Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Maintaining Meaning in Law School

Many people have heard of the term "cognitive dissonance" -- the discomfort experienced by humans when they receive new information that contradicts an existing belief or system of beliefs.  Mild cognitive dissonance, caused by information that only diverges slightly from what was previously believed, might prompt people to adopt the new information and change their belief systems.  Paradoxically, though, intense cognitive dissonance, caused by information that emphatically contradicts previous beliefs, can cause people to cling more tightly to their existing beliefs, even if an objective observer might conclude that the new information invalidates the old belief.  This is because the human mind often values consistency and reliability more than it values objective "truth".  Thus, die-hard fans of a sports team that comes in dead last in its league might insist with renewed vigor that their team is great ("Wait 'til next year!"), or strong supporters of a political candidate embroiled in scandal might argue that there was a misunderstanding or that stories about the scandal were merely ersatz reporting.  This understanding of cognitive dissonance can help teachers understand why some students might rebel against some lessons -- it would simply be too wrenching to change one's worldview, when disbelief is so much easier.

I recently encountered a seemingly-related theory that addresses these reactions more holistically, and in a way that I think can help Academic Support professionals work with their students.  The Meaning Maintenance Model (or MMM) is described by Steven J. Heine, Travis Proulx, and Kathleen D. Vohs in Personality and Social Psychology Review, 2006, Vol. 10, No.2, 88-110.  This model proposes that people have a pervasive need to establish a sense of meaning in their lives -- "meaning" being broadly defined as the set of mental relationships that a person uses to organize their perceptions of the world.  This seems analogous to the belief system described above.  Meaning is how we understand the world to work.  MMM suggests that when the meaning that a person has built up over time is threatened by challenging new information, the person will seek to compensate by assigning or creating additional meaning to their lives, thus maintaining an overall sense of meaning.  For example, someone whose sense of meaning is based in part on a devout religious understanding of how the world works might respond to a threat to that understanding (like an unexpected and seemingly unfair death of a close relative that shakes their belief in a loving creator) by seeking more meaning, or more validation of the meaning that already exists for them, in their religious beliefs.  They might pray more often or look for new, previously hidden meaning in scripture.

So far, that kind of reaction sounds very much like a response described under the cognitive dissonance model.  Where MMM differs is in the suggestion that it is not so much the specific belief system that matters so much to an individual as it is the overall level of meaning the individual feels they have attained.  Thus, if one's belief system or sense of how the world works (e.g., meaning) is shaken in one realm (say, their sports team comes in dead last), another way that that person might compensate psychologically is by enhancing her sense of meaning in an entirely different realm (say, by mastering a new skill like baking bread).  In fact, suggests MMM, one might even pre-emptively mitigate the shock of encountering challenging information by developing a new sense of meaning in a different realm in advance of the shock.  In other words, someone who masters the art of baking bread from scratch might be less likely to be upset by seeing their favorite team come in last when that happens later, because they have already made new connections about how the world of baking works that will compensate for the recognized loss of understanding how their sports team performs.  

This can be directly relevant to helping law students navigate their first year, or their bar review period, or any time of transition during which the knowledge they had taken for granted is going to be challenged and perhaps even invalidated altogether.  Think of the confident English major who is told by his legal writing professor that his legal writing is not up to snuff, or the idealist forced to contend with the fact that the law sometimes compromises on justice or truth in order to promote goals like consistency and efficiency.  In each case, their sense of meaning, their understanding of how the world works, is diminished.  Cognitive dissonance theory tells us those students might be inclined to rebel against their new teachings, insisting that they are better writers without IRAC or that compromise is immoral. MMM suggests that this may happen, but also that there is a way to forestall it: by helping the student develop a stronger sense of meaning in other realms -- either while they are wrestling with the new contradictory information, or even in advance of this -- you may help them maintain a comfortable level of meaning overall, so that the student can afford to surrender some of the meaning they had previously built up surrounding their writing skills or the hazards of compromise.  Two ways to help a student develop a stronger sense of meaning are (1) help them to develop new skills or knowledge in a particular realm, while helping them to recognize this development through praise and specific feedback, and (2) get them to use previously developed skills or knowledge in a new context -- again, while helping them to see what they are doing -- so that they build new constructs of meaning around those skills and knowledge.

In other words, one way to inoculate students against the urge to fight against new teachings that threaten their senses of what they "know" or how they feel about themselves is to focus their attention on something else they are learning that is not so threatening, and to help them see what they have learned there.  A student who refuses to use their legal writing professor's required format -- or has trouble even recognizing that they are not doing so -- might be helped by urging them to see all that they have learned about tort law, for example.  If law students inherently want to maintain their perceived level of understanding of how the world works -- their sense of meaning -- even while their law professors are trying to tear down their layperson's sense of the meanings of fairness, analysis, persuasiveness, etc., then perhaps we should try to help them enhance the other components of their sense of meaning.

[Bill MacDonald]

August 6, 2019 in Encouragement & Inspiration, Miscellany, Science, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The Same Thing, Only Different

Next week, of course, is when the next bar examination will be administered.  But, for me, next week is also the first week of introductory classes for some of our incoming 1L students.  The semester does not officially begin until the end of August, but like many law schools, mine offers a special program to students who want to learn something about the American legal system and law school expectations before substantive classes begin.  So next week is going to be a little strange for me -- sort of like missing the wedding of one of my children because I will be busy attending the birth of another.

