Monday, July 30, 2012
My feet are wet. In fact, my jeans are wet all the way up above my knees. I have been standing in the surf of the Atlantic Ocean watching lightning off in the distance.
I called my wife while I stood there. She isn't here, but she should've been. I had to come to a conference to speak, and we thought we should not spend the money it would take for her to come down with me.
You see, we just spent a couple of weeks in the Colorado Rockies on vacation. We figured that we should be a little more careful with our money after that trip, so we thought it better that she not join me this time, given how expensive flights to Florida from Kansas are.
It sounded wise and responsible at the time. She was originally going to come with me because our 35th anniversary takes place while I am in Florida. We had thought it would be romantic to spend it together on the beach, even if I had to take some time out to attend sessions and present a talk.
But money considerations won out, and she stayed home. We decided to celebrate our anniversary when I return.
Sometimes wisdom is not all that wise. Looking out over the ocean as it crashed against my feet, I realized that my wife should have been standing next to me, whether we could afford it or not. I called her from the surf and asked her to get on a plane tomorrow and fly down here –whether we could afford it or not.
Flights and other arrangements may not work out on such short notice. I wish I had gotten my feet wet three weeks ago and arranged for her to come with me.
I don't tell you this story to say that you should waste money. You know the saying by now, no doubt, "Live like a lawyer while you are in law school, and you will live like a law student when you get out."
On the other hand, when you look back at your life, you will realize that some things just mattered more than good money management. Or maybe, good money management includes making stupid decisions for wise reasons sometimes.
I don't really know. But after 35 years of raising kids, dealing with life, and falling asleep in each others arms, we should not have worried about the cost of a plane ticket on the eve of our anniversary.
Sometimes, you ought to get your feet wet when the opportunity arises, rather than stay dry and in miss something important. (Dan Weddle)
Sunday, July 29, 2012
I am surprised every summer when August 1st comes around. The summer looks so long and full of possibilities right after graduation. However, it always ends too quickly for everything I would like to accomplish in my grandest dreams.
There are some things, however, that I try to complete each summer to prepare for the next semester as well as recharge my batteries.
Here are some of the things that I find help me most to "get my house in order" and approach the upcoming academic year with enthusiasm:
- I critique the handouts and Power Point slides that I use for student workshops to see what changes need to be made. Often during the academic year, I have thought of new examples to use, new ways of explaining information, or gained insights from my students. By revamping my materials regularly, I am able to offer better information and get excited about the new techniques that I can pass on to students in the coming months.
- I revamp my four-week course for our Summer Entry Program. It is easy to get lulled into doing things exactly the same each year because the program works so well with our current format. However, by challenging myself to find better ways of teaching the material and by incorporating suggestions from last summer, I keep myself and the material fresh. The changes may be small tweaks in many places and major rethinks in a few spots, but they all focus on giving 100% to the students.
- I review publishers' catalogs and order library books for our study aids/academic success library to get the newest editions or series within my budget allotment. It is always exciting to see what new volumes my ASP colleagues have published!
- I critique administrative tasks to find ways to be more efficient and effective. For tasks where I interface with other offices, I brainstorm better ways that we can communicate. For my own tasks, I review my calendar for the last year to make notes about when I should schedule certain tasks during the coming year and changes that I need to make.
- I sort through my e-mail archives and delete e-mails that are not needed any longer. If I have time, I also sort through my Word files to delete outdated or unwanted items that have been overlooked.
- I catch up on some professional reading. During the summer, I try to read at least one book related to legal education, academic success, or education theory. I also work my way through a stack of articles that I have collected throughout the year but never had time to read.
- I pull out my folder of thank you notes and e-mails from students and read through them. This task allows me to remember why I do what I do and encourages me to continue to impact student lives for the better. It reminds me to focus on being a blessing to my students in small as well as large ways.
By the time Orientation begins, I am ready for a new crop of 1Ls and our returning students. My housekeeping for ASP is done, and I am ready to start the cycle all over again. (Amy Jarmon)
Friday, July 27, 2012
Some of the returning students always ask my advice on what they can do to get ready for their academics and improve their grades for the coming year. Here are my suggestions - some of the items can be done this summer; others can be completed in the first few weeks:
- Sit down and evaluate your study habits from the previous year. Look at each aspect of law school: reading and briefing, note-taking in class, outlining, reviewing for exams, memorizing the law, taking fact-pattern-essay exams, taking multiple-choice exams, completing papers or projects. What were your strengths in studying and why? What were your weaknesses in studying and why?
- Decide which study habits to continue and which study habits to change. Meet with the academic success staff at your school if you need help with this evaluation of your studying or with brainstorming new strategies.
