.  Keep steady and steer the course.

 Q: Is there anything else you deem necessary to share (quote, encouragement, inspiration, visual, etc.…)?

My favorite quote is from Benjamin Franklin --- it got me through law school and continues to guide me in my teaching: “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

June 6, 2018 in Academic Support Spotlight, Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Veteran ASP Spotlight: Reichi Lee

Reichi Lee was a recipient of the 2017 Association of Academic Support Educators (AASE) Excellence Awards.  An Academic Support colleague recommended she be highlighted in the Veteran ASP Spotlight Series.  Let’s learn about Reichi! (Goldie Pritchard)

Golden Gate University - Niall David Photography-0326_preview

Q: Please indicate your full name, title, and institution of employment.

Reichi Lee

Associate Professor & Director, Academic Development

Golden Gate University School of Law

Q: Please briefly describe your ASP work including length of time associated with it and what initially stimulated your interest.

I’ve been in ASP for over 11 years, first as an adjunct teaching skills courses, then Assistant Director of Academic Development, and now as Associate Professor and Director, teaching skills and doctrinal courses, and overseeing a comprehensive academic support curriculum.

ASP work has become increasingly relevant and has transformed dramatically in the last decade. I love being a part of an ASP community that is proactively tackling the challenges of educating contemporary law students through constant adaption and innovation.

Q: Which aspect(s) of ASP work do you enjoy the most? What would you consider your greatest challenge thus far and how have you overcome the challenge?

My favorite part of the job is seeing a student who had struggled but worked hard to turn things around, alongside his or her family on graduation day.

My greatest challenge has been reconciling my own career ambitions and expectations from my youth, with being a mother, and finding the right mix of intellectual fulfillment, career advancement, and work-life balance – all in the context of an acceptable salary for survival in the Bay Area!

Q: What do you want your professional legacy to be?

Making an impact in someone’s life so that they can have a better life.

Q: What motivational advice or encouragement would you offer to new and/or midcareer ASPers or law students?

A law degree is not just a degree. For some students, obtaining a law degree means transforming an entire family and community, for generations to come.

To new students: when things get tough, pull out your admissions personal statement and re-read it. Remember, your struggle today is ultimately about so much more than just grades.

To new/midcareer ASPers: although the day-to-day may feel less than glamourous and you might have to work hard to be seen and valued - your work has much greater impact than you may think. I thank you!

May 30, 2018 in Academic Support Spotlight, Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Is Learning Comfortable?

There's a line in the movie "The Greatest Showman" that goes something like this:  "Comfort is the enemy of progress."  

Attributed to PT Barnum, that got me thinking.  

I began to wonder if comfort might also be the enemy of learning, or at least perhaps a barrier to learning.

That's because learning is, frankly, uncomfortable.  And, it's uncomfortable because we learn from our own mistakes.  And, mistakes are, well, hard for us to accept because they show us that we are frail and have much to learn.

In my own case, I got to thinking that I might be trying to create such a "perfect" learning environment, so perfect, that I might be leaving my students with very little room for making mistakes.  In short, if that is the case, then there is very little left for my students to do, and if my students aren't doing, then they aren't making mistakes, and if they aren't making mistakes, then they really aren't learning at all.  My quest for perfect teaching might be crowding out learning.

Of course, it's important to inspire our students, to serve a role models of what it means to be learners, and to create optimal learning environments.  But, an optimal learning environment might just mean a lot less of them watching, listening, and observing me and a lot more of me watching, listening, and observing them.  That's really hard for me to do because, quite simply, I want to help them along, I want to speed the learning process along, and I want to make learning as simple as possible because I don't like to see my students be uncomfortable.

That's especially true in the bar prep world.  Much of bar prep is focused around talking heads featuring hours after hours of watching lectures hosted by prominent academics.  And, those lectures (and especially re-watching those lectures) can lull us into a false sense that we are learning.  In short, we can get mighty comfortable while watching lectures.  But, unfortunately, watching is not learning.  It might be an important and indeed necessary first step on the way to success on the bar exam, but, I daresay, no one passes the bar exam by watching others solve legal problems.  Instead, people pass the bar exam because of what they are doing after the bar review lectures.  And, that is really uncomfortable, especially in bar prep, because the stakes are so high and we make so many mistakes along the way.  In fact, because the questions are so difficult, it's hard to feel like we are learning when we are making so many mistakes.  

That's where we can come in as academic support professionals.  We can dispel the myth that learning comes "naturally." No it doesn't.  As I heard on a recent radio program, no one drifts into losing weight (or gaining strength or developing any new skill at all).  We have to be intentional.  We have to act purposefully.  So too with learning.  We don't become good at solving legal problems by osmosis, by watching lectures, by sitting on the sidelines observing others solve legal problems.  We become good at solving legal problems by solving legal problems (and lots of them).  And, I'm pretty sure that those wonderfully rehearsed bar review lectures didn't come out perfectly on the first cut.  In fact, take a look at any of the back scenes from any movie.  There are lots of outtakes that didn't make the cut.  But, without the outtakes, there wouldn't be a movie because, like learning, making a movie means making a lot of mistakes along the way.  So, as we support our students this summer as they prepare for their bar exams, let's give them room to learn.  Let's help them appreciate that none of us became experts by being experts.  Instead, we became good because we recognized that we weren't very good at all in the beginning but we keep at it, over and over, until we started to make progress, until we started to learn.  Of course, along the way, it didn't feel very comfortable.  But, because we know that learning is hard, humbling work...for all of us...it's okay to be uncomfortable.  So, this summer, let's help our students embrace the uncomfortableness of learning by being myth-busters, and, in the process breaking down the real barriers to learning, namely, believing that learning comes naturally for everyone but us.  (Scott Johns).