What strikes me now, as it did last year at this time, and as I suspect it will every year at this time, is how things feel simultaneously the same and different from years past.  There's an almost nostalgic sense of repetition. On Monday, I'll meet my first batch of eager, naive new students, enthusiastic to argue for justice, and perplexed by the density and obliquity of case law and lectures.  On Tuesday, I let go of the graduates I worked with all summer, and some for the previous two years, and they have to pass their most demanding test on their own.  These changes are as reliable as the seasons.  At the same time, when I look back to where I was last year, and consider what I thought I knew then about teaching and supporting all these students and alumni, I feel like I'm on a different planet entirely.  I'm questioning assumptions I once took for granted.  I'm noticing trends and relationships that were camouflaged before.  I am alternately worried and comforted by circumstances that previously had seemed either mundane or invisible to me -- things like students' financial situations or their relationships to other students.

It's a minor paradox of teaching: our goal, year in and year out, is to help make sure that our students learn a certain portion of a nearly fixed chunk of the universe. In law school, it's about reading a case, fashioning a sound legal argument, memorizing important rules, managing one's time and attention, and developing sound judgment.  The things we want our students to learn change glacially, and therefore imperceptibly.  What we wanted our students to learn this year is substantially identical to what we wanted them to learn last year, and to what we will want them to learn next year.  And this reliability is one of the anchors of both legal academia and legal practice.

But as individual teachers, the things we want to learn ourselves change substantially from year to year.  There are some things we wanted to understand -- say, the statistical relationships between first-year performance and eventual bar passage -- that we investigate, and we uncover, and we take that knowledge and run with it, because now it's not something to discover, it's something to use.  There are other things like new learning theories or suspicions about our students' law school experience that we thought might be important or useful, and we look into them, and they turn out to be negligible.  And there is always something new -- some fresh line of inquiry to follow, some previously overlooked problem to be solved, some new mountain to be climbed that we couldn't even see until we had gotten to the top of the previous mountain.  

It's always true, but to me it seems most true at this time of year.  We are always trying to learn different new skills and knowledge to help our students learn the same old skills and knowledge.  I see my 1L students coming in, and I want them to learn everything my most successful graduates have learned to achieve that success, and yet it seems like conveying those things in exactly the same way would be a dereliction of duty.  We want our students to be the fittest, so they have the best chance of survival, but in a way we are the ones doing the evolving.

[Bill MacDonald]

July 23, 2019 in Encouragement & Inspiration, Miscellany, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 15, 2019

Shaking Off Self-Doubt

You can choose to listen to the skeptics or hit the ignore button. - Michael Peggs

Our students today have become adept at shunning criticism and negative input. When coaches or teachers prejudge students at any age, there is an army of protective advocates who will stand up for the wronged student and demonstrate that with the right accommodation a student may exceed the expectations of a perceived disability. We full-scale reject the haterist mindset that seeks to label learners with arbitrarily imposed limitations. Taylor Swift warned us that “haters gonna hate”. Yet, too often when the stakes are high, and especially during bar study, we stir up our own hater-aid. Over the years I've overheard students say things like: “I’ve never been good at standardized tests,” “I am never going to learn all these essay subjects,” “I’ve got too much going on to study the way I should,” and “I don’t expect to pass on the first time.”  

You may need to mute your inner monologue, if it is filling your mind with self-defeating prophecy. Each time a fear-based thought tries to creep in, hit the ignore button and block it like a call from a telemarketer. Follow Taylor’s lead and shake off the self-doubt. Use daily bar study affirmations as an exercise in mindfulness to allow you to meditate on your positive potential. For the next two weeks, the only attitude you can afford is a can-do attitude. Repeat these affirming words until they become your reality: I can and will pass the bar. I am worthy of a bar card, and right now I am making plans for my life as an attorney.

(Marsha Griggs)

July 15, 2019 in Advice, Bar Exam Preparation, Disability Matters, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Starting with Stories

Like my colleagues, I am thinking ahead to the new school year even as my attention is consumed by those preparing for the bar exam three weeks from now.  Last year at this time I was thinking mainly about scheduling and content and skills development, and how to tweak and rearrange my classes and workshops to make them more effective.  This year, I find myself thinking at least as much about stories as about skills.

Part of this cogitation is driven by my conversations of late with students dealing with varying degrees of anxiety about the bar exam.  I ask them how they are doing and what has led them to whatever position they currently find themselves in, and their narratives fall broadly into two categories.  Some students tell me kinetic stories about what work they have done, what challenges they have faced, and what strategies they have employed.  They may not have conquered every problem that has come up -- in fact, that's usually why they are talking to me -- but they still see themselves as the protagonists who are driving their stories and pursuing some kind of prize.  Other students, even some with objectively similar obstacles, tell their stories in a different way.  They are still the centers of their own stories, but things keep happening to them (poor performance on a practice test, illness, misunderstanding, etc.), and they are just doing what they can to cope.  These latter folks are not doomed, by any means; they are, in fact, often quite capable.  But they do seem to feel more anxiety and doubt than the more protagonistic students.  So part of what I am wondering is whether it might be possible to cultivate that sense of protagonism by using language that highlights one's sense of agency and potency, from the very start of law school.  Perhaps by using less language about "what will happen" and "what you will encounter", and more language about "what you will learn to do" and "how others have overcome difficulties", I can shift students' perspectives in a more empowering direction.