- If you have specific skill weaknesses, read a book about that skill to improve your understanding. Here are a few examples: Reading Like a Lawyer by Ruth Ann McKinney; The Five Types of Legal Argumentby Wilson Huhn; The Eight Secrets of Top Exam Performance in Law Schoolby Charles H. Whitebread. You can find a number of excellent books through Carolina Academic Press and other publishers.
- Start regimens now that are healthy and sensible. Get on a routine sleep schedule of 7-8 hours per night. Exercise at least three times a week for 30 minutes to an hour. Eat healthy meals. Do not let these routines disappear during the semester.
- If at all possible, relax for at least one week prior to the beginning of classes. You want to begin the semester with fully recharged batteries.
- Time yourself in each course for the entire first week to see how long it takes you to prepare for class (read, brief, complete problem sets). Then pick the longest block of time for each course and use that to set up your class preparation schedule.
- Schedule also regular time for other tasks each week: outlines, review of outlines, practice questions, research, writing, study group, and more.
- Read your course syllabi very carefully. Many professors include information that can help you get the best grades in the course: learning objectives, study aid recommendations, websites and other resources, study tips, and more.
- During the first month of school, review all exams from last semester for which you received a C+ or lower grade. By getting feedback from your professors on what you did well and what needs improvement, you can make the appropriate changes as you do practice questions for your next set of exams.
- If you were disappointed in your performance in a paper class last semester, ask the professor for tips on how you could improve your research and writing. Then use the feedback to improve on your papers this year.
Second and third years are somewhat easier because students have learned the basic skills needed for success in law school. However, both years bring new responsibilities with part-time work and student organizations. Time management and organization are going to be two key areas to work on to attain your best grades. (Amy Jarmon)
Thursday, July 26, 2012
Summer is the traditional time when new professionals in ASP start their jobs. If you are a newcomwer to the academic success profession, please get in touch with me so that we can introduce you to everyone with an Academic Support Spotlight posting. If you would like an introduction spotlight, just send me the following information:
- One paragraph that can be posted with information on your position, law school, and you (education, past work experience, and interests).
- A link to your law school's faculty profile on the website if one exists for you.
- A link to your picture on your law school's website if one exists. (If not, you can send a small jpeg file.)
Welcome to ASP! We usually do spotlight postings throughout late August, September,and early October. So, if you need some extra time for your law school to complete your faculty profile or picture posting, just get in touch when you are ready. (Amy Jarmon)
Monday, July 23, 2012
On Friday, I gave you some fairly sober advice about how to handle law school. Let me give you some counterpoint advice today: enjoy the ride.
I obviously don't mean that you should party your way through law school or do only what is fun or easy. You cannot prepare for that first client that way.
What I do mean is that you should realize that you have made it to the majors, and you shouldn't let that experience get swallowed by competition and pressure. Competition and pressure will be there, of course; and you will drop an easy catch or get caught looking at the perfect pitch. But any real ballplayer will tell you that everyone has those moments and that the successful ones shake them off and catch the next ball or hammer the next fat pitch. Real ballplayers will also tell you that they love to play the game, and that is what keeps them going.
You are about to spend three years transforming yourself from layperson to lawyer. What an amazing thing! You will have to master new skills, of course; play at a new game speed, even change how you play. But you get to play! Sure, you have to expect both setbacks and successes; they go with the territory. The trick is to relish the successes, learn from the setbacks, and appreciate the changes both bring about in you as you grow in this profession.
When you lose a game, remind yourself that you could not have lost that game unless you were playing in the majors to begin with. Remind yourself, as well, that every win is a major league win. You aren't Babe Ruth every day? You still get to play everyday, just like Ruth. You struck out today? Ruth led the league in strike outs.
You are playing in the majors. Not everyone gets to say that. In fact, few get to say that. But you do. Enjoy the ride.
Friday, July 20, 2012
Recently I had the opportunity to attend a lecture given by Sian Beilock, Associate Professor of Psychology at The University of Chicago and author of Choke: What The Secrets of the Brain Reveals About Getting It Right When You Have To. The lecture focused on the science of why individuals choke under pressure and how to best avoid performance anxiety. While the lecture did not focus on the stress applicants feel taking the bar exam, it was wholly applicable.
When pressure and anxiety to perform is high (like the bar exam), the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for our working memory, focuses on the anxiety instead of recollecting essential information for successful performance. When a student is filled with too much anxiety, regardless of their aptitude, the anxiety interferes with their thought process and almost turns off their working memory to anything other than the stress of the event. This is why we often see highly intelligent and capable students perform below expectations in testing situations.
There are several ways to help students avoid this prefrontal cortex reaction. One, which is often employed by commercial bar reviews, is taking practice tests under timed conditions. These simulations help the brain overcome stress and will likely prevent students from “choking” during their actual test because they have established coping mechanisms to deal with their stress. Therefore, during the real test, they can practically operate on autopilot without stress interfering with their working memory.
