Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Waiting for the Grade Meltdown

Anyone in ASP for longer than a year knows the grade meltdown; grades come out, students melt down. Here are some simple suggestions to manage the barrage of requests for appointments:

1) Triage.  You will get requests from students in crisis as well as students who did not live up to their own standards, but actually did quite well. First, see the students in emotional crisis. There will be students who melt down emotionally, despite doing quite well. Many of these students just need a quick explanation of law school grading, where a B is not a sign of failure. Students in emotional crisis can be a danger to themselves and others, so it is important to see them before they self-medicate or self-harm. Next, focus on students in academic crisis. Some of the students in academic crisis are not aware that they are in crisis, and believe that their grades aren't really that bad. It is important to reach out to them without scaring or stigmatizing them.

2) Limit appointment times. Unless a student is in danger of harming themself or others, limit appointment times to 15-20 minutes per student. You can always have follow-up appointments.

3) Make sure they are seeing their doctrinal professors. While ASP is (and should be) the first stop, students should be making appointments to see all their fall professors to go over their exams. It is much, much easier to help students if they have met with their professors and have their exams.

What NOT to do with students in the midst of a meltdown:

1) Allow them to place the blame for their performance on their professors or their peers. This is a delicate balance. It is totally appropriate to explain that a professor has a different teaching style from the student's learning style. It is detrimental to you and your student to allow them to blame their professor for an unsatisfactory grade. Students need to feel like they have control over their learning; allowing them to blame their professor allows them to shift responsibility for their learning. This is the first step to learned helplessness.

2) Allow appointments to overwhelm your life. Self-care is critical. Make sure you take breaks between appointments. Make sure you have a lunch break. You are not good for your students when you are overtired, cranky, and overwhelmed. Appointments with students in crisis are emotionally draining. Take a few minutes to look at stupid, silly YouTube videos. Spend your weekends doing something that brings you joy.


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