Another aspect of storytelling that has become clearly significant over the past year is how students perceive their stories in relation to their law school -- their fellow students, their class as an entity, their professors, their administration, and their alumni community.  At the start of my 3L pre-bar prep course this spring, I felt it was very important to intentionally and repeatedly talk about our class as a team.  We were there to support each other, I said, because we had common goals as individuals and as a group.  Each student wanted to pass the bar exam in July -- that much they knew going into the class -- but, I pointed out, each student should also want to see everyone else in the class pass, too.  Teamwork might mean going a little further to help our classmates in a pinch, but it also means we've got a bunch of other people in our corner, willing to do the same for us.  The faculty, the administration, and the alumni want to see them succeed, too, because their success makes everybody look better, and because we've invested so much energy and faith in them.  And if the class does notably well as a group on the bar exam, their pass rate becomes public information that makes them all look like part of a stellar crop of new lawyers.

At times I felt almost like a goofy cheerleader telling this story, and encouraging my students to tell that story about themselves as a team.  But it seems to have paid off.  This summer we are seeing notably higher rates of participation and completion of assignments in summer bar prep courses.  Recent graduates are spending more time together, on and off campus, and I've been talking to far more of them in my office and on the phone than last summer.  Just telling a story of teamwork isn't enough -- the school has also had to walk the walk, by providing additional resources and guidance to students -- but it is clear that intensifying our characterization of getting ready for the bar as a communal effort has had a positive effect.

This is another thing I am wondering about, as I move forward with plans to work with our new incoming students.  How can I tell that story of the law school as a team in a way that will stick with these new students for three intensive years?  Is there a way to cultivate that story in the face of the known competition for grades in the first year?  Is there a way to keep that story from becoming trite and from being tattered by cynicism?  I think there must be.  It's not just the telling of the story that makes it work; it's also acting the story out, and making it seem real because it could be real.

So, while I will be working on better ways to improve students' analytical and time management skills this fall, I will also be thinking about better ways to tell them stories -- about themselves as individuals and as part of this new community -- that they can believe in.  Stories that they will want to carry on telling themselves.

[Bill MacDonald]

July 9, 2019 in Bar Exam Preparation, Encouragement & Inspiration, Exams - Studying, Miscellany, Orientation, Stress & Anxiety, Study Tips - General, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 8, 2019

Time for Transition

And suddenly you just know it's time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings. – Meister Eckhart

This is the time of year when many ASPers transition from one position to the next. Career progressions in ASP are as varied as they come. Many who entered as an assistant director are now ready to direct programs at their own schools or another. This fall some will transition from administration to faculty or vice versa. Some are preparing to teach doctrinal courses for the first time, and others just received rank and tenure promotions. Whether your move will take you across the county or across the street to another institution in the same city, boxes must be packed and a world of newness awaits.

The newness can be the most exciting part of a new role in ASP. The newness also can be the most scary. Recent law school graduates newly entering ASP may face the challenge of being perpetually viewed as a student or former student. Those with new roles as faculty or with first-year core teaching responsibilities may have to abide additional layers of oversite not imposed upon other faculty members. A lateral move to a new school can deal the unsettling reminder that, even with years of pedagogical experience under your belt, you are a newbie to this institution, its policies, and its students. Perhaps the greatest hurdle of all is following another great ASP predecessor who left very big shoes to fill.

Whether your newness is a new position, a new course, or just additional responsibility at your current post – embrace the newness. You were recognized for your unique skills and qualifications. You bring amazingness with you. Savor the transition time as you learn your new role and your new students and create a course/program/system that will leave your own indelible footprint.

Congratulations and continued success to all who are making moves from one role to another. The next big shoes to fill will be yours!

(Marsha Griggs)

July 8, 2019 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Job Descriptions, Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The "Other" Academic Support Educators

Echoing what Amy Jarmon said in her farewell blog post, the ASP community is awesome. We encourage each other, share ideas and materials, and lift each other up. Sometimes, though, it can feel a little lonely just communicating by phone or e-mail and getting together at the occasional conference.  Although I am blessed to have two terrific ASP colleagues at my law school, they work 300 miles away from the campus where I'm located. And notwithstanding my wonderful local colleagues in this shared endeavor of legal education -- first-rate professionals in legal writing and career development and clinical education and building maintenance and library science and admissions and legal doctrine and every facet of administration -- sometimes an ASPer just wants to get together with other academic support educators who speak the same language and can give insights into common or novel problems. What's a solo ASPer to do?  

Maybe realize that law school academic support educators aren't the only ASPers around.

