Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Fall semester break (Thanksgiving Break) is approaching and there are many signs that students need a break to refocus, rest, and put a dent in tasks they have either avoided or simply had insufficient time to tackle. First year law students, in particular, have been spread very thin trying to learn new skills, balance multiple tasks, and learn new information. Simply put, they are pushed to the brink of their perceived capabilities. These activities are all potential sources of stress that may negatively impact one’s body and mind even when you are aware that you need to slow down. Students forget about focusing on what is most important to them when everything within them says that they cannot complete this or that assignment. Productivity starts to plummet, sleep schedules are off, healthy eating habits are replaced with unhealthy ones, gradual withdraw from social life takes place, frequent panic attacks occur, and some students no longer enjoy things they once enjoyed. In essence, students no longer feel good about themselves.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “mental health” as:
“the condition of being sound mentally and emotionally that is characterized by the absence of mental illness and by adequate adjustment especially as reflected in feeling comfortable about oneself, positive feelings about others, and the ability to meet the demands of daily life; also: the general condition of one’s mental and emotional state.”
Our students should aspire to have good mental health; always be aware of how they feel and how they manage their feelings. There are several resources at counseling centers and student affairs offices on various campuses on this topic that I am only mildly addressing.
Our students have a week off before they return to wrap-up the semester and take final exams. Of course, I relentlessly encourage students to maximize the time they have over break. Use this time wisely and effectively but also get some rest. I encourage students to develop a realistic and productive study plan in order to set themselves up for success by implementing the plan. I also encourage students to develop an additional plan for rest and recuperation, emphasizing it is very easy for time off to develop into all play and rest and no work, nevertheless, it is important to plan and limit their rest time.
A top priority on the list is to get some true rest and some valuable sleep of at least eight hours each and every day. I also encourage students to have a day when they do absolutely nothing but what they want to do and engage in at least one activity that makes them happy. Their goal is to be re-energized and in the best, mental and emotional state to wrap-up the last few weeks of the semester.
This is not to say that no time is spent on maximizing study time but I would let you refer to my colleague’s entry here which addresses exam preparation in detail. Happy restful yet productive break to all students. (Goldie Pritchard)
Tuesday, November 7, 2017
Hat tip to my colleague, Atiba Ellis, who forwarded me a link to the BBC World Service podcast series "The Why Factor," which recently explored the concept of Imposter Syndrome. The podcast smartly outlines the causes of Imposter Syndrome and then highlights the syndrome's prevalence in the workplace and higher education--especially among diverse or minority employees and students.
The 23-minute episode explains: "Have you ever felt like a fraud? You think that one day your mask will be uncovered and everyone will know your secret. According to psychologists, this is a common feeling that many of us suffer from and it has a name; Imposter Syndrome. The term was coined by two American psychologists, Dr Pauline Clance and Dr Suzanne Imes, in 1978. Dr Clance and Dr Imes first thought the feeling was only experienced by high achieving women, but quickly found that men experienced it too. According to subject expert, Dr Valerie Young, women are more susceptible to imposter feelings because they internalise failure and mistakes- whereas men are more likely to attribute failure and mistakes to outside factors. However, those who belong to minority groups of whom there are stereotypes about competence also commonly experience imposter feelings. If you suffer from imposter syndrome, don’t worry you’re in good company; Maya Angelou, Robert Pattinson, Meryl Streep, Viola Davis and many more successful people have expressed feeling like imposters."
Saturday, November 4, 2017
Our workshop topic last week was stress management. One of the handouts gave some suggestions on resources. Here are the suggestions:
Headspace – free and subscription meditation sessions (recommended by multiple law students)
MIT Medical webpages
– relax and rest
– some relaxing music
– body scan mindfulness meditation
Free white noise download
You can internet search for keywords (meditation, mindfulness, relaxation, white noise) and find many more websites. (Amy Jarmon)
Monday, October 23, 2017
It’s hard to believe that we are already heading towards the end of October. It seems like the Fall semester just started.
As the end of October approaches, many students are trying to figure out what they plan to wear for their Halloween parties. They are also trying to figure out what they need to do for the rest of the semester as well.
By now, 1Ls have heard of this “outlining” word. But, they may not fully understand what it means. They have read and briefed most of their cases, but they may not have a good grasp of how these cases link up with one another in their doctrinal classes. They may have been so focused on writing down and remembering each miniscule detail from their cases that they have neglected to see how each case from their individual doctrinal classes ties in with every other case in those classes. They may not be ready to attack a large final exam question that assesses their ability to analyze the various legal issues that they have covered throughout the semester.