 

 

 

May 24, 2018 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

I Am Concerned About Bar Studies!

Like many of my colleagues, I am attending the Annual Association of Academic Support Educators Conference but that does not mean that work stops. Students know I am away but the panic does not subside despite leaving them with human and other resources. In between sessions and late evening into the night, I check email, respond to phone messages, critique essays, and prepare for bar exam programming. Many of the student messages I have received relate to bar exam preparation as some students have completed a week of bar review while others started bar review programs this week. Below are a few categories of student questions and concerns.

How do I learn the material?

I particularly love this question because it means that students are thinking about what they are doing while considering the long-term impact of what they do now. Furthermore, considering the depth of understanding rather than simply being able to recall information contributes to better performance on various components of the bar exam. This question often comes up when students have completed about a week of bar review and have likely covered two to three subject areas. They usually recognize the fast pace of the program and volumes of material they need to know but also anticipate what they have yet to cover. Students also recognize that simply watching lectures, reading material, and doing homework do not necessarily equate to studying for the test. In sum, students realize that passive review is helpful in the short term but they also need to retain, retrieve, and apply the information which might require active learning for long-term maximization of effort. We discuss how active work on the bar exam components until the end of the bar review period could help. We also discuss memorization, practice under timed and untimed circumstances, skill development in each of the components of the bar exam, self-care, and how to incorporate all of these things into their day to day lives.

How do I memorize the information?

This is another question I appreciate because yet again, students are considering the long-term access to information while possibly determining if they truly understand the information. Simply “looking at,” “reading,” and “hearing” a lot of law does not result in retention of the information. We discuss activities and tools past bar studiers used to memorize information and to revisit the information on a regular basis. Some examples include writing down all they can recall from memory for a particular topic, flash cards, random pop quizzes, and using a variety of bar review applications.

How do I use all of these resources?

This question relates to the issue of excessive bar review resources. Many well- intentioned alums who may have been successful on the bar exam the first time around, the second time around, or later feel the need to share their knowledge with current bar takers. Some of the offered advice is good, some horrible, and some does not apply to the individual shared with. The worse scenario is when one bar taker receives advice and materials from practically ten different individuals, all possibly swearing that a specific system or book is what led them to pass the bar; therefore, urging the bar taker to do the same. There are students who have materials from more than one bar vendor and numerous supplemental bar support books. They are overwhelmed and do not know what to do nor where to start. I instill in these bar takers that they paid for a bar review program and should start there. They should also have a general awareness of resources available to them, talk to me about various challenges along the way so as to collaboratively identify possible solutions, and discuss the incorporation of suitably identified resources. Simply doing everything everyone did does not necessarily help. I remind them that they are operating within a limited timeframe and most of them are pressed for time and each person needs to journey through.

How do I stay motivated?

To my astonishment and concern, this year as compared to previous years, some students have expressed a lack of motivation on day one and week one of bar review. Usually, adrenaline motivates them on day one and at least through week two but that does not seem to be the case. Several students are fatigued by the three-year law school journey while others took a vacation between graduation and bar review and both now experience difficulties getting into the swing of bar review. To address this, we discuss how to manage the upcoming three day weekend particularly since they have a “day off” (technically). This might be an ideal opportunity to rest and recoup once plans have been made for effective time management of the bar review period and also after completing assignments.

Happy Bar Review Season to all my colleagues who participate in bar review preparation! (Goldie Pritchard)

May 23, 2018 in Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 13, 2018

One More Academic Year Winds Down - Sigh

I always reach this last gasp of the semester with mixed emotions. I am glad to end the rush of the last several months. I look forward to starting my long list of summer projects.

But, I will miss having as many students present in the building. There will be some bar studiers who stay in Lubbock and a small number of summer school students. Most students will head to other parts of the state or farther afield for summer clerkships.

It is always a time of reflection for me. I think about programs and resources - the successes, the so-so's, and the won't-do-that-again's.

But mostly I think about individual students. After all, they are the reason that I love the work I do.

  • I think about the first-year students who learned new skills to succeed in law school and surprised themselves with how much they have learned.
  • I think about probation students who turned around their skills to succeed this semester and regain their confidence.
  • I think about upper-division students who came back for "10,000-mile check-ups" or to hone specific skills we had started to work on previously.
  • I think about upper-division students whose friends urged them to see me for help because "it worked for them last year."
  • I think about the students who just needed someone to talk with, to vent to, or to steal away for a few minutes of tears in an office that always has a ready box of tissues.
  • I think about the graduating third-year students who I have seen grow as individuals as well as new professionals - that proud parent feeling that ASP'ers often have.

Yes, summer will give me a chance to reorganize, develop new programs, and take a bit of a break for some travel. Three months of projects ahead of me before the ASP whirlwind will begin again.