Today I had the pleasure of a long visit with an academic support educator for undergraduates at my university. After hearing first-hand stories from several friends about the rigors and stresses of law school, and being unaware that law schools offered academic support, he reached out to the law school to see if he could offer assistance to our law students and ultimately connected with me. As we shared our experiences of supporting undergraduate and law students, we realized how many issues we had in common -- helping students manage their time effectively, overcome the fear of stigma, learn critical reading skills, understand the efficacy and desirability of intellectual struggle, and appreciate that seeking assistance is not a sign of weakness but of professionalism.  Our discussion made me realize how much I could learn from (and maybe also contribute to) the University's many academic support professionals outside the law school -- educators helping first generation students, persons with disabilities, non-traditional students, underrepresented minorities, students with current or past trauma, and the economically disadvantaged, as well as those simply insightful enough to recognize they could better reach their potential if they learned how to learn more effectively. While legal education comes with a unique set of challenges, at least half my work involves issues that are not unique to law school. So my new (academic) year's resolution is to become more involved with academic support educators of all ilks, helping all types of students in higher education. I fully expect the "other" academic support educators will be as awesome as my AASE colleagues. (Nancy Luebbert)

 

June 26, 2019 in Encouragement & Inspiration, Miscellany, Professionalism, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 24, 2019

Following Our Own Advice

I have a hard time following my own advice. Alice Vuong

Imposter syndrome is a term coined in the late 1970’s by clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes. According to Psychology Today, the term is commonly known to describe a pattern of behavior where people doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent, often internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud. I’ve seen, and shared with my students, articles addressing imposter syndrome. You may have done the same.

We work to instill confidence into students who enter law school with modest credentials. Whether we categorize these students as “at-risk” or not at all, I insist that with a productive study routine and regular practice that they can perform as well as, or better than, students who enter law school with many more perceived advantages.

Those of us who work primarily or exclusively in academic support very likely entered the legal academy via a non-traditional path. And so much like the diverse student body that we support, our non-traditional entryway has no bearing on our competency, effectiveness, and right to be included in the law school academic community. Notwithstanding the rapid growth of ASP, we face status issues within the academy. Very few academic support professionals hold tenured or tenure-track positions. At a number of schools, our titles and contract-year terms vary substantially from those of our doctrinal colleagues. In some circles, we may fight an uphill battle to earn the recognition we deserve for scholarship that is categorized as pedagogical and often dismissed.

What a mistake it would be to create a self-perception based on external influences that we cannot control? We cannot afford to allow an imposter mindset to take root into our psyche. It matters not how we entered the legal academy. What matters is the impact of our presence. The student success, the improved or sustained bar passage rates, and the post-graduation thank you notes recognizing our contributions are both real and earned. We must heed our own advice about avoiding the perilous self-doubt of imposter syndrome. While we focus so much on the success of our students, we must also learn to internalize our own successes and acknowledge that we are where we genuinely belong.

(Marsha Griggs)

June 24, 2019 in Encouragement & Inspiration, Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 17, 2019

ASP Behind a Mask

Mask: n. a covering for all or part of the face that protects, hides, or decorates the person wearing it. – Cambridge English Dictionary

It is a common practice for high-stakes gamblers, also called “sharks”, to use a trusted acquaintance when placing a bet to keep the identity of the shark gambler unknown and preserve the odds. By concealing one’s identity, an actor may control or influence audience perception. Academic Support professionals influence the perception and actions of the students we serve. ASP behind a mask allows us to fulfill our mission of student service and advancement. Behind a mask our message is not altered or concealed, only the messenger is.

My real-life experience behind the mask looks like this. For weeks, I preached and pushed a certain commercial tool to my bar takers. I negotiated a substantial discount for their purchase. I offered weekly incentives, provided demonstrations, and all but swore a blood oath that this tool would increase their chances of passing the bar. Crickets. I asked a recent bar taker to share her experience with the tool. She made one social media post that echoed verbatim my message. Within minutes of the post, I received multiple inquiries about the tool and sign-up confirmations.

Today’s law student does not respond to the pedagogy of the past. We may tell our students what is best for them academically and make recommendations for learning tools to support their development. And we may be right. But until our students “hear us” and find credible our advice and recommendations, our words fall hallow. We can strategically use the peer learning model and employ student tutors, fellows, and former students to promote our messages by sharing what has worked for them to positively influence the actions of current students.

(Marsha Griggs)

June 17, 2019 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Bar Exam Preparation, Encouragement & Inspiration, Learning Styles, Miscellany, Teaching Tips, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 3, 2019

The Compliment of Criticism

Don't let compliments get to your head and don't let criticism get to your heart. -- Lysa TerKeurst

The other day we held a bar workshop at my school. At the end of the session we collected evaluation forms from the students. I could hardly wait until the students were all out of the room to look at their written comments. A colleague and I sat at the edges of our seats to read what the students wrote about “our” workshop. As we thumbed through the evaluation forms, we read an abundance of smile-generating comments like: Good, Good, Excellent, Learned something new, Would recommend this session to others, and Glad I came. But our smiles askewed when we reached the one comment that read this session was longer than I expected and the presentation was poor.

Of the many laudatory comments, only one offered anything other than praise. And yet that one evaluation form is all that we focused on for the rest of the afternoon. My colleague and I became defensive and responded to the anonymous feedback as if talking to the student who submitted it. I suspect that our reaction was not atypical in the academic support teaching profession. We probably reacted in the same manner that many professors do as we review our course evaluation forms, student emails, or other summative feedback. We focus almost blindly on what someone did not like at the expense of commentary reflecting the effectiveness of our teaching and service.