As law school academic support professionals, we should be ready to assist 1L students as they negotiate the latter part of their first semester. Let’s remember that most 1Ls may not, at this point, fully understand the big picture law for each of their doctrinal subjects. Let’s remember that many 1Ls may not have fully practiced issue spotting and exam writing. Let’s be ready with a non-judgmental and empathic listening ear so that we can best serve each individual student. (OJ Salinas)
October 23, 2017 in Advice, Current Affairs, Disability Matters, Diversity Issues, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Miscellany, Professionalism, Reading, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, October 16, 2017
I first want to provide a special shout-out to Russell McClain, the University of Baltimore School of Law, and everyone involved with the planning and running of the Association of Academic Support Educators (AASE) Diversity Conference. The presentations and accompanying dialogue were informative and thought provoking. And, as always, the camaraderie among the law school academic support community and the community’s genuine interest in law student success were inspiring and helped serve as continued motivation to push us through the rest of the academic semester.
I also want to provide a separate shout-out to my colleague, Rachel Gurvich. I have mentioned Rachel’s name and Twitter handle (@RachelGurvich) on several occasions at law school conferences and on this blog. Rachel recently wrote an ASP-ish post on The #Practice Tuesday blog. The post, entitled, “It’s not so shiny anymore: 1Ls and the October slump”, provides seven tips on how 1Ls can push through the rest of the academic semester. I encourage you and your students to take a look at the post and follow Rachel on Twitter. She’s a great colleague and resource at Carolina and beyond—her Tweets have reached and supported law students throughout the country, including this one and this one.
Rachel and Sean Marotta (@smmarotta) started The #Practice Tuesday blog as an opportunity to expand their #Practice Tuesday discussions on Twitter. On Tuesday afternoons, Rachel and Sean lead great discussions on “advice and musings on legal practice and the profession.” Participants in the discussions include practitioners, judges, and law school faculty and students throughout the country. Feel free to join in on the conversations!
Again, thanks to Russell McClain and everyone involved with the AASE Diversity Conference! And, thanks, to my amazing colleague Rachel Gurvich! (OJ Salinas)
October 16, 2017 in Advice, Current Affairs, Diversity Issues, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Learning Styles, Meetings, Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General, Teaching Tips, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, October 12, 2017
The Smart-Phone Dilemna: "Blood Pressure Spikes, Pulse Quickens, Problem-Solving Skills Decline," says Columnist
As recently reported by columnist Nicholas Carr, if you have a smart phone, you'll likely be "consulting the glossy little rectangle nearly 30,000 times over the coming year."
Most of us don't think that's too awful. I certainly depend on mine...and all the time. It's become my phone, my mailbox, my knowledge bank, my companion, my navigator, my weather channel, to name just a few of the wonderful conveniences of this remarkable nano-technology. But, here's the rub. Accordingly to Mr. Carr, there are numerous research studies that, as the headline above suggests, indicate that smart phone access is harmful, well, to one's intellectual, emotional, and perhaps even bodily health.
Let me just share a few of the cited studies from Mr. Carr's article on "How Smart-phones Hijack Our Minds." https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-smartphones-hijack-our-minds-1507307811?mod=e2tw
First, as reported by Mr. Carr, there's a California study that suggests that the mere presence of smart phones hampers our intellectual problem-solving abilities. In the study of 520 undergraduate students, the researches - using a TED lecture talk - tested students on their exam performance based on their understanding of the lecture with the students divided into three separate groups. In one classroom, the students placed their cellphones in front of them during the lecture and the subsequent exam. In another classroom the students had to stow their cellphones so that they didn't have immediate access (i.e., sort of an "out-of-sight--out-of-mind" approach). In the last classroom situation, the students had to leave their cellphones in a different room from the lecture hall. Almost all of the students reported that the placement or access of their cell phones did not compromise their exam performance in anyway. But, the test results shockingly indicated otherwise. The students with cellphones on their desks performed the worst on the exam. In addition, even the students with the cellphones stowed performed not nearly as good as the students who were not permitted to bring cellphones to the lecture. Apparently, just the knowledge that one's cellphone is ready and standing by negatively impacts learning.
Second, also as reported by Mr. Carr, there's a Arkansas study that suggests that students can improve their exam performance by a whole letter grade merely by leaving one's cellphone behind when headed to classes. In that study of 160 students, the researchers found that those students who had their phones with them in a lecture class, even if they did not access or use them, performed substantially worse than those students that abandoned their cellphones prior to class, based on test results on cognitive understanding of the lecture material. In other words, regardless of whether one uses one's cellphone during class, classroom learning appears to be compromised just with the presence of one's cellphone.
Third, as again reported by Mr. Carr, cellphone access or proximity not only hinders learning but also harms social communication and interpersonal skills. In this United Kingdom study, researches divided people into pairs and asked them to have a 10-minute conversation. Some pairs of conversationalists were placed into a room in which there was a cellphone present. The other pairs were placed in rooms in which there were no cell phones available. The participants were then given tests to measure the depth of the conversation that the subjects experienced based on measures of affinity, trust, and empathy. The researches found that the mere presence of cellphones in the conversational setting harmed interpersonal skills such as empathy, closeness, and trust, and the results were most harmful when the topics discussed were "personally meaningful topic[s]." In sum, two-way conversations aren't necessary two-way when a cellphone is involved, even if it is not used.