But, you know, it will be the anticipation in August of the arriving new class and the returning students that will bring a big smile back to my face. The summer is nice, but not what I look forward to the most. (Amy Jarmon)

 

 

 

May 13, 2018 in Encouragement & Inspiration | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Secret to a Great Weekend Get-Away!

I just had one of the best weekends of my life.  

But, before I get into the details, here's a bit of background about law school life in general.

As summarized by the Colorado Supreme Court, a 2016 survey of 3300 law students at 15 law schools indicated that law school life is, simply put, brutal to one's well-being.  

Here's the specifics:

  • 23 percent of surveyed law students reported mild to moderate anxiety with another 14 percent reporting severe anxiety
  • 17 percent of surveyed law students reported being depressed
  • 43 percent of surveyed law students reported binge drinking at least once in the previous two weeks 

http://coloradosupremecourt.com/Well-Being

In short, law school life can be really tough.  I know.  In my case, anxiety started to first take over my life...as a first-year law student in law school.  There's so much to think about, which I translate into "there's so much to worry about."  And, I was worried about everything, especially being called upon, in which, of course, I felt like I would finally be revealed as a fraud - an imposter not really belonging in law school.  Ever since I have realized how powerful our thoughts can be to our well-being.

That brings me to my recent weekend adventure...  

You see, it started just like any other weekend - busy.  In fact, extra busy.  So, busy that in my rush to wash my blue jeans, I forgot to check my pockets. Yep, my gleaming smartphone took a deep water plunge into the washing machine...for a good hour (my pants were really dirty).  The good news is that my phone was really clean now.  The great news...I actually felt relieved.  I felt free.  I no longer had this overarching, almost itching desire to constantly check my phone for messages, texts, and yes I'm old-fashioned, phone calls.  Simply put, my phone was dead.  Completely lifeless.  Just a bunch of fancy sparkling metal and glass that couldn't speak to me, write to me, talk with me, or respond to me.

At first, to be honest, that left me speechless.  But, oh what a weekend did I have! Or, to put it better, what a weekend did I experience!  

Why, I started to connect to real things, real people, real situations, real life.  And, in the course of connecting (or rather re-connecting), I started to feel less anxious.  I wasn't worried about constantly checking email.  It was almost gleeful.  

Now, I don't recommend washing your phone.  But, it was a lesson well-worth the price of admission.  Even now, with a replacement phone at hand, I try to leave it behind.  That's because the farther away my phone is from me, the better my own well-being.  

So, with finals almost finished (or nearly so), take a weekend get-away that will be, simply put, priceless.  Put that phone of yours away; bury it for the weekend; and go meet up with the world.

For more tips on developing well-being, please see the ABA's "Well-Being Took Kit for the Legal Profession," written by Anne Bradford, available at:  

 https://www.americanbar.org/well-beingkit  

For the entire article regarding the survey results of law students, please see David B. Jaffe, et. al, "Suffering in Silence: The Survey of Law Student Well-Being," available at:

 https://jle.aals.org/home/vol66/iss1/13/.  

(Scott Johns)

May 10, 2018 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Internal Signaling: The Power of Motivational Self-Talk to Improve Performance

Having just returned from a bar exam conference, I am struck by how little we know about what actually correlates to success on the bar exam.  Nevertheless, for our students, it is common to jump to the conclusion that bar exam results are "preordained" based on a complex mathematical formula consisting of primarily (or indeed solely) LGPA and LSAT scores.  In other words, those that pass have high numbers; those that don't, don't.  

Interestingly, in our attempt to reduce the complexity of life experiences to numbers, there are always what we refer to as "outliers."  People that pass (or fail) regardless of LGPA and LSAT scores.  I sometimes wonder whether we are all outliers because even the best of statistical models fails to accurately predict bar passage results for our students.  And, that brings me to the field of human performance.  

You see, according to writer Alex Hutchinson, early on in the field of sports-based human performance, "[p]hysiologists pieced together an impressively detailed picture of the factors that - in theory - dictate our ultimate capacity [in terms of predicting athletic success]....There was one problem with this approach: It couldn't predict who would win an athletic contest....Clearly, something was missing from the 'human machine' picture of athletic limits."  Alex Hutchison, The Mental Tricks of Athletic Endurance, Wall Street Journal (February 2, 2018), available at:  https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-mental-tricks-of-athletic-endurance. That something tends to be not easily reducible to biological measurement; it tends to be what some refer to colloquially as "head games."

In other words, in an athletic competition, your body is sending signals to your brain about the current physiological state of your body, i.e., whether you are running of out of energy, or dehydrated, or overheated, etc.  As interpreted by your brain, those signals then become self-fulfilling; they can serve to limit our endurance and our perseverance such that they become a barrier to improving our athletic performance.  However, psychologists have begun to explore the power of motivational self-talk to reinterpret those signals so that they do not in fact have such determinative power over athletic performance.  According to Dr. Hutchinson, it seems that positive self-talk can boost performance beyond what we think is possible based merely on the internal signaling of our biological markers.

That raises an interesting question with respect to bar passage.  We often hear people analogize that passing the bar requires preparation akin to preparing for a marathon.  As such, there's a case to be made that it might not be true that LGPA and LSAT are the major determinant signals as to who passes the bar exam.  Indeed, it is much more nuanced and complex; otherwise, why have a bar exam at all if results are preordained by past testing results in the form of LGPA and LSAT scores?    

