Back to School – Part 1

August 12, 2010

It comes every summer for all law teachers, that moment when you realize that your May dreams of a summer of scholarly production, productive class preparation, and family connection have melted away like ice cream on a 100° August afternoon.  The good news is that your students are on the way, bringing their excitement, enthusiasm, and insight.  The bad news, of course, is that your students are on the way, and you are not ready for them yet. 

So, what can you do between now and the beginning of the semester to maximize the payoff in terms of student learning?

      1.  Know your stuff and be organized.  Students will forgive a lot if they perceive that you know your subject, have taken the time to provide structure to the class, are working as hard as they are, and care as much as they do.

      2.   Be yourself.  It is tempting to adopt the mannerisms and methods of your favorite law teachers.  Students can see through us if we fake it.  If you have never set cases to music and sung them to an audience, don’t start now!

      3.  Do all the easy things that will make a difference with your students. 

               A.  Look for part two if this blog post next week, where I will explore this idea in greater depth.

      4.   Consult help from those who have been where you are before.  If you are interested in learning more about teaching and learning in law school, I recommend our website: http://lawteaching.org/.  Here you will find dozens of law review articles, some books, videotapes, and both a teaching article of the month and a teaching idea of the month.

Have a great year!

Professor Michael Hunter Schwartz
Co-Director, Institute for Law Teaching and Learning
Associate Dean for Faculty and Academic Development
Washburn University School of Law