Additionally, positive self-talk is an important aspect of testing success. Professor Beilock suggests that writing about your stress for ten minutes before an exam will free working memory. This cognitive function can instead be applied to performing well on the exam.
The simple act of acknowledging fear and stress prior to taking the bar exam could make the difference between passing and failing. I have told each of my students, especially those struggling with intense testing anxiety, to try the writing exercise each morning of the bar exam. I am hopeful that it will calm their fears and help them reach their highest potential next week.
Are you about to begin law school? Do you want some advice about how to succeed?
Here it is: Focus on learning, not grades or class rank.
I know, that sounds easier than it is and may even strike you as a little trite; but it is the secret to success in law school. If you focus on learning and compete only with yourself and the material, you are likely to do the one thing that is most important -- prepare yourself to serve that first client.
Three years from now, grades and ranks notwithstanding, some client is going to come to your office and place in your hands something critically important to her. It may be a liberty interest, a property interest, or even her life or the life of a loved one. She may not say it aloud, but by showing up at your door, she will be asking you, begging you, not let to her down.
Your only real job over the next three years is to be ready for her. Keep her in your mind's eye as you study each subject, since you cannot know now what she will put into your hands. Let her face drive your preparation for class, your research and writing projects, everything you do in law school.
Whether that first client is what you imagined will not matter; he or she will be real, and the matter placed in your hands will be critically important. Worry about that over the next three years, and the grades and ranks will take care of themselves. You focus on being ready to take care of that client.
Thursday, July 19, 2012
When I was a school administrator, I often found that new teachers who had always made
straight A's sometimes struggled to understand why their students could not grasp concepts with the same ease. Those teachers understood deeply the material they were teaching, but they did not necessarily understand their own grasp of it -- in other words, how they had processed the material and mastered it. Lacking that key self-awareness, they had difficulty helping others process concepts deeply because they could not explain the intellectual steps they themselves used.
Law professors can often suffer from the same flaw. Having mastered the law with approaches that came to them seemingly intuitively, they find it perplexing that others cannot do the same if those others are intelligent and hardworking. They believe that students either have the ability to succeed in law school or they don't, and those that don't should wash out without any "propping up" by ASP programs.
Those of us in ASP would agree if things were so simple. In fact, ASP would be unnecessary, as some faculty contend, if success or failure in law school depended exclusively upon innate ability. What we know from our experience with students, however, is that innate ability is not enough; many with the innate ability to excel in law school fail to do so not because they lack the intellectual horsepower or the drive to succeed but because they have been inadequately trained in the strategies required to master the law and cannot make the intuitive leap that some of their more fortunate colleagues can make. That lack of training is by and large nothing more than the luck of the draw.
A student, for example, who has learned how to develop carefully constructed, text-based interpretations of literary works may transfer those skills rather quickly to the highly precise, text-based analyses of judicial opinions. For him, proving that he is accurately seeing the world through the eyes of the author may engage skills that now seem intuitive rather than learned. Another, equally bright student may never have had an opportunity to learn those skills before law school, so those skills come not through intuition but through explicit instruction. That student, once she has mastered the analytical skills, may be better equipped to articulate those skills and the steps to their mastery. She may also have a better sense of where students are likely to make missteps.
She is also likely, as a professor, to gravitate toward ASP or at least to support it. Her colleague for whom legal analysis seemed intuitive may drift in precisely the opposite direction, believing with his whole heart that providing students with ASP “crutches” damages the profession and misleads students who ought to spend their tuition money on something else.
One of the best things I ever did as director of our ASP program was to host luncheon meetings with small groups of professors who taught our first-year courses. I gave them a very brief overview of the program and then took five minutes to show them what I teach students to do for after-class review (I stole the after-class review strategy from Dennis Tonsing). Then I asked them for input to the program. I asked what they saw students struggling with and how I might help them develop strategies to learn more effectively.
The professors were thrilled with what the program was doing and eager to provide input. I have never done anything special that my ASP colleagues around the country are not doing, but now my fellow professors are in on the secret. They realize that I am not propping students up; instead I am handing them the keys to learning the law.
Our non-ASP colleagues are not necessarily insensitive or uncaring; they may simply have never realized how they themselves learn or how others can be taught those learning strategies successfully. We need to take the time to show them what we really do. Some of our colleagues suffer from the straight-A syndrome, and it has an antidote -- us.
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Job Title: Director - Irene Diamond Professional Skills Center (Academic Resource Center
Job ID: 6098
Location: CUNY School of Law
Full/Part Time: Full-Time
Directs curriculum development and operations of a learning resource center.
