Saturday, April 13, 2019
We are getting ready to register for courses for the next academic year's two semesters. Rising 2L advisees are meeting with their academic advisors to plan their course selections (and alternate courses in case they get waitlisted). As always, the rumor mill is generating a lot of static that has this group of newbies to registration somewhat perplexed.
There are some advisees who ignore the rumor mill entirely. There are other advisees who take every word as gospel and stress. Here are some tips to sort the wheat from the chaff during the course registration process:
- Be cognizant of the actual academic policies and procedures at the law school. What are the graduation requirements that must be met? What are the credit-hour ranges allowed each semester? What are the prerequisites for advanced courses, clinics, externships, etc.?
- Remember that each student learns differently from other students. You have preferences for subject matter, teaching styles, course formats, test formats, and more. Ask multiple upper-division students about courses/professors to get a variety of perspectives. A professor/course that would be perfect for you may not be another student's choice.
- Use the resources you have available to learn more about the courses. The professor teaching the course is your best source if you want to know more beyond the catalog description. Ask about topics that will be covered, types of readings/exercises for class, assessments in the course, and more. Talk to concentration and dual-degree advisors if you want more specifics on those options. Attend meetings regarding clinics, externships, journals, internal/national competition teams, and other options. Talk to your career development office about coursework/experiences for career paths you want to consider.
- Balance your course schedule wisely for your strengths, weaknesses, and preferences. If you are not good at business/math oriented courses, then income tax and commercial law in the same semester may be a killer. Two major paper courses may be fine if you are a very strong writer. If you are weak in legal research, then you may want to take an extra legal research seminar before you take your capstone/advanced writing course.
- Balance elective and required courses. Explore legal topics that you are curious about or may be interested in practicing. Take required courses 2L year that are needed as prerequisites for interesting advanced elective courses. If you have specific career goals, also consider concentrations or dual-degrees as you register.
- If you are registering for 2L year, think about what requirements and electives will be left for 3L year. Will that give you a balanced schedule for those last two semesters? If you are a rising 3L, think about the balance between your final fall and spring semesters.Will you have extra job-hunt or part-time-job commitments to balance in?
- Consider your commitments outside of class when choosing a balanced schedule. Do you commute a long distance each day? Will you be working? Do you have family commitments? Will you be an organization officer? Will you try out for competition teams or write-on for a journal?
- Be true to yourself in your selections. Test the "everyone should aspire to" advice against your own values, goals, and gut. If you know you want to be a transactional lawyer and do not want to litigate, then ignore pressure to take elective litigation courses and instead focus on courses that will benefit your goals. If you really do not have any desire to write on to a journal and would turn down the opportunity if offered, then do not force yourself to enter the write-on competition. If working at Big Law is your idea of a total nightmare, then pursue coursework that will be beneficial to a small or mid-sized firm in the geographical area you want. If you are set on solo practice, then take electives in law office management, law practice technology, and other practical areas.
- Remember that no course you take will be a total waste of time. You hone your legal reasoning skills in every course. If you take a course you think you want to practice in and ultimately decide you despise it, then you have gained insight into what not to practice. If you take a course you are unsure of and fall in love with the content area, then you have discovered an interest that may point to advanced coursework and a career.
- It is okay if you do not have any idea what you want to do after your J.D. degree. There are areas of law to explore and find out. Many law students discover their passions during 2L and 3L year. So take required and elective courses with an open mind!
- Do not despair if you do not get your "perfect" schedule. Through waitlists and add/drop period, you may get to tweak your schedule over the summer and into early fall semester.
I went to law school knowing exactly what I wanted to do with my law degree - I changed my mind. By the end of 1L summer I had discovered a new passion in a previously overlooked area of law. During 2L and 3L years, I discovered other potential areas of interest. The law is so expansive that the options are almost endless! (Amy Jarmon)
Friday, April 12, 2019
It has been an exciting time in Red Raider Land! Our basketball team returned home Tuesday afternoon to a warm welcome. Although they lost in the NCAA final against Virginia, they have set school history. In fact our TTU President cancelled evening classes Monday night and all classes for Tuesday.
I will admit that I was glued to my television for both the Final Four and the Final. The first of those games was such a joyous victory. The team was amazing. The loss to Virginia was heart-breaking, especially because of the OT call giving the ball to Virginia after the replay. The team played well and gave it every ounce of effort. Chris Beard has helped these young men become a family that supports one another at all times. In true Lubbock fashion the team was given a wonderful welcome home. This NCAA championship season will be remembered forever.
In many ways the NCAA tournament is a lot like final exams for law students. The hard work to get there, the high stakes, the pressure. Each exam feels like a "will I be victorious or go down in defeat" moment for some students. Here are some exam tips we can learn from the NCAA tournament:
- Daily preparation and hard work pay off in the big game. The road to success is built day by day.
- Practice, practice, and more practice is essential to honing skills for exams. You will never practice too much.
- A team to help you reach your game-day potential can be important - a study group, a study partner, teaching assistants/tutors, professors.
- People who believe in you and your abilities - friends, family, and mentors - should surround you in pre- and post-game times.
- Staying calm under pressure allows you to stay in the game and focus on every point you can get. Breathe deeply, and calm those jitters.
