Monday, January 29, 2024

Track Work

The “spring” semester is underway here at my school. I say “spring” because anyone who has ever been in Boston in January knows that green leaves, blue skies, and dry sidewalks are a long way off. Recently, I took an involuntary month-long vacation from my normal commute. The train that I have taken to work for many years was shut down for almost all of January for track work. Not running at all. Not going inbound or outbound. Not moving under or over ground-just not at all. So, I had to change my usual routine and take a bus to a different train line and then walk a different route to the law school. As I joked with a Bar Prep buddy, my commute went from an MEE to an MPT in terms of timing. But after four weeks of this new daily odyssey, I suppose I got used to it[1].

Today, I was finally able to take my normal route into work. I thought it would be glorious, but after a month of doing it differently, it was strange and even a little awkward[2]. Even going back to something that is very familiar is still a transition. I might even miss some of the small joys I found in the “new normal.”[3] I thought that this must be how our students feel after taking a month long break from law school and then starting up-except in reverse. I am sure a month away from school with no reading or papers or exams was lovely.

Now that we have started up again, I have been meeting with 1Ls over these past weeks. I am mainly seeing students who did not do as well on exams as they (or we) had hoped. We have spent time trying to determine the reason why things went awry during exams and try to start better habits in the place of the methods that were not effective. Yet, the abrupt jolt back into law school after a month off is not something we have discussed or given much thought.  Even if this is familiar, it is still a transition. And, to make things worse, I am asking students to try different routes to success just when they thought they knew the way after surviving the fall. It is a lot to ask all at once (with the additional stress of non-stellar grades looming).

I think articulating that I am making a big ask at a stressful time might go a long way to developing an honest relationship with students moving forward. I do them no favors by just saying, “it’ll be fine.” I can assure students that there is great relief in plotting a course and making a plan to move forward. I cannot make the train run before the track work is done, but I can help them navigate this detour.

Hopefully, they will extend the same understanding to me when I am cranky that my train is out of service again in late February to early March.

(Liz Stillman)

 

[1] Well, most of it. I did see a fistfight on the bus that was a bit rattling and intense. Physical violence in a small moving space is not something I’d like to grow accustomed to….

[2] Although back to MEE commute times which was glorious indeed.

[3] It was faster train, there were more coffee options on the walk from the station to the law school, and I could walk through Primark on the way in or out if I needed anything….

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/academic_support/2024/01/track-work.html

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