Well, to be frank, we have a bar exam precisely because we know that LGPA and LSAT scores do not determine bar pass results.  And, as in athletic competitions, I have a hunch that one's self-talk has much to do with one's success in overcoming the nagging self-doubts that are common to most of us ("I don't fit in the law; I can't pass the bar exam; there's way too much to learn to pass the bar; I just don't have the time needed to pass the bar; I wasn't much of a success in law school so I'm not going to be successful on the bar exam; etc.").  Although there is no "magic cure-all," and of course LGPA and LSAT scores indicate something, it is important to recall that "something" doesn't mean "everything."  

And, that's where we come in.  Our bar exam destiny is not predetermined.  It is something that we can positively and concretely influence and improve by acting upon positive self-talk as we work - problem by problem and question by question - to train ourselves for success on the bar exam.  Those two things go hand-in-hand - "practice and talk" and "talk and practice."  So, whether you are preparing yourself for final exams or getting ready to study for the bar exam, pay attention to your self-talk.  Indeed, ask yourself today "What am I telling myself and is it really true or not?" (Scott Johns).

 

April 26, 2018 in Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Bar Exams, Encouragement & Inspiration, Learning Styles, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Thank You And I Had No Idea You Did All This!

This week marks our last full week of classes. I have my last scheduled meetings with students and say goodbye to many of the 3Ls, as this will be the very last time I will interact with them in this capacity. These final meetings typically signify moments of nostalgia for 3Ls, many of whom did not believe they would make it to this point, completion (almost) of their law degree. I also use this time to wrap-up a number of programs and to thank and bid farewell to the teaching assistants hired through my program. Obviously, this is a week filled with goodbyes even though I will see most of these students throughout the exam period and/or at graduation. It is important to reflect on experiences and the law school journey, to keep things in perspective, and to take stock of accomplishments. Otherwise, students tend to focus on the work rather than the successes achieved over the past few weeks, months, and years. It is also timely for me to reflect on my own experiences of the year.

I remind each 3L that this is our final formal meeting. Some were anticipating this meeting while others were intensely focused on the task at hand and did not even remember. We collectively reminisce our first meeting which typically occurred sometime during their 1L year. We highlight some of the challenges they encountered and overcame, including a few seemingly impossible goals now achieved. I congratulate them on their hard work, determination, and achievements. I wish them further success as they move ahead and remind them that the same hard work and determination can be applied to their preparation to sit for the bar exam. The students thank me for the help throughout the years that enabled them to tackle various tasks. Usually, the students do not appear emotional at this time but some do at commencement.

I recently sat down with one of my TA’s during our weekly session and realized again that despite sharing information, through multiple mediums, about all of the services and programs my office offers, students only focus on what they need at the moment and forget or overlook everything else. This TA is well aware of the teaching assistant program because she used it as a 1L and became a TA but she was unaware of many other programs despite the fact that we went over this information during TA orientation. This semester, this TA helped me critique student essays so we interact weekly to discuss student progress, upcoming assignments, and general concerns. I was behind responding to a few of her email messages so we discussed the content in person. Whenever we discuss the program or event that captured my attention this or that week, she always says: “I had no idea you did X.” or “That is an amazing resource for students.” or “Your office does so much.” She then asks additional questions and I always smile. If anything, this reinforces a fundamental reason why I need student support, students get to know me and they provide free advertising for my office to other students.

All the very best to the 3Ls on the last lap of their law school experience and thank you to all of the teaching assistants who help academic support professionals maximize their reach. (Goldie Pritchard)

 

image from media.giphy.com

April 18, 2018 in Encouragement & Inspiration, Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 16, 2018

Maximizing Willpower

Have you ever had a long, hard day and come home to eat a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream?  I hope that isn’t just me.  I will eat the entire pint despite the fact that I am trying to eat healthier and exercise more.  Something about the end of the day makes eating grilled meat with green vegetables difficult.  Five Guys Burgers is just more appealing, and the research gives me an excuse for why I keep stopping at the wrong place.

Willpower research helps us understand the best time to complete tasks and when we are more likely to succumb to temptation.  Studies show that taxing intellectual endeavors requiring focus and willpower drain our energy to resist later temptations.  Participants are more likely to eat a donut, cookie, or treat after a difficult task.  Positive interactions during the difficult task can help retain some willpower.  Understanding the research can help our students accomplishment more by using the right times of the day for studying.

The studies explain many student habits during law school.  Law school classes are taxing endeavors.  At the end of the day, most students are exhausted.  The exhaustion leads to decreased willpower which makes it easy to stop studying, fail to complete readings, not complete practice questions, and focus more on electronics than law school.  Students are behaving in predictable ways even though we continually tell them to add the extra work.  Many students don’t have the willpower to complete what is already assigned, much less additional exercises.