Finally, Mr. Carr shares research out of Columbia University that suggests that our trust in smartphones and indeed the internet compromises our memorization abilities. In that study, the researches had participants type out the facts surrounding a noteworthy news event with one set of participants being told that what they typed would be captured by the computer while the other set of subjects were told that the facts would be immediately erased from the computer. The researchers then tested the participants abilities to accurately recall the factual events. Those that trusted in the computer for recall had much more difficulty recalling the facts than those who were told that they couldn't rely on the computer to retain the information. In other words, just the thought that our computers will accurately record our notes for later use, might harm our abilities to recall and access information. And, as Mr. Carr suggests, "only by encoding information in our biological memory can we weave the rich intellectual associations that form the essence of personal knowledge and give rise to critical and conceptual thinking. No matter how much information swirls around us, the less well-stocked our memory, the less we have to think with."
Plainly, that's a lot to think about. And, with all of the conversations swirling about as to whether teachers should ban laptops from classrooms, it might just add "fuel to the fire." On that question, this article does not opine. But, regardless of whether you take notes on a computer or not, according to the research, there's an easy way to raise your letter grade by one grade. Just leave your smartphone at home, at your apartment, or in your locker...whenever you go to classes. (Scott Johns).
Monday, October 9, 2017
The counseling field has often highlighted the benefits of some personal disclosure from therapists to their clients. Some cited benefits include increased trust and rapport, as well validation of the clients’ experiences.
Join me this week at the Inaugural Diversity Conference for the Association of Academic Support Educators (AASE) in Baltimore, Maryland, for a moderated discussion on the benefits of academic support professionals sharing personal stories and struggles with their students.
Participants will be encouraged to share their experiences (i.e., their stories or struggles) relating to diversity and inclusion or their law school experience in general. These experiences may either be personal stories or struggles or stories related to students that the participants may have worked with in their capacity as academic support professionals. As presenters and participants share their stories, the “listening” participants will be modeling and reviewing some of the same active listening skills and nonverbal behaviors that academic support professionals should be engaging in when they work with students in either individual or group conferences.
Hope to see you in Maryland! (OJ Salinas)
October 9, 2017 in Advice, Disability Matters, Diversity Issues, Encouragement & Inspiration, Learning Styles, Meetings, Miscellany, News, Professionalism, Program Evaluation, Stress & Anxiety, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, October 3, 2017
For my fourth and penultimate pumpkin post, I recommend that novices regularly remind themselves of their original goal.
In Lesson #2 I explained how I came to establish my personal goal for the growing season, namely to get a single healthy pumpkin to the weigh-off scale. Now that the weigh-off is less than two weeks away, I'm starting to secretly hope I win the Rookie of the Year award. Consciously I know that I have not done as much work as some other new growers, but that fact hasn't stopped me from wanting to win the award. My original goal was to grow a pumpkin, and I've done just that. Yet, I have the distinct feeling that I'm going to be (irrationally) disappointed with my ranking on the leaderboard at the weigh-off event.
All this ranking-focused-thinking got me wondering about my students and their first-year grades. At the beginning of the semester, I asked my criminal law class (which, by design, also includes my AEP students) to tell me what they most wanted out of the fall semester. The top two responses: "to survive" and "to pass." Only a handful of students offered more specific aspirations, like learning about murder, gaining confidence, performing pro bono work, or learning "how to write." It seems that most of my rookie students and I had the same mindset at the outset of our respective endeavors: to survive the new experience. So, does that mean that most of my students will start dreaming of sitting at the top of the leaderboard in December, even though that wasn't their original goal, and even though they may not have put forth the amount of effort needed to achieve a high ranking?
Admittedly, I don't have an answer; rather I'm making an observation about novices. Nonetheless, I do plan to discuss the theory with my students. I suspect that a candid discussion about my own illogical (and last minute) desire to be "the best" may help reframe my students' thoughts and expectations with regard to their own fall grades. In a school with a mandatory grade curve, there can only be handful of "A"s in each class. But, a law school "B" can be equally worthy of celebration--especially if the original goal was just "to survive." (Kirsha Trychta)
Here is "Presley" in mid-September, weighing an estimated 400 pounds.
Monday, October 2, 2017
I mentioned last week that students don’t have to wait until final exams at the end of the semester to find out whether they have a good understanding of what their doctrinal professors are teaching. Since most law school classes don’t have traditional periodic tests, I encouraged students to use their professors’ various “what ifs” and “how abouts” to test their understanding of key rules and concepts that the professors are covering in class.