So many of us in academic support or other teaching professions may put too much weight on the criticism and not enough weight on the compliments. Perhaps it is because we invest so much in the success of our students and the excellency of our programs that we forget the role that criticism can play in our own professional development. As this summer’s bar prep gets rolling full throttle, I’ve made a promise to myself to not let my view of the forest be impeded by one tall tree. While I am providing my students with daily affirmations, I pledge to affirm and nurture myself and my wellbeing. In doing so, I will be better able to service my family and my students who depend on me.  As you read your course evaluations and performance reviews this summer, challenge yourselves to take criticism with a grain of salt (or a bottle of wine) and be thankful for the wonderful learning opportunity that the feedback provides.

(Marsha Griggs)

June 3, 2019 in Advice, Bar Exam Preparation, Encouragement & Inspiration, Miscellany, Program Evaluation, Stress & Anxiety, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 27, 2019

For the Love of ASP

Most of our readers have seen the announcement that I am retiring. My work in ASP at law schools has spanned nearly 18 years - at U of Akron as well as Texas Tech. I have been humbled by the outpouring of well wishes and kind words on the listserv and in personal emails. I was honored and deeply touched to receive an award at the recent AASE conference.

My years in ASP have been a pleasure. There are many reasons for that: 

  • I love working with students. I want them to achieve at the highest level of their potential and not just survive law school. Learning new strategies can transform their law school semesters.
  • I love seeing students and alumni flourish in their lives and careers. It gives me great joy to hear about their successes: improved grades, competition wins, officer positions, job offers, bar passage, promotions, marriages, new babies, and more. And, I have also been with them through disappointments and tears. I have had the honor of being part of so many lives.
  • I love learning. There is a 1980 framed poster in my office from the official opening of the U.S. Education Department that reads "Learning never ends." Each day I learned something new from my students, my colleagues, or other resources to improve my work.
  • I love the ASP/bar prep community. You are awesome colleagues! The amount of sharing of ideas, materials, and encouragement is unlike that in other legal professional groups. I am convinced that you are some of the nicest people to work with as colleagues anywhere on earth.
  • I love the dear friends in ASP/bar prep with whom I have shared many experiences. Whether we have seen each other only at conferences, worked on AALS or AASE projects, talked by phone, or emailed regularly, I have been privileged to be your friend. Your friendship and support have been phenomenal.

I wish each and every one of you personal satisfaction, opportunities to learn, camaraderie with other ASP'ers, and career successes. 

God bless!

Amy Jarmon

Renee-fisher-1106303-unsplash

 

May 27, 2019 in Encouragement & Inspiration, Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 20, 2019

Some Things I Have Learned from Colleagues, Observation, and Experience

As my career in ASP winds down, I have reflected on what I have learned over the years. Here are a few things that strike me as important lessons learned from discussions with my ASP/bar prep colleagues, observations of our profession over time, and my own experiences:

  • ASP and bar prep work have gained more recognition through the years. LSAC supported us early on. AALS recognized our efforts with a section designation. Changes to ABA standards brought more attention to our roles. More law schools now have programs, but there is still work to be done if all law students are to have access to full-time, funded services.
  • ASP/bar prep started its work to increase academic and bar success for minority students. With the pressures of stigma and backlash, many ASP programs opened services to all law students. Although programs may still have minority components within the services, the broader law school population has now become the focus. Declining admissions (and the resulting decline in applicant credentials in some cases) and ABA emphasis on bar passage rates have continued the pressure for services to be available to all law students.  Let us not forget our original purpose of supporting diversity as our roles expand.
  • The work we do is not just about grades or bar passage. We teach skills that impact our graduates throughout their lives. We teach skills resulting in better lawyering and more satisfying living. Among the skills we teach are learning strategies, legal reasoning, problem solving, organizing work, managing time, managing stress, and avoiding procrastination.
  • We need to be careful that we do not just jump from the "hot topic or solution of the month" to the next hot topic. It is tempting, but ultimately shallow. There is no magic wand available for ASP or bar prep. Learning, memory, and legal reasoning are complex topics with layers of nuance. To those three, we must add the topics of diversity, motivation, procrastination, learning disabilities, time management, work management, stress management, resilience, grit, mindset, and mental health - also very complex and nuanced. I could easily list another dozen topics that relate to our work. We need to investigate deeply to understand the nuances, remain open to intertwined concepts, and build successful strategies over time.
  • The numbers game is not all that matters. It is nice if large numbers enroll in courses or attend workshops, but numbers alone do not tell the story. Our work regularly impacts on an individual level. We need to remember that assisting one student at a time is valuable. Let us not forget the merit of one-on-one assistance during our law schools' demand for numbers to tout.
  • We need to provide alternative methods for students to access our services. Some services may involve mandatory appointments, workshops, or courses. However, even mandatory offerings may not reach all students who need help or may fail to reach them at the time when they are most receptive. We need to continue to explore different ways to reach students where they are and when they are receptive to services. The possibilities are endless, but include appointments, workshops, packets, handouts, email tips, podcasts, blog posts, YouTube videos, Facebook, Twitter, intranet pages, pop-up events, and walk-abouts.
  • We need to remember that each student is unique. One size does not fit all, no matter what theory suggests. Each student comes with individual strengths, weaknesses, challenges, motivations, educational backgrounds, and experiences. We cannot forget the individual when we consider our repertoire of theories, generalities, and strategies.
  • We need to ask questions and listen to the answers. I learn some of the best strategies from students explaining what they have discovered. In the search for the combination of strategies for each student, we need to explore with the student what works, does not work, needs to be modified, or needs to be tossed.
  • We want students to succeed and are personally involved in their learning. However, ultimately the student must implement the strategies, eschew bad habits, and work to achieve success. Despite our best efforts, some students will not reach their full academic potential and may even fail academically or fail the bar repeatedly. It exemplifies the old adage of leading a horse to water.
  • Working 60-70 hours per week (and often more) is the temptation in ASP/bar prep because we want to implement new programs, stay up with professional development, be available to students, show up at events to support them, and answer emails at all times of the day and night. However, working at such a pace leads to burnout and ultimately does not help us or our students. We need to model the work-life balance that we regularly recommend to our students.
  • Have faith in your own expertise and the" best practices" that match your law school's culture. The variety of law schools means that one size does not fit all. Be open to ideas and weigh their value for your law school situation. ASP/bar prep colleagues are willing to share ideas and expertise - usually for free. Read the Law School Academic Support Blog, post queries on the Law School Academic Support listserv, attend AASE and AALS conferences or other regional workshops, and reach out to experienced colleagues. However, be wary of anyone who tells you there is one and only one (that is, the individual's own) path to "best practices" in ASP/bar prep; that viewpoint is just not accurate.
  • No matter how dedicated and expert we are in our work, our law schools have to provide the facilities and resources for us to do our work well. Without commitments for space, budget, staffing, support services, and equal status, we will be limited in achieving the greatest results for our students. Talk is cheap. It takes actions from each and every law school in support of our ASP and bar professionals to make a difference.