- Mistakes happen. Instant (or continual) replay after a disappointing exam performance is not helpful. Move on to the next exam in the series.
- Whether you win or lose, you are still a winner if you did your best on the day. All you can ask of yourself is to do your best.
- All of us can use victories or defeats to become better players in the future. Exam review later and new strategies can show us how to improve our scores.
For all of our students who are on the downward slope of classes to exams, keep up the hard work and show them what you can do! (Amy Jarmon)
Saturday, April 6, 2019
It's the spring recruiting season for ASP/bar prep! The Association of Academic Support Educators (AASE) encourages all law schools to use the AASE disclosure form as part of the position advertisements for ASP/bar jobs at their law schools. The form provides additional information to applicants that is often missing from announcements, but is very helpful to the applicants. The AASE disclosure form is given below if you are unfamiliar with it. The Word document is also here: Download Aase_questions_job_postings_to_asp_listserv .
Posting - ASP Job Opportunity
Members of the Association of Academic Support Educators (AASE) strongly encourage prospective employers to answer the below list of questions when posting a job opening to the academic support listserv. When answering these questions, please note the following:
- Where appropriate, more than one option may be checked when responding to an individual question.
- Information regarding salary is particularly important to applicants and to the broader ASP community, and AASE strongly encourages the inclusion of this information whenever possible.
- Employers may include additional explanatory information immediately after each respective question. Larger amounts of information, such as a position description, may be included at the end of the form or as an additional attachment.
It is our hope that the answers to these questions will provide applicants with a baseline for comparing different job opportunities. Also, completed questionnaires can give prospective employers insights into the various factors that impact the job market for academic support professionals.
- The position advertised:
___ a. is a full-time appointment.
___ b. is a part-time appointment.
Other, please specify:
- The position advertised:
___ a. is a tenure-track appointment.
___ b. may lead to successive long-term contracts of five or more years.
___ c. may lead to successive short-term contracts of one to four years. (Full Time Position)
___ d. has an upper-limit on the number of years a teacher may be appointed.
___ e. is part of a fellowship program for one or two years.
___ f. is an adjunct appointment.
___ g. is a year-to-year appointment.
___ h. is a one-year visitorship.
___ i. is for at will employment.
Other, please specify:
Additional information, question 2:
- The person hired:
___ a. will be permitted to vote on all matters at faculty meetings.
___ b. will be permitted to vote in faculty meetings on matters except those pertaining to hiring, tenure, and promotion.
___ c. will not be permitted to vote in faculty meetings.
Other, please specify:
Additional information, question 3:
The school anticipates paying an annual academic year base compensation in the range checked below. (A base compensation does not include stipends for coaching moot court teams, teaching other courses, or teaching in summer school; a base compensation does not include conference travel or other professional development funds.)
___ a. over $120,000
___ b. $110,000 - $119,999
___ c. $100,000 - $109,999
___ d. $90,000 - $99,999
___ e. $80,000 - $89,999
___ f. $70,000 - $79,999
___ g. $60,000 - $69,999
___ h. $50,000 - $59,999
___ i. $40, 000-49,999
___ j. $10,000 - $39,000.
___ k. less than $10,000.
Other, please specify:
Additional information, question 4:
- The person hired will have the title of:
___ a. Associate Dean (including Dean of Students).
___ b. Assistant Dean.
___ c. Director.
___ d. Associate Director.
___ e. Assistant Director.
___ f. Professor – Full, Associate, or Assistant (tenure track).
___ g. Professor – Full, Associate, or Assistant (clinical tenure track or its equivalent).
___ h. Professor – Full, Associate, or Assistant (neither tenure track nor clinical tenure track).
___ i. no title.
Other, please specify:
Additional information, question 5:
- Job responsibilities include (please check all that apply):
___ a. working with students whose predicators (LSAT and University GPA) suggest they will struggle to excel in law school.
___ b. working with students who performed relatively poorly on their law school examinations or other assessments.
___ c. working with diverse students.
___ d. managing orientation.
___ e. teaching ASP-related classes (case briefing, synthesis, analysis, etc.).
___ f. teaching bar-exam related classes.
___ g. working with students on an individual basis.
___ h. teaching other law school courses.
Other, please specify:
Additional information, question 6:
- The person hired will be present in the office:
___ a. 9-10 month appointment.
___ b. Year round appointment (works regularly in the summer months).
Additional information, question 7:
- The person hired is required to publish, in some form, in order to maintain employment.
___ a. Yes.
___ b. No.
Additional information, question 8:
- The person hired will report to:
___ a. the Dean of the Law School.
___ b. an Associate Dean.
___ c. the Director of the Academic Support Department.
___ d. a Faculty Committee.
Other, please specify:
Additional information, question 9:
Note: AASE strongly recommends that this disclosure form accompany all E-mail postings for academic support positions sent to subscribers of the ASP listserv (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Sunday, March 31, 2019
We have four weeks of classes left in our semester. Midterm exams, quizzes, paper draft deadlines, presentations, group projects, and many other law school assignments have clustered in the last several weeks with more of the same to come. Grades on that myriad of items are now emerging - for many law students, not as high as they had hoped.