Students: If you are able to answer the professors’ hypotheticals—whether out loud or in your head—you are positioning yourself well to answer the professors’ hypotheticals on their final exams.
A final exam is often just a mixture of a bunch of hypotheticals in one or two large stories. The hypotheticals test your recollection and understanding of key rules that you have covered throughout the semester. The hypotheticals also test your ability to identify and apply significant facts within the hypotheticals to your key rules. This application of law to facts is legal analysis. The better your legal analysis is on a final exam, the more likely you will get a better grade.
But, I know the Socratic class can often be an intimidating and difficult experience, particularly for many 1L students. I know it is not easy sitting in a Socratic class worrying about getting called on—I’ve been there, and I didn’t particularly like it. I disliked the Socratic class so much that I wanted to quit law school after my first year (That story is for another blog post; but you can read a little more about my law school experience here.)
I feared speaking up in the Socratic class because I didn’t want to be seen as incompetent. I worried too much about what my professors or my peers might have thought about me during that moment right after the professor called my name in class. I worried about getting the professor's question wrong. I worried about appearing nervous. I worried.
It took me a long while to adjust to the type of teaching in the Socratic class. It took me a long while to realize that it didn't matter if I was nervous or got a question wrong--what mattered was how I did on the final exams.
So, I wanted to do what I could to prepare for the final exams. I tried to do a lot of preparation outside of class. I read my cases. But, I also used study aids to help give me context for what I was reading. The study aids also provided me with a bunch of hypotheticals where I could practice my legal analysis.
I practiced my legal analysis within the confines of my safe apartment where I didn’t have to worry about others “judging” me if my voice cracked or was shaky or when I didn’t answer a question correctly. I trained myself on issue spotting and applying law to facts so that I could feel more confident not only in the Socratic class, but on the final exams as well. And things turned out okay for me. The guy who wanted to quit law school after his 1L year is now teaching in a law school.
It’s funny how things turn out. And things can turn out well for you, too. Try to engage with your professors’ hypotheticals. If you are not fully able to engage with the hypotheticals in class, look for ways to engage with hypotheticals outside of the potentially intimidating classroom. Like anything in life, the more you practice, the better you will get. And you have an entire semester to practice for your big day (and it won't matter on that big day whether your voiced ever cracked in class or whether you got a question wrong when the professor called on you). (OJ Salinas)
October 2, 2017 in Advice, Diversity Issues, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Exams - Theory, Learning Styles, Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, September 25, 2017
We are several weeks into the Fall semester. 1L students are starting to get a little better handle on what law school is all about. If they didn’t know this already, they are starting to realize that law school is much different than college.
There are no boldface words and glossaries in the law school casebooks. The Socratic class is not filled with a professor lecturing at passive students for the duration of class. And there are few, if any, written “chapter tests” during the semester so that students can assess their understanding of the material.
But, there are many opportunities throughout the semester where students can assess whether they are picking up what they should pick up in the course. These opportunities happen every day in class as a result of the often-dreaded Socratic method (and I dreaded it when I was a 1L--but, that story is for another blog post).
The professors’ many “what ifs” and “how abouts” give students opportunities to test their understanding of the relevant law; they are given chances to apply this law to many factual scenarios—which, in turn, help the students become better issue-spotters and legal analysts. And, as we all know in the ASP world, the more issues a student is able to spot and analyze on a law school final exam, the more likely that student will gain more points on the professor’s final exam rubric.
So, students: Try to engage with the professors’ hypotheticals in class—even when you have not been cold called in class to verbally answer the questions. Try to answer the questions to yourself in your own head. If you can’t come up with an answer to a hypothetical, write the question down on your notes and revisit that question after class or on the weekend when you review what you have covered in class for the week. You may not have come up with the answer in class. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t come up with the answer on the final exam--when it really counts!
One of the many differences from college and law school is that you don’t have several formal written tests throughout the semester; you often only have one exam at the end of the semester per course that often dictates your entire semester course grade. Try to prepare for that final exam every day in class when you engage with the professors’ hypotheticals, and practice the legal analysis skills that will help make you a better law school test-taker and, eventually, lawyer. (OJ Salinas)
September 25, 2017 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Exams - Theory, Learning Styles, Miscellany, Professionalism, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, September 18, 2017
I am having an Enrichment Group Leaders training meeting today at noon. So, I have enrichment groups on my mind (hence, the blog post!). Perhaps, many of you are also working with enrichment groups or are thinking about developing enrichment groups. I am sure many of us would love to chat and learn more about our various programs and how we can continue to best serve our students. We can continue the conversation via email or on Twitter (tweet me @ojsalinas, and use #lawschoolASP).
Like many law school academic success programs throughout the country, we provide an opportunity for our 1L students to get additional training and support from upper level students. One way that we provide this opportunity to our 1Ls is through participation in Enrichment Groups.