ASP/bar prep work is challenging, impactful, rewarding, and gratifying. We can be proud of what we do each day. What we accomplish is important. We need all law schools to recognize how important our work is for our students' academic success and for their futures. (Amy Jarmon)

 

May 20, 2019 in Advice, Bar Exam Issues, Learning Styles, Miscellany, Professionalism, Program Evaluation, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 13, 2019

Keep Your Perspective on Grades

Few law students are able to ignore grades - especially if the final exam is the only grade for a course. Whether students have been successful or unsuccessful in the past with their grades, they become anxious about the current exam, the upcoming exam, and the just past exam.

How one feels coming out of the exam is really immaterial because the class as a whole is what determines the outcome. I remember coming out of a property exam hoping I did not fail. I knew property really well but had been unable to finish the exam. When grades were posted, I got a very high grade because I finished more than others and that professor wrote the exam so no one would be able to finish it.

Here are some things to consider as you go through exams and afterwards:

  • Ignore the rumor mill. It has little truth on it this time of year. Use your common sense to spot the ridiculous. Example: Our exams are graded by anonymous numbers, and professors assign final grades by anonymous numbers. The rumor mill had the 1Ls convinced that grades for the semester would now be assigned alphabetically by last name so the only people who would receive A grades were last names beginning with A or possibly a few students with last names beginning with B.
  • It is common to walk out of an exam and realize that you missed an issue, misunderstood a question, forgot an ancillary rule, and made other mistakes. It's okay. Do not beat yourself up about the errors. It happens to everyone. Put the exam behind you and move on.
  • You do not want to talk with classmates about the exam after it is over. Just smile, wish the person luck on the next exam, and walk away. Why? You will stress because someone will mention an issue you missed - but it wasn't there and that person was wrong. Someone will brag about how easy the exam was when you thought it was very hard. Someone will predict doom and gloom and cause you to worry and lose focus on the next task.
  • The days of having to get 90-100% on the exam to get an A grade in a course are over. You left that grading scale behind with college. It is not unusual for a law school A to equal just 70-75% of the possible points - and sometimes even fewer points.
  • A final exam measures your performance on one day on one particular set of questions. You may know that course at a deeper level than your grade will show. Maybe the curve was tight. Maybe there were very few questions on a topic you knew well. Maybe you blanked on a topic. Maybe you were ill.
  • You are not your grades. Good or bad grades, you are far more than your grades. You are the same capable, intelligent, funny, caring, amazing person who came to law school the first day you arrived.
  • If  you want to improve your future grades, the academic support professionals at your law school can assist you in learning new strategies that will boost your academic results. See them early and often next semester.

Take your exams in stride. Do the best you can each day under the circumstances. It is the daily work that pays off in better grades. If you have a bad day, get some rest; start over again the next morning. Best wishes for exams. (Amy Jarmon)

May 13, 2019 in Encouragement & Inspiration, Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 6, 2019

Are You Having Trouble Sleeping?