The level of stress and anxiety among the students has risen along with these events and deadlines. Many students are worried about how much they still need to do before the end of classes and start of exams. A number of students are focused on self-negatives: "I should have outlined sooner." "I didn't work hard enough over Spring Break." "I didn't complete enough practice questions." "I didn't study enough for the midterm." Some students are focused on other-negatives: "The prof didn't allow enough time for that quiz." "The midterm wasn't fair." "The multiple-choice questions were too picky." "The prof took off too many points for citation errors." In either version, the negativity abounds.
It is easy for stressed students to become totally self-focused and intense during this point in the semester. People irritate one another, become curt in conversations, and behave rudely perhaps without realizing it. Tempers flare. Hurt feelings increase. Anxiety and stress escalate. Before long, the environment becomes toxic.
Each student has the capacity to de-escalate the tension around the law school. Each individual can nurture a calmer law school environment through words and deeds. To do so, it requires focusing on community instead of self. It requires focusing on the positive instead of moaning. It requires kindness instead of conflict.
Small acts of kindness not only make the recipient feel better, but also make the actor feel better. Here are easy ways for an individual to impact the law school environment through random acts of kindness:
- Make eye contact and smile at others. Your smile may be the only one a person sees today.
- Say "please" and "thank you" more often than you might normally remember. You will acknowledge others' help, and notice your blessings more.
- Hold open the door, offer to carry a box, or help pick up dropped books for someone. Etiquette is never out of fashion.
- Compliment another student on the good answer given in class today. Everyone can use a boost after dealing with the Socratic Method.
- Offer a copy of your class notes to a fellow student just back to class after an illness. Or suggest you meet with them to go over missed material.
- Take time to say an encouraging word to a classmate who is obviously working hard, but struggling. Better yet, offer to chat about the current class topic.
- Tell your study group members that you appreciate them and why they are important to your law school success.
- Share your personal study aid copy with a fellow student who cannot afford one. It's not very hard to agree a sharing schedule.
- Refuse to participate in or pass on gossip about a fellow student. Gossip hurts.
- Buy a soda or a bag of chips for the person behind you in line at the law school canteen - whether or not you know them.
- Unexpectedly offer to share your law school pizza delivery with a fellow law student without dinner. Free food is always appreciated.
- Bake cookies on the weekend, and share your goodies with those who are studying nearby - even if you do not know them.
- Write a thank-you note (not an email or text) to a classmate who did something nice for you recently or who needs encouragement.
There are many other ways to show kindness. Most of them will cost you nothing - except your heartfelt gesture and a bit of time. (Amy Jarmon)
Sunday, March 17, 2019
It is time for spring cleaning. Not just dusting my desk and bookshelves though.
I have finally waded through the copious university operations document on records retention to determine what in the office filing cabinets needs to be retained. After reading pages of fine print to determine the proper category of records in my office, I am happy to say that I have the answer. All academic advisement records must be retained for five years after the student's final enrollment, graduation, etc.
Given that I have accumulated 15 years of records, there is a lot of glorious shredding going on for the requisite, permissible years. (Of course, we are recycling papers that do not need to be shredded. One day recently we had to borrow a second blue tub to accommodate our dutiful recycling.)
There is finally room in the office filing cabinets and my desk file drawers to accommodate new files and new records! And each subsequent year, we will be able to shred another year's worth of the requisite, permissible papers!
So much freed up space! So much unburdening of stuff! Such jubilation at crawling out from under so much paper!
Now if I can only get myself to do the same thing at home. . . .
Wednesday, March 13, 2019
In the mid-1950s, my father entered the heady field of computing. The astounding MOBIDIC, a mobile computer so small it could fit into the trailer of a semi, was his first major project; over the next three decades, he went on to teach computing to generations of West Point cadets and to write What's Where in the Apple, a book some called the "Bible" for the powerful (64K!) personal computer, the Apple II. Immersed as he was in computing, though, he struggled in teaching its fundamentals to his daughter. Patiently he would teach me what it meant to "boot" and the difference between ROM and RAM. Then just when I was congratulating myself on having achieved the intellectual equivalent of a breakneck 5 mph, he would accelerate up to Warp Factor 2 into ASCII and BASIC and FORTRAN and COBOL. Alas, this felt to me like being asked to do differential calculus right after mastering the times tables. Ironically, because his subject was so familiar to him, the skilled educator who introduced me to the old chestnut "When you assume you make an ass out of "u" and "me" himself assumed that any bright person could make the same intellectual leaps he had made.
Much of the time, we take the knowledge or experience of others for granted. In yesterday's blog post "Consider the Inconceivable," Bill MacDonald talked about the prevalence of the incredulous response of How can people not know that? When we're steeped in the midst of a culture (whether something as specific as a particular government office or university department, or something as diffuse as upper-middle class culture), matters that are opaque to others seem obvious to us. Administrators assume that faculty and students will know unwritten procedures like which committee to go to for different types of appeals. Instructors assume that students will know how to upload assignments on course management software, or even more fundamentally, that they understand that if they need help they can ask for it. But with all the differences between people -- cultural, generational, educational, social -- it's vital for us to continually test our assumptions and to modify our spoken and unspoken messages as needed.