My schedule during law school made completing tasks much easier.  Before law school began, I made the choice to put studying as my top priority.  I hadn’t made that choice in undergrad, so I knew I needed to make a change.  My philosophy was to treat law school like a job.  I arrived on campus for my first class and continued focusing on law school until I left.  I read for the following days between classes and limited my lunch break to approximately 45 minutes.  After my last class, I stayed on campus and read instead of going home.  I left once I completed all my work.  My routine and location made completing everything easier.  I also completed all my assignments in a reasonable amount of time.  I didn’t need tons of extra willpower because I created a good routine.  Due to that plan, I can count on one hand the amount of class readings I missed in 3 years of law school.  Good plans use willpower efficiently.

I urge students to follow a similar approach.  Taking long breaks and saving reading to the end of the day makes completing work difficult.  Class interactions are draining.  The intellectual rigor of law school takes a toll.  Being at home and exhausted makes it easy to go to the couch or surf the internet instead of finishing readings.  Most people’s willpower in the evening is so low that failure to complete everything is inevitable.  We all know that once you don’t complete an assignment, catching back up is difficult.  Being behind leads to stress, and law school becomes unbearable.  The stress decreases willpower leading to more uncompleted assignments.  The cycle can be devastating.  Creating a schedule is good, but being intentional with when tasks are scheduled can increase the likelihood of getting all the work done.  Don’t merely create a plan.  Create a good plan to efficiently use willpower to increase the chances of accomplishing all the tasks.

Willpower is a newly researched topic.  The research can lay the foundation for how we schedule our day.  We should encourage everyone to create schedules that are realistic and maximize study time when we are most motivated.  Everyone will learn and retain more when studying at optimal times.

(Steven Foster)

April 16, 2018 in Encouragement & Inspiration, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Art of Living: "Talk Less; Listen More" says Columnist Writer

I'm a clipper.  That's right.  I keep an assortment of articles that intrigue me and then I return to them periodically to reflect on what I have learned.  One article caught my attention today...and...just in the nick of time.  You see, I'm just plain tired out.  Perhaps you are too, trying to do too much and to be too much.  Just spread out too thin to make much of a difference in the world, it seems.

So with classes starting to come to a close for many of us and our law students, I thought I'd take a pause to reflect on some principles that might help me become better at being better.  Here's what I mean by that.  Rather than being better at doing things, perhaps I might become better at being, in short, at being human.  I love that word "being" because it deals with the "hear and now" rather than the tomorrows.  It's loaded with action...in the present moment.  So, what action did I take that helped me get back to the present today?

Well, I've been carrying around an article that I clipped out dealing with New Year's Resolutions.  With so much stress right now as I try to finish teaching my courses, preparing for finals, and getting ready for the summer bar passage season, I thought that now was the perfect time to reflect on what I had learned about being a better person from an article entitled "Set the Bar High for Your 2018 Resolutions" by Jason Zweig (Wall Street Journal dated December 30-31, 2017), available at:   https://blogs.wsj.com/lessismore  Here are some of the quotes:

  1.  "Talk less; listen more."  Unfortunately, much of the time, I'm talking but not listening.  I love the advice here because it helps remind me to appreciate the other person, to value the other person, to embrace the other person.  On a personal note, within the world of academic support, I find that I am often too quick to provide solutions before I've yet to even understand the problem. So, this is great advice when working with students too.
  2. "Learn something interesting every day."  That's right; be curious.  As I drove to school today, I was passed by a school bus.  That's right - a school bus.  Yes, I am a slow driver (at least usually when I'm headed to work; much faster when I'm headed home!).  As the bus passed me by, I happened to notice something strange about the school bus.  It was from a public school that was named something like "The School for Expeditionary Learning."  That got me thinking.  Perhaps that's the way that I might better describe the learning process with my students.  Be courageous in your learning. Be daring in your learning.  Be expeditionary in your learning.
  3. "Get home 15 minutes earlier. It will make you 15 minutes more efficient the next day."  To be honest, I'm not quite sure I understand this advice. But, here's my take nonetheless.  Much of my day is hurried and busy because I let it be that way.  Take for instance email and messaging.  Rather than disabling notifications, I just keep getting these pop-up alerts, right from the get-go of my day, taking me off message from what my first priorities ought to be.  So, here's my take on this quote.  Disable notifications.  Only look at email in the middle of the day after I've already worked on the big tasks at hand.  Don't let the little things get in the way of doing the great things each day.
  4. "Stop walking with your phone in your hand all of the time. Look up and see how beautiful and strange the world is."  I did one better, at least I think so.  I am practicing leaving my phone in my car while at work.  That's because I find that even if I just carry my phone with me I feel drawn to it.  So, I make it unavailable to me in order that I can't fall prey to its tantalizing alerts and beeps that so often distractingly beckon for my attention.
  5. "Introduce yourself to all the people at your job [school] whom you see every day but haven't met yet."  As a corollary to no. 4 above (leaving your phone behind while at school), you'll have a lot more time to actually take note of the people around you.  So, share a smile with them.  Look one another in the eyes.  Maybe even say a friendly word or two.  You see, I suspect that one of the loneliest places in the world is right in the midst of the crowd, especially a law school crowd.  If true, there are many people all around us that are yearning for a place of fellowship, a place of relational togetherness, a place to belong.  That's definitely me.  So, rather than wait for others to say hello, I thought I'd just take the initiative and extend a friendly greeting to those I know...and those I don't too.  The more the merrier!  