Every 1L student at Carolina Law is invited to participate in our Academic Excellence Program Enrichment Groups. These groups are run by upper level law students who have done well in school and have shown the ability to do well in mentoring and meeting with students. 1Ls are assigned to their groups based on their 1L professors, and the groups are “tied” to two of the 1L casebook classes—with one upper level student “Enrichment Group Leader” often taking the lead on one of the two casebook classes.
The groups typically meet once a week for about 50 minutes starting late September. The groups alternate discussing ASP topics related to one of their two casebook classes during the group meetings. These topics change as the 1Ls advance during the semester. So, the initial group meeting may simply focus on developing rapport within the group and identifying group member goals for choosing to participate in the group. The next groups may focus on taking notes and case reading for the particular casebook classes. Later group meetings may introduce outlining and the use of study aids to help review practice questions related to the casebook classes. And, finally, we try to end our semester with a practice exam for each of the two casebook classes.
We generally have strong positive feedback from our 1Ls on our Enrichment Groups. Students typically feel that the groups are great ways to provide additional support and guidance in their classes. They also like the idea that these study groups are voluntary and that the groups are already formed for them—the students don’t have to worry about not getting “chosen” or “asked” to join a particular study group.
As I mentioned, I am having a training session for our Enrichment Group Leaders this afternoon. One thing that we try to emphasize with our leaders and their group participants is that the leaders are not “tutors.” They are not there to teach the 1Ls the substantive law, and they certainly don’t replace their law school professors. While the leaders have done well in the casebook class that they are “leading” (and, many of them actually had the same professor for that particular casebook class during their 1L year), our Enrichment Group Leaders are there to help facilitate learning. They are there to provide further support for our students. They are there to “enrich” the students’ 1L academic experience. And we believe a more enriched 1L experience is a better 1L experience. (OJ Salinas)
September 18, 2017 in Advice, Diversity Issues, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Learning Styles, Meetings, Miscellany, Program Evaluation, Reading, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)
Sunday, September 17, 2017
Many law students (as well as the rest of us) are sleep-deprived. Research shows that our digital age is interfering with our sleep patterns. A BBC News article discusses the problem and how our smartphones and tablets are causing us to delay good sleep habits as well as interfering with our sleep cycles. The link is Are you a sleep procrastinator?. (Amy Jarmon)
Tuesday, September 12, 2017
My thirty-something sister lives in Naples, Florida, approximately two blocks from Naples Bay and eight blocks from the Gulf of Mexico. Needless to say, the last few days have been stressful for her. Unsurprisingly, my parents and I have also been stressed, mostly because we could not do anything to help her and felt utterly useless. For me, this weekend’s stress felt different than the garden variety work-stress to which I have grown accustomed. So, I decided to dig a little deeper and learned that a hurricane or other natural disaster presents a unique type of stress known as “disaster stress” or “trauma stress.”
Disaster stress differs from acute stress (e.g. car accident or roller coaster) and chronic stress (e.g. hassles of daily life) because disaster stress tends to impact a large number of people simultaneously. In fact, “[m]ild to moderate stress reactions in the emergency and early post-impact phases of disaster are highly prevalent because survivors (and their families, community members and rescue workers) accurately recognize the grave danger in disaster.” Moreover, as Dr. Susanne Babbel explains, disaster stress “victims do not need to have experienced the disaster firsthand in order to be psychologically affected. For example, someone living in [Morgantown] with relatives in [Naples] at the time of the [hurricane] could have been subjected to countless hours of television coverage, coupled with an inability to get information about their own family. This type of situation can take an emotional impact on someone even from afar.”
Truthfully, as I write this post, I’m watching news channels alternate between footage of the September 11 memorial, Harvey recovery efforts, the Mexico earthquake, and Hurricane Irma. It has been a rough week for a lot of the country. The good news is that many governmental agencies and professional mental health organizations offer free resources for those who might be experiencing disaster stress.
The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs’ National Center for PTSD maintains a comprehensive webpage on disaster stress and publishes fact sheets to help both sufferers and medical providers identify and treat disaster-related stress. (As I am sure you can imagine, military personnel are exposed to natural disaster situations more frequently than the regular population.) The Center suggests that all individuals should try to avoid extensive media coverage, but acknowledges that certain people are at a higher risk of experiencing disaster stress dependent upon the person's severity of exposure, gender, age, social support, and resilience.
Similarly, the American Psychological Association offers online suggestions to help people "cope effectively with [their] feelings, thoughts and behaviors” following a natural disaster. The APA explains that "most people are resilient and over time are able to bounce back from tragedy. It is common for people to experience stress in the immediate aftermath, but within a few months most people are able to resume functioning as they did prior to the disaster. It is important to remember that resilience and recovery are the norm, not prolonged distress."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages individuals in distress to contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) disaster distress hotline by calling 1-800-985-5990 or by texting TalkWithUs to 66746.