Here's a wee, out-of-the-classroom example of how even minor assumptions can impinge on law student success. Last semester I had practically identical conversations with two different students several weeks apart. Both told me they were having difficulty finding a time to meet with me. I was surprised, not in the least because one of them regularly walked by my office several times a day. Not only was I scrupulous about keeping office hours, but my door (opening onto the main faculty hallway) was literally wide open most hours of the day. In fact, because my new office seemed so accessible, I had reduced the number of fixed appointment times on the somewhat cumbersome appointment system to accommodate more drop-in opportunities. It turned out, however, that the students and I had conflicting assumptions about my availability: I assumed the open door would make them feel free to walk in; these deferential students, on the other hand, assumed instructors would not want to be bothered outside of fixed office hours and appointment times. The first conversation I thought was a fluke, but after the second conversation I realized my assumption that "wide open door means students are welcome" was not shared by all my students. I had to move past thinking something was obvious to bridge the communication gap. Only by stopping and really listening could I discover the problem and take steps to communicate my availability in additional ways, both implicit and explicit.
The longer I'm an educator, the more my empathy has increased for my dad's attempts to teach me about his life's passion. Even for an ASPer, it's not easy to restrain myself from accelerating to Warp Factor 2 when teaching intelligent, motivated students. To best help them, though, every day I need to mindfully practice slowing down, listening, testing the verbal and non-verbal messages I convey, and correcting those messages that indicate I'm straying in the direction of becoming a long-eared equine.
Sunday, March 3, 2019
I attended the Houston session of the 2019 AccessLex Institute Regional Workshops for Law School Administrators. The workshop title was "The More You Know: Delivering Student Success." The one-day workshop was very interesting and worth attending.
This workshop topic is being repeated three more times in different locations: March 19 (Boston), March 21 (New York City), March 26 (Chicago). You can find out more about these events at the AccessLex website under the events tab: www.accesslex.org.
The workshop covered a variety of topics - some directly related to academic support and bar while others gave interesting information that provided institutional and higher education context. The workshop was attended by a diverse group of law school administrators from academic affairs, admissions, financial aid, academic support, bar preparation, career services, and more. The speakers from AccessLex Institute were very knowledgeable and well-prepared. There was plenty of time to ask questions and for members of the audience to comment and share.
The first session presented by Keinan Thompson updated us on the political landscape and legislative proposals. It gave a big picture context to our discussions for the remainder of the day. I had not been following the Prosper and Aim proposals at all closely, so this session gave an interesting background on the Congressional hot spots.
Laura McGhee then discussed the diversity pipeline and its impact on legal education. As the coordinator for my law school's pipeline program with a local high school, some of the data in this session was familiar, but the LSAT and merit scholarship information was particularly interesting. Also some of the resources on the AccessLex website may be helpful to readers: Roadmap to Enrolling Diverse Law School Classes; Diversity Pipeline Research Grant information.
The third session led by Tiffane Cochran was on the importance of data (even for non-data persons) was good information on sources. The Technology Tour over the lunch period also provided addition information on websites that could be helpful for data. AccessLex's Analytix is just one of the databases discussed.
Rob Hunter's session on Raising the Bar was a good reminder for those of us in academic support and bar preparation and a good primer on the challenges for others in attendance. Remember that AccessLex is now providing the Raising the Bar newsletter that is a good resource for ASP/bar professionals.
The financial aid session that Lyssa Thaden presented was informative for context regarding our students' financial challenges. Although I had worked in financial aid a number of years ago, the landscape has changed greatly. I benefited from the information about the student loan ins and outs. You may want to visit the website to learn about the Max financial education program and its resources if you are unfamiliar with that extensive information and partnership.
If you have a chance, make sure you check out resources and events from AccessLex. Many of you will remember Sara Berman, our ASP/bar prep colleague for many years, who is now the Director for Programs for Academic and Bar Success at AccessLex. (Amy Jarmon)
Friday, March 1, 2019
All of us in academic support spend a large portion of our time helping law students learn how to learn. We offer orientation sessions, workshops, and entire courses to help students. Students confide regularly that they received A and B grades in prior education without having to study. For many of them cramming and memorization were the main staples of those study hours. So, it is good news that some colleges and universities are beginning to focus on the science of learning and making sure their students learn how to learn. The post on Inside Higher Ed is Teaching the Skill of Learning to Learn.
Friday, February 22, 2019
Students using their electronics to multitask in the classroom has been discussed regularly. Everyone has stories about students surfing the Web, instant messaging, and more during class. Many professors have banned laptops because of the distractions to individual learning and to others.
With the move for more online law courses, multitasking may reach new frontiers. Inside Higher Ed posted this week regarding a recent study on multi-tasking during undergraduate online courses. As we often see, there is dispute as to the methodology of the study and comparability of the groups studied. The post is Online Students Multitask.
Tuesday, February 5, 2019
Watching the Super Bowl on Sunday made me think of my students. By no means am I implying any similarity between football and the legal profession. After all, one is a grueling slugfest, featuring breathlessly intense clashes between aggressive competitors on behalf of highly partisan, sometimes even fanatically tribal, stakeholders, with pride and sometimes lots of money at stake. The other is just an athletic contest.
