Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Monster Mashup

This is a scary time of year – a time of growing cold and darkness.  The terror of the unknown, of loss and calamity.  The young ones, they don masks – smiles or stoic glares – to hide their fear. They binge on the distracting delight of sweets.  But the elders know.  It is the time of the season.  Days are shorter.  Workloads are increasing.  Midterm grades are coming in.  Soon it will be winter, and with winter come final exams.  Minds once lit and warmed by the excitement of a new school year are feeling fatigued and worn, craving respite, giving in to torpor. And the sleep of reason breeds monsters:

Witches:  Dazzled by the apparent power of the esoteric words wielded by the great jurists of the past, these students become convinced that the path to glory is paved with sorcerous phrases.  They fill notebook after notebook, or thumb drive after thumb drive, with quotations of passages from lectures and cases and textbooks, daring not to cut a single word, sparing not the time for reflection or comprehension, merely hoping that they when they need it most, they will choose the right magic portion to make their professors fall in love with their essays. 

Ghosts:  These poor souls are caught between worlds and have not found a way to move on.  In a former life, they were happy and successful.  Maybe this one was a college student, coasting through noteless classes on innate brilliance and heady all-nighters.  Maybe that one had prospered at work, a wizard with people and systems but never paying too much attention to the written word.  Perhaps another one came from a truly different world – another country, another culture, another field of study – where things just work differently.  We must all pass through the veil of law school admission and climb the stairway to replevin, but a few of us are held back, tethered to our pasts.

Werewolves:  The most unexpected of all monsters, these accursed brutes look and act like happy-go-lucky, indifferent law students . . . most of the time.  But every month or so, as the glare of an impending exam or deadline grows increasingly full, they undergo an uncontrollable metamorphosis!  Their mild-mannered calm deserts them, and they howl like beasts as they despair over the seemingly impossible task before them.  Raving overnight in the darkness, they may teeter on incomprehensibility until the magic hour finally passes, and, exhausted, they tumble into bed – awakening the next day with no apparent memory of the horror they are thus doomed to repeat.

Zombies:  Once ordinary scholars, these creatures have been blighted (some say through contact with other zombies) and are now driven by a single impulse: BRAAAAAAINS!  MUST HAVE BRAAAAAINS!  Their every conscious (term used loosely) moment is devoted to consuming books, lectures, outlines, practice tests, flash cards, supplements, mnemonics, YouTube videos, omega-3 fatty acids, and biographies of Supreme Court Justices.  And they will pick at their professors’ brains if they can.  They have little time for other sustenance and none for camaraderie. 

Vampires:  The wampyr is a tragic being, at once part of the human world and cleaved from it.  Rarely seen in daylight, it hides in the dark corners of the classroom, feeding off the thoughts and words of others, but fading, like a mist, when its own opinions are sought.  The vampire does not project an image, so it can be seen neither in mirror nor in Zoom class.  What keeps it from the fellowship of humanity?  Is it anxiety?  Indifference?  Misunderstanding?  Perhaps this spirit feels that it is the one who is misunderstood.

Yes, this is the moment to meet the mysterious menagerie!  And you might fear, as Ichabod Crane discovered, that a teacher is no match for a spectral fiend.  But remember, every monster is merely a suffering human.  We do what we can to restore them.  We teach the witches that the power they seek is not in the words, but in what they can learn to make with them.  We show the ghosts how to take the best parts of their old lives with them as they rise to face their new ones.  We help the werewolves release themselves from their curse by breaking the waxing and waning cycle of rising anxiety and falling productivity, through the mystical art of tempus administratione.  We demonstrate to the zombies the benefits of a more balanced diet, one enhanced with practical experience, meaningful relationships, proper recreation, and appropriate amounts of fiber.  We reach out to the vampire, drawing it into the light, the better to see what is keeping it at bay and to see to what degree they bring an affliction to school, and to what degree the school imposes an affliction on them. 

Happy Hallowe’en to all!

“There is no situation in life but has its advantages and pleasures--provided we will but take a joke as we find it.” – Washington Irving, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

[Bill MacDonald]

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/academic_support/2020/10/monster-mashup.html

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