I wish everyone a safe and speedy recovery and encourage you to share these resource links with anyone who might be experiencing disaster stress. (Kirsha Trychta)
(Photo courtesy of one of my sister's friends. You can see how Hurricane Irma sucked the Naples canal water out toward the Gulf during the storm. The water has since returned.)
(Photo courtesy of another friend's Facebook page. This used to be a popular open-air Tiki restaurant.)
Monday, September 11, 2017
It’s been a potentially challenging time for many law students throughout the country. But, I am not necessarily talking about the challenges directly related to the study of law.
Yes. Case readings can be quite lengthy. There may be anxiety related to getting called on in class. And students may sometimes feel like there is not enough time in the day to complete everything that seems to be needed to be completed to succeed in law school. These are all potential challenges that our students may currently be experiencing. But, the last month or so may have seemingly added an entire new set of challenges to our students.
While many students have tried to remain engaged in their studies, events outside of the law school building may have continued to place additional burdens on them. Between Charlottesville, Hurricane Harvey, DACA, and Hurricane Irma, many of our students have had to face or worry about things that they would not have initially had on their radar going into the start of law school (no hurricane pun intended).
It’s difficult to stay motivated and engaged to read for class or write that LRW memo when you are worried about your safety and security or the safety and security of your families and friends. It’s hard to turn away from the news of devastation and despair when you are either living in that devastation and despair or know someone who is.
Law school is a challenging time for our students. And events outside of the law school building may have continued to place additional challenges on our students. It’s during these challenging times that it is especially important to have a friendly, supportive, and understanding ASP professional in the law school building. While we may not immediately have all or any of the answers related to some of these challenging events, we surely can welcome our students into our offices. We can sit down with them and actively listen to their stories. We can empathetically try to help them find some answers or refer them to those who may more appropriately serve them during these challenging and unfortunate times. (OJ Salinas)
Sunday, September 10, 2017
Yes, today is National Grandparents Day. I would not have known that fact except I am staring at my larger-than-life planner at work that proclaims the celebration below the date.
I grew up with only one living grandparent, my grandmother on my mother's side. That precious lady taught me much about integrity, hard work, forgiveness, and kindness. We were blessed to have her with us until she was 102 years young. I still miss her. Photographs of her on my bookshelf always bring a smile to my lips and warm memories.
Each year, we have a number of our law students lose a precious grandparent during the academic year. Some students are too far from home to be by the grandparent's side to say goodbye. Many are fortunate to travel home to be at a bedside. For some, their grandparents were in ill health for a long time. Others have had no warning prior to their deaths.
For some law students, that grandparent was the parent because of family circumstances. Many of our law students grew up with strong extended families living nearby. Small-town Texas often means that grandparents are next door or down the street. The ties are strong and lasting. The heart is deeply involved in that relationship.
Of course, the law school works administratively with each student in the individual circumstances when a student tells us of a grandparent's death: notifications to professors of absences, moved assignment deadlines, moved exams. In addition, if appropriate to the individual student circumstances, referrals for counseling are also made: university wellness center, grief counselors, pastoral counseling.
Because of our individual contacts with students, we as ASP'ers are often aware of the student's grief and its impact on their academics. A certain number of students reveal that a death in the family is one reason they have lost focus at critical points in the semester.
I am not a clinical psychologist. I know my limits and expertise. But I can be there for the student by listening and expressing that I care. I can understand the lack of focus, inability to organize well, and possible need to travel home for more frequent family support. I can help students find study strategies that realistically work to improve their academics while recognizing that their hearts may override their heads at times. I consider it a privilege to assist students through their studies while they process their grief.
On this National Grandparents Day, may we all take a few minutes to give our grandparents who are still with us a phone call or hug. May we all take a few minutes to remember the special memories about our grandparents who have left us. (Amy Jarmon)
Wednesday, September 6, 2017
“This is my last first day of school ever!” This statement sums up the comments made by many of my 3L students as they stopped by to say hello and told me about their summer adventures. They are so elated and their excitement is infectious. We reminisce about their journeys, how far they have come, all they have overcome, and their current achievements and growth. It is important to keep things in perspective so I remind them that they are equipped to face the next challenge that lies ahead; they made it this far.
“I never thought this day would come when I was a 1L and a 2L!” This also sums up statements made by my 3L students who struggled a little more than others throughout their law school career. This is usually a perfect point in time to remind them of how they overcame challenges they deemed insurmountable and felt defeated by the law school process but somehow persevered. Many of these students accessed opportunities, that on paper they did not qualify for, but they were afforded these opportunities through their work ethic and personality. I do not want them to forget challenges they have overcome because I know the bar exam lies ahead and I want them to conquer this seemingly impossible beast.