No, the reason I thought of my students was the sudden shift in the game in the fourth quarter. Through the first 50 minutes or so of play, the scores remained unusually low and very close. Neither team could gain a clear advantage, and with less than ten minutes remaining, the score was still only 3 to 3. Across the country, spectators were complaining about how stagnant and boring the game seemed.
Suddenly, within a minute or so of game time, everything changed. The Patriots called a play in which a receiver wound up open in the middle of the field, just beyond the Rams' defensive line, and Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady deftly passed the ball to him and gained several yards. By itself, the play was only mildly exciting, and then only because it provided comparatively more action than most of the preceding gameplay. But the Patriots realized right away that the Rams' defense, which up until that time had been pretty successful at confining the Patriots' forward motion, had not had anything in place to keep that lone receiver from appearing unguarded behind the defensive line. So for the next few plays, the Patriots ran essentially the same play, except for choosing a different receiver to run up the field each time. In the space of four plays, the team moved all the way down the field and set up the winning touchdown run.
From the Rams' point of view, everything was fine, until suddenly it wasn't. They were basically evenly matched with their opponents, in a game that looked like it might go into overtime -- and then, in less than a minute, everything fell apart. One weakness was exposed -- one play that they had no planned defense for -- and before they could adjust to it, the other side had taken advantage of that weakness and taken a significant lead. And the fact that they were in that distressing position left the team vulnerable to more trouble. They rushed and ran riskier plays, hoping to score their own tying touchdown in the short time they had left, and under this pressure the Rams' quarterback Jared Goff accidentally threw the ball into the hands of a Patriots defender, leading the Patriots to score an additional three points. The Rams went from having an even chance of winning to having no chance, all because of one weakness that wasn't addressed quickly enough.
In his fascinating book How We Die, the physician Sherwin B. Nuland explained that human death often follows a similar trajectory. Laypeople often imagine that those suffering from serious injury or illness usually experience a long but steady decline until they pass away. However, Nuland pointed out that at least as often, if not more so, the afflicted person manages the illness (or injury, if it is not so catastrophic that it simply kills them right away) fairly handily, with only slight decline or sometimes even with improvement, for days or even weeks. If nothing bad happens, then they might even make a full recovery. But if one thing goes wrong and isn't corrected quickly enough, it can cause significant damage, which itself leads to additional life-threatening complications, and in a short time the patient may spiral down past the point where any medical intervention will be enough to save him. An infected wound, for example, if not treated quickly enough, can lead to a generalized blood infection, which can cause a patient's kidneys, liver, and other organs to stop working properly, and the patient, who otherwise might have almost completely recovered from his initial injury, will die of multiple organ failure.
We see the same phenomenon in other realms than just sports and medicine, such as business and politics. In any complicated system, there can be long, steady declines, but the sudden drastic reversal, attributable to one or a small number of neglected infirmities, is often more likely.
And the life of a law student is pretty complicated. New information to learn, new ways to think about it, new tasks to perform, all while juggling stress and ambition and self-doubt and mountains of practicalities like housing and relationships and (painfully often) finances. We all know that a few students struggle right from the start, but very often students will be managing -- holding their own, even if not excelling -- and then they run into one tribulation they can't fix, and they can't handle. A course they can't wrap their head around. A romantic breakup. Lack of funds to buy textbooks. A death in the family. An extracurricular activity that takes up too much time.
It almost doesn't matter what the problem is, because it's just the trigger. It starts the landslide that could pull the student down. Struggling in one course, for example, could pull the student's attention away from his other courses, leading to anxiety about not maintaining his GPA . . . and what started as one problem spirals into multiple problems.
The response, from an Academic Success perspective, has to be twofold. First, we need to be able to detect these kinds of issues as early as possible, before they turn into the equivalent of a touchdown by the other team or a raging blood infection. We need to have direct interaction with the students most at risk (incoming students, first-generation students, those in danger of financial difficulty, etc.), so we get to know them and encourage them to be forthcoming. We also need to develop strong networks among those in the faculty and student services who might pass along observations of possible distress.
Second, we need to have systems in place to help these students address these issues quickly, before they do become intractable. We are expected, of course, to handle purely academic issues on a moment's notice. But we should also be familiar with other means of support on campus and in the community, to be able to quickly refer students who need help in financial, psychological, spiritual, and other realms.
Time sometimes really is of the essence. None of us want to end up being Monday-morning quarterbacks, lamenting that if we had just changed our defense one play sooner, we could have saved the game.
Monday, January 28, 2019
Another semester begins, and I proclaim the benefits of physically going to bar review lectures and taking notes with a pen on the handouts. Students' eyes roll, unless they are already transfixed on their computer screen they didn't hear my speech. Some will pretend to agree, but by the summer, less than 20% of our students show up for the on campus bar review course. I groan and start thinking of new strategies to get students into seats.
Many of you have similar discussions with similar results. I don't think I am a Luddite, but my mind wanders some days to creating a new law school called Luddite Law where wi-fi, screens, and technology are banned. Then the next student meeting knocks on my door, sits down in my office, and proceeds to spend a couple minutes turning off the 35 different noise making devices before being able to start our meeting. Of course, I then look at "The Facebook" on my iPhone after the meeting because those devices are addictive.