Exams have started at our law school, and law students are looking much more sleep-deprived than usual. It is tempting to skimp on sleep to study. It is also easy to toss and turn instead of sleeping once getting into bed. Here are some hints to help in the sleep department:

  • Realize that a good night's sleep of 8 hours will do your brain more good than late-night cramming. You will be more alert, focused, and productive the next day.
  • Exercise expends stress and helps you sleep. Even a 30-minute walk can help. Most research suggests that your exercise should be before 8:00 p.m. to get the most sleep benefits.
  • Avoid naps because they ultimately can disrupt your night's sleep routine. If you must nap, make it a power nap of no more than 15-20 minutes.
  • Take at least one hour as a wind-down break before bed each night. Make that hour non-law and non-electronic time. Walk your dog. Pack your lunch for the next day. Chat with your spouse. Read a fluff novel.
  • If possible, stop studying by 8:00 p.m. at the latest on the night before an exam. Spend time doing something you enjoy that will occupy your mind fully and prevent you thinking about law school. Play the piano. Join a pick-up basketball game. Go to the IMAX theater. 
  • Do not stress if you need 30 or so minutes to fall into a deep sleep. Most people do not fall asleep the moment their heads hit the pillow. Breathe deeply; relax your muscles; think happy thoughts (a memorable vacation, a walk on the beach, inspirational quotes or scripture).
  • Improve your sleep environment to optimize your chances for a good night's ZZZZs: a cool room temperature; blackout curtains; total quiet (for some) or an eco-sound machine as white noise (for others); a cool air mister to add moisture to a room with dry air.
  • Go to bed and get up at the same time each day no matter what your exam schedule is. Your body likes a set routine. You will be more likely to get sleepy before bed and wake up alert if you stay on a schedule.
  • If you wake up in the middle of the night and cannot fall back asleep, get up and go to another room. Don't stay in bed and toss and turn. Read a few pages in a novel or some magazine articles. Avoid electronics. As you begin to relax and get sleepy, go back to bed.
  • Try one of the old-time remedies that seem to work for lots of people: drink a cup of herbal tea before bedtime; drink warm milk before bedtime; take a lavender bubble bath.

May you fall asleep and have sweet dreams! (Amy Jarmon)

May 6, 2019 in Exams - Studying, Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Voice Matters

There are some weeks when I'm pretty sure that no one else at my law school talks more than I do.  Given that law schools are full of lawyers, this is a pretty audacious claim.  But two or three times each semester, I encounter a perfect storm of ASP responsibilities -- I have classes to teach, I meet with the students from those classes for one-on-one discussions, I participate in administrative meetings, and I have drop-in visits from or appointments with other students seeking individual counseling -- and my entire work week, from morning to night, is chockablock with lectures and chats and debates and advising.  Usually, by Tuesday afternoon, I can feel my vocal cords growing fatigued and irritated.  I have discovered that if I just try to soldier on, then before the week is out, those little laryngeal muscles will seize up like an old pick-up truck engine, and suddenly I will be flapping my jaw uselessly, with nothing but a breathy wheeze coming out.

It is very hard to explain to a student how to think like a lawyer when you sound like a strangled serpent.

The fact is that teachers of all kinds are among those most at risk for developing voice problems.  This might in part be because they work in schools, which are really just giant Petri dishes for the cultivation of upper respiratory infections.  But the biggest threat to our voices could merely be overuse.  Vocal cords are really just small, thin muscles, and we make them work to produce sound by forcing air between them until they vibrate audibly.  Every syllable we utter arises from a bit of violence we do to our selves.  Too much violence can damage the vocal cords, sometimes even permanently.

So it makes sense to try to find ways to treat our vocal cords more kindly.  There are many things you can do to ease the strain you impose on your voice box.  Some might become permanent habits; others you can use when you start to feel a little raspy, or maybe even just before a garrulously busy week starts:

  • Keep your vocal cords moist. When vocal cords become dehydrated, they are more easily irritated.  So drink plenty of water -- keep a cup or bottle on hand in the office or wherever you might expect to have to speak at any length.  Also, certain chemicals, like alcohol, caffeine, and some cold medicines, can dry out your vocal cords.  All things in moderation, generally, of course, but when you know you've got a talk-heavy week coming up, you might want to take a pass on coffee in the morning and wine in the evening.  (Or vice versa, for that matter.)
  • Avoid irritants. The effects of too much talking can be intensified by agents that make the vocal cords more sensitive. Cigarette smoke, both first- and second-hand, is an obvious example.  But in addition to thinking about what you breathe, you should also consider what you eat.  Aromatic and spicy foods carry the risks not only of irritating the throat on the way down, but also causing stomach upset and reflux that might also irritate the throat on the way out.  Of course, food is not supposed to go down the windpipe, so direct irritation of the vocal cords is less common (though possible). A bigger issue is irritation of the throat above the larynx, which can lead to coughing, which directly assaults the vocal cords.  Similarly, it is a good idea to avoid milk and dairy products, not because they are directly harmful, but because they can coat the throat, prompting you to try to clear it, which can also irritate the vocal cords.  (If you ever feel the urge to clear your throat with a rumbling bark, hold off, and instead see if you can clear the irritation by opening your mouth wide and alternately breathing deeply through your nose and then exhaling, steadily and forcefully but not explosively, through your mouth, making the "h" sound as you do.)  Of course, try not to get sick, too, because illness can be an irritant.
  • Rest your vocal cords. It is often right to remain silent, but during busy times, it may not always be possible. Still, what you do outside the office can help rest your voice as well. When work is vocally busy, try to avoid scheduling other responsibilities that might require extensive speaking. Get rest at home -- minimize conversation and get good sleep.  In the long term, regular exercise can help develop stamina, even in the vocal cords, so that you can talk longer before your throat starts to feel irritated.
  • Soothe your throat. Along with having water at hand, keep some cough drops, mints, or even certain fruits at hand.  Eating or sucking on these will stimulate the production of saliva, which keeps the vocal cords moist. Also, consider drinking herbal teas with soothing ingredients like chamomile or slippery elm bark.  Traditional Medicinals "Throat Coat" is a pleasant choice.
  • Use healthy speaking techniques. Since in many cases we are not going to be able to avoid frequent speaking, it's a good idea to learn how to speak in the least irritating way for your vocal cords.  Sit up straight and don't slouch; good posture opens up the airway and relieves pressure on the larynx.  Avoid yelling, and avoid whispering -- both put unnecessary stress on your vocal cords.  Instead, try always to speak in a conversational tone of voice, but try to take deep breaths and to exhale using your diaphragm and your chest to produce sound, not just your throat.  This takes some of the strain off your vocal cords. Finally, if you do lecture, don't eschew the use of a microphone, when available. Yes, your stentorian voice can reach the back of the lecture hall, but you may pay for it later when you are trying to reach to person seated across the desk.  