 With all of the stresses and strains of our busy law school lives, I was so glad that I happened to clip this article.  It reminded me that often its the little things of the here and now that are really the great things.  Unfortunately, so often I have it backwards.  I'm busy, so busy that I don't have time to do anything meaningful at all.  So, I took a brief pause today to remind myself of what it means to be a human being in relationship with others.  That sure looks much more exciting that staring yet again at my phone.  So, have fun smiling...and being too!  (Scott Johns).

 

 

April 12, 2018 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Professionalism, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

I’m Over It: End of Semester Blues

It is about that time of the semester when students are simply tired. Most, if not all of their major commitments are completed and the final commitment is probably to finish off the semester. At this time, moaning and groaning are common. Some students simply want classes to end so they can begin to prepare for exams while others would rather skip exams and begin the summer break.

3Ls

From this group of students, I hear: “I am over it!” “I don’t care anymore.” “I am ready to graduate.” “Get me out of here, I have completely checked-out.” For many 3Ls, fatigue seems to weigh them down as the end approaches; commencement marks the end of their legal education and the beginning of their professional careers. As students, they worked hard for almost three years as they assumed leadership roles, were members of student organizations, worked with various legal entities, participated in legal clinics and a number of co-curricular and extracurricular activities, and have almost completed the requirements for graduation. These students are simply tired! Completing and submitting bar applications seemed to mark the end but they are quickly reminded that they still have final exams ahead. Gearing up for commencement by ordering graduation regalia, notifying family and friends, and planning graduation celebrations are exciting activities that seem to serve only as a distraction from the inevitable, exams. I try to remind students that “their journeys are not over until they are over,” they still need to pass classes to obtain their degree. They probably do not want to return to the same institution after walking across the stage at commencement or self-sabotage by failing to complete one of the requirements necessary to sit for most bar exams, completion of a law degree. This reality check appears to provide temporary motivation for some.

2Ls

For this group of students, 2Ls, the thrill of the first semester of the second year of law school has disappeared. They began the academic year excited and motivated because they got to select their course schedule and participate in all of the activities they hoped for in law school. Many probably overcommitted themselves to a variety of extracurricular and co-curricular activities they ambitiously thought they could simultaneously undertake. They were initially motivated by the excitement and energy earned from study abroad, externship, legal work, and courses completed over the summer. New extra-curricular and co-curricular activities that motivated them now appear routine and in retrospect, many realize that they overcommitted themselves. At this point, 2Ls are desperately trying to re-energize in order to finish the semester strong. Those who already have summer opportunities lined-up seem less motivated. My reality check to this group is: “you did it to yourself, you committed to these activities so you need to finish your commitments.” 

1Ls

These students are simply in shock that legal writing is officially over or will be over within a matter of days.  They have spent so much time with their appellate briefs and it was a major aspect of their second semester.  A task that seemed impossible at first manifested in the completion of the appellate brief, oral argument, and the legal writing course.  Many tell me that for the first time in months, they happily and restfully took naps or slept for a full eight hours. Many are also excited to devote their complete attention to preparing for final exams.  Some students whom I have not seen in a while are suddenly appearing in my office to discuss final exams.  The realization that the end of the first year of law school is in sight seems overwhelming. My reality check to this group is: “you have a lot of work to do because you somewhat disengaged from your doctrinal classes and now have limited time to get on track so plan wisely and maximize the time you have remaining.”  (Goldie Pritchard)

April 11, 2018 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Exam Survival Baskets

Over the weekend there was a lot of talk in my house about Easter baskets, which got me thinking about law school survival baskets. If you know a law student who is about to start studying for spring exams or perhaps the bar exam, consider making them an Exam Survival Basket.  Pre-assembled gift baskets are readily available online, but for a fraction of the cost you can create your own.  You may want to include things from the list below—in no particular order:

Headache medicine

Pepto bismol

Daytime cold or allergy medicine

Tissues

Trail mix or granola bars

Beef jerky or peanut butter

Law student’s favorite snack

Hard candy

Water bottle

Coffee shop gift card or K-cups

Empty Ziploc bags

Ear plugs (cordless)

Stress ball or playdough

Pencils

Pens

Highlighters

Notecards

Jumpdrive

Poster board for mind-maps

Contact case and saline solution

Eye drops

Backup reading glasses

Sleeping mask

Good luck token, like a stuffed animal

University branded swag like a coffee mug or hooded sweatshirt

Business card of the law student’s bar preparation / academic support professor 

Happy belated Easter! Happy Passover!  Happy April! 

(Kirsha & Roxy Trychta)

Basket

April 3, 2018 in Encouragement & Inspiration, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 29, 2018

A Quick Classroom Exercise to Jazz Up Student Learning!

Last weekend, I had the great pleasure of attending the Rocky Mountain Legal Writing Conference. Being exhausted from grading numerous writing assignments into the wee hours of the morning, Prof. Katherine Lyons and Prof. Aimee Dudovitz (Loyola Law School - Los Angeles) caught my attention with the title of their talk: "Integrating Quick Classroom Exercises that Connect Doctrine and Skills and Still Allow You (and Your Students) to Sleep at Night."  

Frankly, this was a presentation that spoke directly to me.  It was medicine for my tired heart and my hurried mind.  I needed sleep (and lots of it)!

My favorite tip was what I'll paraphrase as the "one-moment question."  