Low-tech law school is definitely a dream. At my law school, every class that allows laptops has over 95% of students typing notes. Less than 3-4 students hand-write exams in any given class. The NCBE even announced they plan to move the MBE to online testing. Technology is pervasive throughout law school buildings.
Many would agree that law school teaching has not accounted for new students and their technology. Many professors are slow to integrate tech into the classroom, and instead of embracing the tech revolution, some merely ban laptops (which I am guilty of). Students entering law school right now have not known a world without the internet, and they owned cell phones most of their lives. Even if they started with a Nokia, they had the ability to instantly call someone. They could even play the best phone game ever, snake. Students today are engrossed in technology, and some of our teaching is behind.
Teaching is not evolving as fast as tech is progressing, and we may start falling even farther behind. A recent Education Week Article discussed new classrooms from elementary school through high school. The author said the environments looked more like video game arcades than classrooms. Students learn reading comprehension and math on the computer with games that provide immediate feedback. Studies discussed in the article did not find standardized test score improvement, but the schools utilizing the methods found "soft skill" improvement. If the movement continues, law schools will start enrolling students in 5-10 years who learned primarily online in school. Will we be able to teach these students with our current methods? Should we change our methods or teach students how to succeed in our classrooms? While Personal Jurisdiction would be fun in a computer game, would it work?
I know my Luddite Law thought is a dream, but I am concerned about the numerous different directions technology is going in legal education. The NCBE is using more, professors are restricting use, and students enter with more tech skills. Problems will arise, but I also trust this community to start building solutions. I hope to be a part of the solutions eventually instead of just complaining about that new fangled technology.
Saturday, January 26, 2019
Do we say "thank you" enough each day?
Those two tiny words recognize the other person's help.
Those two tiny words recognize the other person's worth.
Those two tiny words express our gratitude.
Those two tiny words can make someone else feel appreciated.
Those two tiny words may be the bright spot in that other person's day.
It does not matter if we are tired, grumpy, rushed, or overwhelmed.
The excuses can be many for not taking the time to say the two tiny words.
But the excuses are not enough to excuse our overlooking the thanks.
And while we are at it, we want to also remember the precursor "please" before we ever even get to "thank you."
Tuesday, January 22, 2019
O, why must IRAC dominate the page
When brilliant students try to write a bit,
Their eloquence confined, as in a cage,
Restricting scope and rhetoric and wit?
O, why must you capitulate to rote?
Abandon your unique persuasive voices?
Unless -- the logic these formats connote
Provides you with a better set of choices . . . ?
If you surrender to formality
You’ll find the structure helps you to direct
Your argument to only what is key,
And lets the reader know what to expect.
A writer who’s committed to a norm
Ironically is freed up to perform.
Tuesday, January 15, 2019
This may not be true in every law school, but at my school, things are a little quiet right now. Some students and professors are on campus for the brief winter term, but the entire community will not return until the spring term begins in February. The students are just now getting their fall grades, so the students who are around and have come looking for me have all wanted to talk about them -- whether they were surprised or disappointed or content, and what their grades might mean for the future.
I cannot help but be reminded by this combination of relative quiet and conversationally-motivated students of the importance of listening. Like many teachers -- and many lawyers -- I revel in talking. I like explaining things to people; I enjoy the performative aspects of a well-delivered lecture; I am fond of delivering spontaneous oracular pronouncements to my advisees. And, aiming to communicate complex information in a useful way, I spend a fair amount of time fretting about the content of what I say and the manner in which I say it. This is entirely appropriate: our students' expectations are high, their goals are ambitious, and their needs are great. They deserve to hear wise and engaging words coming out of our mouths.
Still, nobody wants to be nothing but a bunch of talk. If that's all you've got, you might as well just throw books at your students. Listening is the complementary skill that helps to make sure that what we say possesses the value that our students need. It's how we determine precisely which beautiful insights we choose to articulate.
As with many skills, people are not always good at judging how well they listen. Those to whom it comes naturally may underestimate how talented they actually are. Others may mistake mere silence for listening, or may assume that they are listening well because they are quickly assessing and generating responses to what they are hearing. One way to more accurately judge -- and, if necessary, improve upon -- one's listening skills is to consider whether you are achieving any or all of these three outcomes:
- Determining what is troubling the speaker. In many or even most cases, this is ostensibly the reason we are talking with our students in the first place. They come to us with an issue or a concern, and we introduce conversational probes to figure out what the source of the problem is. Ironically, though, the better and more experienced we get at our jobs, the easier it may become to jump to quick conclusions. This speed, borne of experience, can be valuable, but we must take care not to confuse our satisfaction at having identified a likely issue with the student's confidence that they have actually conveyed the concerns they had. Watch their facial expressions and body language. Do they appear relieved, as if they have gotten something off of their chest, or are they still holding on to some tension? Listen to the tone of their voice -- do they sound unsure? Do they seem to want to interject more into the discussion? Try not to judge how well you have listened for their concerns by how you feel about the conversation, but by how they appear to feel. When in doubt, before making any definitive declarations of diagnosis, reflect the conversation back to them. Statements like "It sounds like you feel you do not understand the law correctly" can be non-threatening ways to offer the speaker a chance to clarify what they mean to say, and you may find that there are more or different issues from what you had first suspected.