“I can’t wait until my picture is on your wall next year!” In February, I wrote about a “Wall of Inspiration” which is a display board filled with pictures from commencement and swearing-in ceremonies to inspire current students and remind them of why they are in the building. Most individuals who enter my office take some time to admire the pictures and comment, especially when they notice someone they know. I had no idea that it was a goal of my students to get their commencement and/or swearing-in pictures on my board. While I hoped that I would inspire them, I had no idea that I actually did.
While students expressed many positive things about their 3L year, they also expressed the fact that they are mentally checked-out, unmotivated, ready to be done, and simply over the law school experience. My most studious students have difficulty reading for classes and even attending classes. They do not want to own the fact that they have senioritis although everything seems to indicate it. I recognize the telltale sign of indifference that has overshadowed the usual excitement some of my students have for classes. Investment in established law school friendships has weaned and students are generally grumpy. I am concerned! However, I know that some students are burnt-out and exhausted from being in school, some for almost their entire lives. Also, the stress of finding a job, the anxiety of preparing for and taking the bar exam, and the realities of “adulting” for the first time weigh heavy on them. Therefore, I am working on how to actively re-energize and re-engage these students.
"I cannot fail the bar exam!" On the other extreme of the spectrum are 3Ls in panic mode. These students are excited and embrace the fast approaching end to their law school career but are equally terrified about the bar exam, to the point of paralysis. They are paranoid about failing the bar exam and adamant about starting to study for the bar exam now, forgetting vital things they need to accomplish prior to studying such as completing the bar application. Additionally, they are concerned with preserving their GPAs, finding a fulfilling job, and managing their finances. I encourage this group to develop a plan, take one thing at a time, and move forward.
Whether our 3Ls are checked-out or in a complete panic, our main goal is to bring them somewhere in the middle, remind them of what they must do and what they have yet to do, all while underscoring the fact that they still have time. (Goldie Pritchard)
Monday, September 4, 2017
We just completed our first week of school at Carolina Law. Like many law students throughout the country, our 1Ls experienced their first week of Socratic classes. They read and briefed their cases. They’ve been introduced to legal citations and the hierarchy of authority. They’ve taken advantage of the free lunches provided at the various student organization meetings.
After a week of law school, many 1Ls may wonder whether they will have enough time during the day to stay afloat. They may worry that they are spending way too much time reading their cases. And despite the large amount of time that they are devoting to reading their cases, they may mistakenly fear that they are the only ones in their classroom who are not able to fully follow the various hypotheticals that their professors ask in class. They may question whether they are fit for law school.
1Ls: If you are feeling this way, remember that law school is a marathon. There may be times during the year when you feel like you have to run a little faster than normal. But, the sprint for the finish line is really not until the end of the semester when you have to answer the final exam hypotheticals.
Consider a lot of what is happening during the semester as your training for that sprint. Yes. You might falter every now and then as you train. But, don’t get discouraged. Try to learn from the misstep, and fine-tune your next step so that you continue to progress. You are just starting to develop your critical thinking muscles. You are beginning to strengthen your ability to perform legal analysis. You are establishing a foundation of stamina that will help push you through the marathon—including the sprint to the end.
Like many athletes who start a new sport season, you are in a training camp right now. And this training camp is unlike any other training camp you have experienced before. Learning how to learn the law takes time. It takes practice. It takes repetition. Keep putting in the time, because the more you practice, the better you will get. But, make sure that you are active and engaged when you are reading and studying. You can’t passively learn the law; you have to be present and in the moment. And make sure to leave some time for you to do the kinds of things that make you “You.” Law school is a big part of who you are right now. But, it is not all of you.
You will find that it will take you less time to read and brief your cases in the next few weeks. You will find that your critical thinking skills will begin to improve. You will find that your ability to synthesize rules and apply those rules to different factual scenarios will become easier and, dare I say . . . fun!
Best of luck as you continue your training! And remember you have great ASP folks at your schools to help coach you and cheer you on! (OJ Salinas)
September 4, 2017 in Advice, Diversity Issues, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Miscellany, Orientation, Reading, Sports, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, August 30, 2017
The first day and as a matter of fact, the first week of classes is typically a joyous occasion. Students stop by my office to say hello and some might even give me a hug. They are excited to tell me about all they did over the summer in their externships or jobs. They want to share information about the trips they took. They want to impress me with their summer academic achievements and life challenges and I am always thrilled to hear from them. The building was lifeless without the students and they are the very reason we are all here. I see beaming smiles on the faces of students I encounter in the hallways. I say “welcome back” to my returning students and “welcome” to the incoming 1L students who appear timid, yet in search of a friendly face and someone who can answer all of their questions. I am then reminded of why I do this work and reenergized for the semester.