- Designs, implements and monitors a comprehensive student support program based on targeted
academic resources such as tutoring, remedial and/or other related support services
- Administers all curricular, administrative, and financial aspects of the center; oversees design and
delivery of various programs sponsored by the center
- Performs outcomes assessment and creates strategic plan to further develop center offerings
- Ensures ongoing faculty and staff development to support high quality student services delivery;
promotes best practices in field
- Manages annual budget; develops proposals and other initiatives for expanded center funding
- Cultivates and maintains strategic partnerships; serves as primary liaison to faculty and administrators
to plan and execute center activities
- Manages professional, instructional and clerical staff
- Performs related duties as assigned.
Job Title Name: Academic Resource Center Director
Higher Education Officer
CAMPUS SPECIFIC INFORMATION
The Director of the Irene Diamond Professional Skills Center will assist the Academic Dean and the
Director of Academic Support Programs in designing and implementing all aspects of the Law School's
Academic Support Program. This is primarily a teaching position. The Director will work with first- and
second-year students as they develop the doctrinal, academic, study, and time-management skills
necessary for success in the Law School's program of study, on the bar exam, and in practice. The
Director may teach weekly first- or second-year skills sessions; teach academic support sections of
required doctrinal courses; work with students individually or in small groups; and train and supervise
teaching assistants. The Professional Skills Center also designs and administers the Summer Law
Institute (a three-week intensive introduction to law study) and the Pre-Law Program (a mandatory
orientation program for all entering students). The Director will be involved in planning and teaching in
those programs. In keeping with CUNY's integrated approach to academic support, the Director will also
help develop faculty workshops on pedagogy and serve as a resource to faculty in the areas of
skills-based teaching and testing.
The Director may have additional responsibilities as determined in consultation with the Academic Dean
and the Director of Academic Support Programs.
This job may include evening and weekend duties.
Bachelor's degree and eight years' related experience required.
The successful candidate must be committed to the public interest and access missions of the Law
School and the role of an integrated academic support program in law school. She or he should possess
excellent writing, speaking, and organization skills. Experience in a law school academic support
program, or other relevant teaching experience, is strongly preferred. JD degree is preferred.
$82,299 - $102,253; commensurate with experience.
CUNY offers a comprehensive benefits package to employees and eligible dependents based on job title
and classification. Employees are also offered pension and Tax-Deferred Savings Plans. Part-time
employees must meet a weekly or semester work hour criteria to be eligible for health benefits. Health
benefits are also extended to retirees who meet the eligibility criteria.
HOW TO APPLY
To apply, go to www.cuny.edu, select "Employment", and "Search Job Listing". You will be prompted to
create an account. Return to this job listing using the "Job Search" page and select "Apply Now".
It is recommended that you combine your cover letter and resume into one document.
If you have any inquiries, please contact Maryann Ruggiero at [email protected].
Open until filled with review of applications to begin 7/26/12.
JOB SEARCH CATEGORY
CUNY Job Posting: Managerial/Professional
EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY
We are committed to enhancing our diverse academic community by actively encouraging people with
disabilities, minorities, veterans, and women to apply. We take pride in our pluralistic community and
continue to seek excellence through diversity and inclusion. EO/AA Employer.
Sunday, July 8, 2012
It was wonderful to see everyone in Denver at the LSAC AATW. There were many new faces, lots of returning ASP'ers, and colleagues we missed because of their having conflicting obligations.
This time together is always rewarding, not only because of the presentations but because of the networking. There are so many talented people in ASP who are running tremendous programs. It is easy to come back from the conference with lots of new ideas.
The plenary topics included:
- the evolution of academic assistance,
- recent events and the future of academic assistance,
- outcomes assessment - the basics
- establishing learning outcomes and planning assessment - the practice
- planning strategically for tomorrow and beyond.
A wide variety of concurrent sessions were also included during the workshop:
- who are our students
- new innovations in accommodations for students with disabilities
- reducing the effects of stereotype threat and other barriers that hinder students from diverse backgrounds
- implementing an institutional culture and climate of inclusion
- who will we be serving - future demographics of students
- evaluating and diagnosing student performance
- teaching students to become better learners
- developing a classroom assessment plan
- counseling students on academic and nonacademic issues
- integrating academic assistance with the casebook classroom
- developing an institutional assessment plan
- everything you want to know about scholarship and didn't know to ask
- developing your program's strategic plan
- where to find AAP resources
- supervising and managing your staff
- allocating limited resources for solo and small staff departments
- exploring the life cycle of academic support professionals
If you were unable to attend the workshop, be on the look-out for regional workshops sponsored by LSAC in the future months and for the more informal gatherings hosted by ASP regional groups or individual schools.
Thank you to all of my ASP colleagues for being an inspiration and re-charging my batteries for another year! (Amy Jarmon)