- Encouraging the speaker to dig deeper. Sometimes students do not come to us entirely of their own free will; they are advised or even required to meet with us, and they just want to get it over with. Other students may come anxiously to us, fearing complicated bad news and hoping instead to hear a quick fix. Students like these might be content to give a brief synopsis of what they assume is the problem, in hopes that we will take over the conversation and get to the end as quickly as possible. Such situations provide great opportunities to use your listening skills as active conversational tools. Simply maintaining eye contact and keeping silent will prompt a speaker to continue to speak, sometimes revealing additional information in their stream-of-consciousness monologue. If silence is not enough, a brief reflective question, based on what you have already heard, may help. Even non-reluctant students can benefit from this kind of prompting. If a student makes an assertion that sounds too pat or incomplete, attentive listening can encourage them to keep pressing on to try to get to the critical facts or to their real emotions. Personally, I think every student conversation of more than just a few minutes should include at least one instance of focused, silent attention on the student, to give them the opportunity to elaborate on a point or to bring up a new one.
- Developing the speaker's trust. Trust is valuable currency in our job, and like Bitcoin, it can take some time to generate. It is great to be trusted for our sound advice, but that is not the only way to build trust. Listening is another great way, and this illustrates why good listening is not mere passive silence but is actually active participation in the conversation. A good listener demonstrates that they are hearing the information being conveyed by reflecting back some of what they've heard and by following up with questions that build off of that information. What is also just as important, and in some cases is even more so, is that we attend to our student's affect as well -- not just the information, but the emotion. Students can bring to Academic Success some intense feelings -- excitement and hope, when things are going well, or anxiety, sadness, and anger when they are not. Acknowledging these sometimes uncomfortable feelings in a non-judgmental way, through our own facial expressions and responses, can help a student feel not only that are you listening to all they are saying, but also that your office is a safe place to experience and express those feelings. This is a sure way to develop the trust that is often needed to get students to buy into your plans for their success.
These outcomes are noteworthy not just because they are the effects of good listening, but because they are specifically effects that are valuable to our work in Academic Success. Even when things get hectic and tiring over the next few months, try to make a point of asking yourself, after every student encounter, if you are seeing any of these outcomes arising from your conversations.
Saturday, December 22, 2018
All of us at the Law School Academic Support Blog wish you and your families best wishes for the holiday season, the semester break, and 2019! We appreciate your reading our posts.
We are taking a break to celebrate the season and give our respective muses some down time. Posts will begin again the week of January 7th.
Friday, December 21, 2018
Inside Higher Ed had an interesting post this week on having a strategic plan for connection and visibility through social media for academic/professional presence. Given the article's categories of online presence, I would be somewhere between Curious and Beginner - I use Linkedin a bit and I post regularly to our Office of Academic Success Programs facebook page - but am not sure I aspire to sophisticated use. However, for those who want to think strategically about using social media for a greater professional presence in our academic world, I thought the article laid out a logical approach to clarifying a plan. The link is Optimizing Your Social Media Presence. (Amy Jarmon)
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Well, it is officially over except for the grades.
Fall 2018 semester at my law school concluded its last day of the second week of exams on Friday.
The building emptied out quickly of all signs of students during the last hours of yesterday afternoon.
The abandoned snacks provided in our forum for students' sustenance were quietly cleared away.
Faculty offices had emptied out the first exam week as most professors decamped for their homes to grade.
Our floor's coffee pot was consigned to empty as well since too few warm bodies were left to support daily coffee duty.
Administrative staff were rattling around the empty halls all last week.
Next week will be a ghost town except for the administrative staff left to keep the lights on each day.
I will be among them. So many projects on my list for next week!
But then ... the university will shut down for 7 work days for the "festive season" break for staff.
And full silence and peace will settle over the university grounds as we all totter home for rest and recuperation.
Don't you love the end of the semester!
Don't you sometimes wish you were one of those faculty members not due back until mid-January?
Hmmm ... how many vacation days do I have stored up?
Tuesday, December 11, 2018
How are you? How is Mrs. Claus? I hear the aurora borealis is quite nice right now. I hope you can snag a few minutes to enjoy it.
I know how busy you are this month, so I will get right to the point: I have been a very good Director of Academic Success this year. Or at least I have not been bad. Fine – the truth is, I have had many students thank me effusively for my help and support, but I have also noticed a few people in the back of my class roll their eyes. I don’t know if the latter have already learned what I am trying to teach, or if they have detached themselves from my class because it’s non-doctrinal, or if maybe some of them have pollen allergies that are causing them eye irritation. Anyway, look me up – I’m pretty sure I’m on the “nice” list.
Because I have been good this year – probably – I feel like I deserve an extra special present. I have given this a great deal of thought. My first idea for a present was a watch like the one on that old episode of The Twilight Zone – you know, the one with the pocket watch that froze time for everyone but the user when her clicked the button on top? That would be an awesome present – more time! Imagine having 150 essays to comment upon, and clicking on that watch to stop time all around me. I could start commenting at 9:01 am, and finish before 9:02! No more deadline stress!