Just pop on the screen a one-moment research question and ask your students to get to work researching, drafting, and writing a quick 5-10 minute email answer.  That's right. Start with researching.  As the professors made clear, don't let them blurt out an answer.  Instead, make them work.  Tell them to start looking on the internet, digging into the legal research engines for their answers.  Then, based on their own research discoveries, direct your students to write out short emails to provide you with precise answers to that particular question.  Once submitted, now you can open up the classroom for a well-researched and informed conversation about the answer to the one-moment question. And, because the answers are super-short, it shouldn't take much time to at least make a mark or two on each answer as follow-up feedback.

As an example, Professors Lyons and Dudovitz suggested that one might ask - in the midst of a civil procedure class discussing the propriety of "tag" jurisdiction for instance - whether a plaintiff could properly serve a corporate defendant by serving the summons and complaint on an out-of-state corporate officer just passing through the local airport of the plaintiff's forum state.  As a tip, the professors suggested that you pick out a question that has a bright-line answer based on jurisdictional precedent (and one that can be easily researched).  And, as they suggested, as a bonus have the students keep track of their research trails in arriving at their answers.

That got me thinking.  In my own teaching this semester, perhaps I should ask my students - in the midst of  our studies of constitutional law - whether a state such as Colorado could hypothetically prohibit out-of-state residents from being licensed as Colorado attorneys and, if not, why not.  To confess, I'm pretty sure about the answer but not exactly certain of the reason. But, I think it has to do with the Article IV Privileges and Immunities Clause.  So, I better take heed of the professors' advice and start researching for myself.  In the process, I think that I might just become a better learner (and teacher too)!  (Scott Johns).

March 29, 2018 in Advice, Bar Exam Preparation, Encouragement & Inspiration, Learning Styles, Study Tips - General, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Let’s Pause for ABA Mental Health Day!

Please see yesterday’s post by my colleague Kirsha Trychta for great background information and resources here.

What is happening in cyberspace

The ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs and the ABA Law Student Division are cosponsoring a Twitter Town Hall. The hope is to have a national conversation from coast to coast today. More information here:

  R

Here’s what’s happening at our law school

  • Students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to wear green to show support for mental health awareness.
  • The Office of Student Engagement asked that students share what they do to manage stress in law school. Faculty and staff were asked to share stress and anxiety relief strategies, highlight stress-reduction techniques and healthy recipes. 
  • A student organization, the Mindfulness Society, in collaboration with the Office of Student Engagement is hosting a lunch segment providing tips on stress and anxiety management in anticipation of final exams. Fun activities and take home treats are planned for those who attend.

What are you doing today?

(Goldie Pritchard)

March 28, 2018 in Current Affairs, Encouragement & Inspiration, News, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Mid-Course Learning Opportunity!

It's not too late, at all.  

With most law students facing final exams in a month or so, this is the perfect time for your law students to reflect on their learning...with the goal of making concrete beneficial improvements right now, i.e., with plenty of time to prepare for their final exams.

There are many such self-evaluation learning techniques, but I especially like the questions that adjunct professor Lori Reynolds (Asst. Dean of Graduate Legal Studies at the Univ. of Denver) asks each of her students because the questions are open-ended, allowing students to reflect, interact, and communicate about their own learning with their teacher.  

In fact, just prior to spring break, I asked these questions of my own law students, and I am taking stock of their responses by making changes where needed in my own content and instructional methods too.  You see, learning is a team effort, so it is important to get concrete information from all of your team members (your students) to identify what is helping your students learning, what might be hindering their learning, and what goals have yet to be achieved for the course thus far.  

In my own course this semester, there were two questions that tended to be most valuable.  First, with respect to what might be most hindering learning, I received a number of responses questioning the value of the "think-pair-share" method as a tool to help activate meaningful classroom engagement.  Based on those responses, I am hard at work doing research and re-evaluating my own use of "think-pair-share" to confirm whether in fact the method is an effective learning tool for my classrooms this term.  

The final question also seemed to provide valuable information about my students' learning, namely, in asking them what they might do differently to improve their overall course grade.  To paraphrase their general responses, most students acknowledged that: "It's time to put some more elbow grease into my learning because learning takes curious, engaging, and enterprising hard work on my part."  I was glad to see so many take ownership over their learning.

But, as a word of caution, I was quite afraid to ask these questions.  You see, I have 123 students; that means that I was bound to receive news that I just didn't want to hear because, frankly, I like to be liked.  But, my job as a teacher is not to be liked but to be good at what I have been hired to do. That's my responsibility to my students.  It's my obligation to them.  So, rather than fretting and worrying about what my students might say, I found out.  Yes, some of the comments were a bit painful for me to read.  But, read them I did.  And, more importantly, I stepped back to take them to heart to see whether there might be things that I ought to change to improve my students' learning for the remainder of the semester.  

Looking back, I'm mighty glad I asked because it's already helping me to become a better teacher to my students this semester, while I still have time to make a positive difference in the learning.  So, feel free to use these questions with your students this semester.  (Scott Johns).