[Bill MacDonald]

April 30, 2019 in Advice, Miscellany, Professionalism, Science, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 29, 2019

Practicing the Art of Rebuttal

It is the time in the semester when I give many, many pep talks. The time when I urge students to stay positive. The time when I suggest students need to rebut their negative self-talk.

We all have experienced a litany of negative statements that we say, often silently, to ourselves at one time or another. As the pressure of upcoming exams increases, I am hearing more and more negative comments verbalizing negative thoughts from students. The statements might be self-critical ("Oh, that was a stupid mistake!") or negative comparisons ("You just aren't as smart as they are.") or pessimistic ("No matter how hard you try, you won't be able to do this.). Whatever the form of the negativity, it deflates self-esteem, discourages further hard work, and waves the white flag of defeat.

I often point out to my students that one of the skills that every attorney needs is being able to plausibly rebut arguments presented by the opposing side. The skilled attorney can listen to the negative statement about their client's case, and then adroitly respond with the positive argument for the client's case. In fact, in preparation of the case, an attorney should consider the opponent's arguments and be ready to rebut those points. Whether by distinguishing facts, interpreting statutory language differently, mentioning an authority with the opposite outcome, or showing flawed logic, attorneys present their advocacy for the client's position.

Law students need to practice the same rebuttal skill when the negative self-talk in their heads starts to undermine their confidence and cause them to doubt their abilities. Here is an exercise that I suggest to my students to help them rebut the negative self-talk that stalks them:

  1. Take a sheet of paper and divide it into two columns.
  2. Head the left-hand column "Negative Self-Talk" and the right-hand column "Positive Self-Talk"
  3. In the negative column, list the negative statements that the little voice in your head says to discourage you.
  4. In the positive column, write out a positive rebuttal that tells the negative voice it is wrong and why.
  5. For example: negative side - "You will never learn Property in time for the exam!" positive side - "I can learn this. I just need to learn one subtopic at a time and then move on to the next subtopic."
  6. Add any new negative self-talk and the rebuttals to the list whenever you catch yourself stating something negative that you have not dealt with already.

How do you use the list? Practice your rebuttals and use them every time you state the corresponding negative self-talk. Some students tell me that after a few times, they start laughing at the negative voice. Other students tell me that after a few times, the negative voice has no power over them because they now believe the rebuttal. There are students who post the paper on the bathroom mirror and read the positive self-talk every time they brush their teeth or comb their hair. Other students tell me they carry it around in a notebook to reread the positive statements regularly.

We can be our own harshest critics. But we can also be our own greatest cheerleaders! Aim for the skill of rebuttal and stay positive. (Amy Jarmon)

 

April 29, 2019 in Exams - Studying, Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, April 13, 2019

What do YOU want to select as courses?

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)

April 13, 2019 in Advice, Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 12, 2019

So Close

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)

 

 

April 12, 2019 in Exams - Studying, Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Reminder to Use the AASE Disclosure Form with Job Postings

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.

  1.  The position advertised:

___  a.   is a full-time appointment.
___  b.   is a part-time appointment.

Other, please specify:

 

  1. 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:

 

  1.  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:

 


  1.  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:

 

  1. 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:

  1. 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:

 

  1. 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:

 

  1. The person hired is required to publish, in some form, in order to maintain employment.

___  a.  Yes.

___  b.  No.

Additional information, question 8:

 

  1. 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 (asp-l@chicagokent.kentlaw.edu).

April 6, 2019 in Jobs - Descriptions & Announcements, Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Now Is the Time for Kindness

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)

March 31, 2019 in Encouragement & Inspiration, Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Shred, Glorious Shred

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. . . .

(Amy Jarmon)

March 17, 2019 in Miscellany | Permalink | Comments (0)