But then I realized that I would have to sit through 50 or 60 hours of commenting, and then, once I got the world started again, I’d *still* have to do another entire day of work. I’d probably age three or four times as fast as all of my colleagues, too. Eventually my driver’s license would say “60” but my real age would be over 100. No thank you. I think I’ll just keep improving my time management skills. After all, I am always suggesting the same thing to my students. They may as well learn now that that quest never ends.
So then I came up with a second idea. One of the toughest parts of my job is learning the names, faces, backgrounds, interests, strengths, and weaknesses of all 450+ students in my law school. Don’t get me wrong – I have some great students with some amazing stories and aspirations – but it is hard to keep everything about everybody straight. I don’t have a photographic memory. But you could give me one! How about one of those fancy electronic computer watches with a built-in camera, microphone, and speakers? If I had that, then I could just take a quick photo every time I interact with a student, and then quickly type in or audio-record what they tell me about themselves.
Still, once I had the photographs, I’d still need to cross-reference them to class lists, and I’d have to study all the facts to remember who is whom. Every class I taught would become like a massive open-book test – I’d be spending half the class looking people up. Plus, I get to know and understand facts better if I learn them and then work with them, rather than always just looking them up. Again, like I say to my students. So, ixnay on the atchway.
This brought me to my last idea, which, honestly, is probably asking a lot. It’s not something I could find in a store here in the States, but, I mean, you are Santa Claus, right? A genuine saint and performer of miracles? So I thought I might as well ask. What I want for Christmas is a mind-reading machine. Nothing too conspicuous – maybe something I can strap to my forehead, or maybe a special kind of hat that connects my brain waves with other people’s brain waves? See, students come into my office all the time to ask for help, but often, when they do, they can’t necessarily explain to me exactly what it is they need. Sometimes they just have trouble putting their concerns into words, but more often it’s because they aren’t really clear themselves on what the issue is. And we might have to meet more than once before we both finally can articulate exactly what help the student needs.
If I had a little mind-reading hat, though, BOOM! Every time someone comes into my office, I could scan them, size them up in an instant, and send them along with whatever homework I think would help. That would be supremely efficient! Although, then I would not get to spend much time with any particular student. I wouldn’t really get to know anybody. And, the students wouldn’t really get to know me . . . and, I guess, in a way, they wouldn’t get to know themselves as well. I mean, I could tell them, “This is what is giving you trouble,” and maybe they’ll take my word for it, but maybe not? Sometimes people trust a discovery more when they feel like they made it, or at least helped to make it, themselves. And, when it comes right down to it, while I want to help my students address individual issues, what I really want is to help them learn the process of figuring these things out themselves, following the example of working with me. And I guess they won’t get that if I’m always just telling them what to do.
Well, where does that leave me? I can’t see myself not continuing to want more time, memory, and understanding any time soon, but you don’t have to worry about that. I’ll just keep gleaning what I can the way I have been. So, for my actual Christmas list, I’ll just wish for peace on earth, goodwill towards all, and a substantial Barnes & Noble gift card. Oh, and to keep getting to do this work for another year.
Saturday, December 8, 2018
Hat tip to Susan Wawrose at the University of Dayton School of Law for alerting us to the third installment in the ABA's podcast series on law student well-being. The podcast (entitled Episode 3 on the web page) includes three parts (why a law student would benefit, ways to get started with mindfulness, how to overcome roadblocks) and a bonus 3-minute mindfulness exercise. The link to the ABA web page that has all three installments in the series is: ABA Law Student Well-Being Podcasts. (Amy Jarmon)
Sunday, November 25, 2018
Invitation from NCBE
The National Conference of Bar Examiners requests your assistance with a significant research study regarding the bar examination. NCBE has created a Testing Task Force to oversee a comprehensive, future-focused research study of the bar examination, and we want and need to tap the insights of legal academics. We would like to invite you to participate in one of six focus group sessions held at the AALS Annual Meeting in New Orleans on January 3 and 4, 2019.
The Task Force is approaching its study with no preconceived notions and is considering the content, format, timing, and delivery methods for the bar exam to ensure it keeps pace with a changing legal profession. For more information about the study, please read the overview of our research plan at www.testingtaskforce.org/research/.
As a legal educator, you are a vital part of the legal licensure process, and gathering input from you and other stakeholders is an essential component of the study. We hope you are as eager to share your ideas and opinions about the bar exam of the future as we are to hear them! The focus group sessions will be facilitated by one of the Testing Task Force’s independent research consulting firms, ACS Ventures LLC. The number of participants will be capped at 12-15 people per 90-minute session to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to provide their input, so you are encouraged to register early to reserve your spot in a session.
To sign up for a focus group session at the AALS Annual Meeting, complete this online registration form. You’ll receive a confirmation with logistical details and additional information about the session by email.
NCBE and its Testing Task Force are committed to creating additional opportunities for focus groups and web-based interactions to gain insights from legal academics, law students, and other stakeholders in the next six months. Subscribe at the Testing Task Force’s website to receive updates about the study and to be notified about other opportunities to participate.
Thank you for all you do to help prepare law students to become lawyers. If you have questions, please feel free to contact the Testing Task Force at email@example.com. We look forward to hearing from you!