Photo of Evaluation

 

March 22, 2018 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Learning Styles, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Strive for Progress, Not Perfection, and Remember the Victories

      “Strive for Progress, Not Perfection” is the text on my laptop. Whenever I present a workshop or go before students using my laptop that is what they see. I selected this phrase because so many students are consumed with perfection at everything they do that they often lose sight of progress made. They forget about those obstacles they overcame which are fundamental to their knowledge base and ability. They are no longer novices because they have some experience. It is all about perspective.

      Perfection may seem like a worthy goal to work towards or even try to achieve but in reality, it sometimes does more harm than good. Perfection is often an unattainable goal that can halt progress. Perfection for law students often means receiving “A” grades in all courses, achieving a perfect GPA, and involvement in coveted extracurricular activities. Whenever one or more of these is not achieved, students are left feeling less than adequate and feeling as though they do not belong in this environment. They focus on their mistakes and challenges which highlight negativity. In reality, very few students achieve the perfection they yearn. Not striving for perfection as a goal means that students can endeavor to improve their competencies and abilities, better themselves, become more effective and efficient with each task, and so much more.

      Currently, several of my students have the “end of semester blues” as they grapple with project and paper deadlines, looming exams, and fear of not finding summer opportunities. This is usually when students express to me their overwhelming frustrations which may be summed up by one or more of the following statements:

“I have been told NO multiple times, I don’t know if I can fill out another application!”

“It appears that there is simply not enough time to complete everything I have to complete!”

“I am tired of having to work ten times harder than others and still fail to get opportunities that others seem to easily have access to with lesser credentials!”

“I feel like the environment is rejecting everything I care about right now. How do I realign my passions with what I am learning and doing?”

“I am rethinking whether I can make a difference.”

      It is my opinion that mistakes are the best way to learn, improve, or progress and it is imperative that students make mistakes and experience some challenges. Mistakes and challenges are necessary for learning, as well as building courage, perseverance, and problem-solving skills. In life, mistakes will happen and challenges will occur. It is the memory of each challenge and mistake that reminds the student of what they have overcome and their ability to prevail. It is my ardent belief that if students can honestly attempt their very best at whatever they do, then at the end, they will feel fulfilled even if they have not fully achieved what they perceive as success.

      It is important to repackage perfectionism. Perfectionism should be seen as incremental progress rather than a single ultimate goal. There is so much joy that comes with celebrating each achievement regardless of how small or big. Commit to honestly performing your best, slowly edging your life closer and closer to where you want to be. Celebrate each and every success, failure, challenge, and mistake along the way. You may sometimes fall but as long as you get up after each negative experience and keep trying, you will make progress. (Goldie Pritchard)

image from media.giphy.com

March 21, 2018 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 19, 2018

Re-Discover Your Why for Success

Have you ever completed a task you didn’t want to do?  Of course you have.  We all do.  Think about how you felt during the process.  Were you encouraged about the accomplishment or were you just ready for it to be over?  Did the feeling depend on your ultimate end goal?  Grit researcher Dr. Angela Duckworth would suggest passion for the ultimate end goal makes a huge difference in perseverance and success.

Headlines and quick recitations of research indicate grit is a common denominator of successful people.  Individuals, especially stressed and busy law students, can make assumptions about what grit entails based on a common understanding.  Many people, myself included, heard small pieces of information and assumed grit meant hard work and perseverance in face of all obstacles.  However, Dr. Duckworth suggests grit contains more than the common understanding.  She argues perseverance is a major component, but perseverance combined with passion is critical for long-term grittiness.

Dr. Duckworth’s research into passion with perseverance resonates with me.  I love playing golf.  I am not uniquely good at golf, but I continue to play.  After the glory of DST, I can go to the driving range once a week after my kids go to bed.  I set goals and continually try to improve.  However, I only improve about 1 shot a year on average, but I keep working hard on the process.  Contrast golf with my low desire for running.  Running is a great activity, but I tend to get bored and winded.  Some OCU faculty and staff form relay teams to participate in the Oklahoma City Bombing Run to Remember in April.  I participated last year and trained just enough to make it through the 5k leg.  My desire to complete a run associated with the largest tragedy in my community keep me training and helped me complete the race.  After April, I didn’t run again until November to start training for a 10k leg this year because I didn't have a larger reason to overcome my lack of desire to run.  Even now, training is hard.  My body hurts, so I keep making excuses to not follow my regimen.  My desire is low, so I will not put in as much effort as I should.  I also predict I won’t keep running after April again.  Most of my running gains will be lost by next year.

Passion is a critical ingredient to get through law school.  At orientation, I make first-year students write down why he/she wants to be an attorney.  I tell them halfway through the semester they should read their why statement again.  Any time they are stressed or finding classes difficult, I suggest going back to the why statement.  Passion and the why can provide enough motivation to continue through struggles.  No one will like every assignment.  No one will like every class.  Re-reading the reason for attending was to help unrepresented groups or provide a better life for family can be enough to complete the assignment in a way to learn the material to retain it for success on finals and the bar exam.  Combining the why with perseverance can help overcome many of law school's challenges.

Learn how to tap into passion now because it will be critical in the practice of law.  No one will like every deposition, client, case, discovery request, or contract.  Trudging through it without passion won’t provide the best advocacy or work product, and that is not the grit that leads to success.  Finding your passion for the end goal and persevering is what leads to long-term success.

(Steven Foster)

March 19, 2018 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)