Monday, November 28, 2022

Small Circles

After teaching three hours of orientation classes in the long, hot days of August, one of our new students asked me if they could meet with me. At this meeting, they told me that they were concerned about being in law school. Someone in another session had told all the students that it would be imperative for them to work together and make fast friends to be successful and had added that not doing so would likely lead to failure.

I guess this was an attempt to try to build community among the 400+ strangers who had gathered to start this journey together. It isn’t a bad idea-community is incredibly important to law school success- but this student is on the spectrum, and they were considering withdrawing from law school because they knew this kind of relationship building was not something they could do easily or quickly. They were terrified that they would not be successful because group work and friend-making would occupy as much, if not more, of their mental resources in law school than learning and studying…and law school is hard enough as it is. I sat and listened to this student and their thoughtful way of going about getting information before they made up their mind. They had come to see me because they thought I would listen and give them good advice and I was touched by their early trust. The more I listened, the more I became aware of what a wonderful student they would be. It would be a real shame for them to leave before even starting.

I’m not sure if ASP me or mom me answered their questions that day. I gave the student a rundown of how every school day might look (we looked at the schedule together) and how there isn’t much time to socialize and very few forced interactions (all the social events were entirely optional). We discussed how study groups are a choice and not a requirement.  While we aren’t exactly RuPaul’s Drag Race or America’s Next Top Model where the contestants "are not there to make friends," there was no need to spend an enormous amount of time finding their people and forming alliances. The student’s people were here-and would be here for the next three years. I advised them to trust what they know about themselves and let the relationships form organically. They decided to stay and give it a try.

They stopped by today to ask me a few questions about exams. They are happy. They are successful. They had just come from an executive board meeting of a club they had chosen to join. Mom me is very, very proud. ASP me is a tiny bit sad, but mainly thrilled that they will probably never need to see me again unless they choose to. I hope they do.

(Liz Stillman)

Disability Matters, Diversity Issues, Encouragement & Inspiration, Orientation | Permalink


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