The difficulty this year as compared to others is that students have more sad and challenging events to share which is very much out of the norm. Some students have had several deaths in their families, are facing health, familial, financial, and other challenges. Other students are concerned about family members impacted by recent natural disasters. Students are coping with the stress and fear of being unable to navigate the semester academically. I am not a counselor and my students know that I am not shy about reminding them to access the professional counseling services available on campus, yet I feel privileged that they are comfortable enough to share certain experiences with me. Non-academic experiences impact academic experiences and the sooner students can address these the better academic journey they can have. Life experiences make the students who they are as individuals and likely form their identity as lawyers. The information students share with me allows me to help them have perspective when they experience challenges throughout the academic year. Although this task is not listed in my job description, it is implied because engaging with students in this way helps build relationships with them and helps them achieve their academic goals.
Some might disagree and say this level of interaction goes beyond what one should do as an academic support professional. I would argue that we are in the business of building relationships to more effectively impact the academic success of our students. Having some information beyond their grade in a class, law school grade point average, LSAT, and/or undergraduate grade point average assists us as we determine the best approach for supporting students, the examples we might use or avoid, and strategies we might use with one student but not with another student. It also helps explain students’ attitudes about learning, engagement in their academic journey, and persistence to graduation. Based on my past experience, I found that for some students poor academic performance is related to financial inability to purchase books for classes, food, and /or appropriate attire for professional events which affected the student emotionally and mentally. If I cannot find some way of connecting on a human level with the students then I am ineffective when I challenge my students to challenge themselves and when I tell them that I believe they have the ability to overcome whatever challenge they have before them. Sometimes I am the only positive or encouraging voice they encounter in the building but they also know that I am honest and will call them out and redirect them when they are not moving in the right direction. I garner respect by telling them when I do not know a piece of information but suggest that we can strategically work through steps together and problem solve. I also make it my business to be aware of various resources on campus where students can find assistance with various non-academic challenges.
What happens to the helper though? As Academic Support Professionals, we go from student to student and from crisis to crisis. We are problem solvers all day long but what do we do to ensure that we are okay? Where, when, and with whom do we debrief? What does that look like? If we are a solo academic support person, do we have someone at work who we can check-in with? Do we have someone who understands what we do? Do we have a life outside of the building like we tell students to have? Do we have energizing things to do? Take care of yourselves Academic Support Professionals (Goldie Pritchard).
Monday, August 28, 2017
I have returned to some normalcy after the conclusion of our two pre-orientation programs.
Our Legal Education Advancement Program (“LEAP”) is a voluntary pre-orientation program available to every incoming 1L student at Carolina Law. Faculty members participating in LEAP help students transition to the study of law by introducing them to a variety of topics, including jurisprudence, case briefing, exam writing, and the Socratic class. We had 56 incoming 1Ls who chose to participate in our first LEAP session a week and a half ago. We had another 47 incoming 1Ls who chose to participate in our second LEAP session last week. The total was nearly half of our incoming 1L class!
I am sure many ASP folks will agree that it can be an interesting feeling running these pre-orientation programs: it’s weirdly both draining and energizing. You can feel really drained from the immense amount of work that goes into preparing for and delivering the program. Yet, you can also feel energized when a new set of students enters your law school building. You feel a certain thrill and special motivation knowing that you get to be a part of the start of the students’ successful transition into the study of law. You know that your students are going to do great things during and after law school, and you are lucky to help train them on this wonderful marathon. Seeing light bulbs start to go off in your students’ minds during your programming, and receiving positive responses from faculty, staff, students, and administrators are icing on the cake.
Like many of you, I had a great group of folks who helped out during our pre-orientation programs (many of whom I thanked and tweeted about @ojsalinas). I also appreciated how many faculty, staff, and administrators came out to meet and have lunch with our LEAP students.
Wishing everyone a great start to another academic year!
Thursday, August 24, 2017
There's a place amidst the mighty Sangre de Cristo Range of New Mexico where college students lead high school teens across the rugged mountains on 10-day backpacking trips.
As the backpacking guides race from their office to the meet their new crews hailing from around the nation (and the world too), the guides reach high to tap a sign as they exit the office door that reads simply:
I love that phrase.
It's not that the camp is about "changing" lives...but that individual guides reach up to signify their commitment to "change" lives today. The first is about others (i.e., the camp) having an impact on the backpackers. The second, in contrast, is about me individually making an impact on people that I am charged with serving.
As I thought about our work in ASP, I wonder if that might be a great motto for me. Why not install that sign above my office door? I could then tap it when I go to classes as a reminder of my purpose...in the present...to teach for the betterment of my students. And, I could reach out and touch it when I go to meetings. That might really make a big impact on my motivation. I could tag it when I meet with other faculty and staff as a reminder of my purpose to work among my colleagues as an ASP professional to change lives.
You see, it's often the little things that can make a mighty difference, like committing ourselves daily to be on the lookout for any and all opportunities to change the lives of our students for the better. So, today, feel free to reach high in a symbolic tap of the sign! (Scott Johns).