Monday, July 30, 2018
One student leaves and the next student comes in. The first thing he/she says is an excuse why they don't have the practice problem done or didn't turn in homework. The professor at the desk proceeds to scold the student for not meeting expectations or doing the necessary work to succeed. Silently, the professor already thinks the student will not make it to 2L year. The meeting is over and the next student comes in. Too many meetings with struggling students follow that pattern with some professors.
Unfortunately, I fall into the trap of not listening to the reason or failing to dig deeper. Most of us have more meetings than time and have already gone the extra mile (or 2) for the entire law school. The additional effort to understand students who continuously fail to complete the work is difficult. However, we may want to look deeper into the reason for some student's actions.
Kyle Redford in an Education Week article encouraged teachers to use Compassionate Curiosity to understand behavior in students. The article is intended for classroom teachers, but the strategy is applicable to law students as well. He states "Compassion asks teachers to pause before assuming we know what was behind a student's rude or hurtful remark, disruptive behavior, or poorly executed or missing work. It shifts us out of the role of judge and into the role of investigator - a caring one." That line struck a cord with me because too often, I think I judge the reason instead of trying to care about the student in a way to understand the action. Read the rest of the article here.
We all understand numerous factors play a role in student success from family situations to mental health. The article is specific to potential problems of a 5th grader who looks after his/her siblings. We have students every year who still look after siblings as law students, and some of them look after parents. Starting from a place of compassion can build trust and help students succeed. Students still need to meet expectations and complete the work, but compassion can help us lead the students to a good plan for success. I hope to start from compassion more this year.