Using All of Our Resources

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September 2015 Idea

By Sandra Simpson, Gonzaga University School of Law

As the semester gets into full swing, it is important to remember to take advantage of all our teachable moments during the day and semester. Sometimes that requires thinking outside the box. This past year I had an issue with a student. The student repeatedly believed it was me making him/her do poorly. I pulled out all my usual tools, sitting down with the student and going over the work and my feedback, meeting with the student weekly, giving the student alternative avenues to be successful, etc. None of the methods worked, and the problem continued.

I was tempted to brush the problem under the rug and turn my back on the student. I was busy, and the student was doing OK in the class. Instead, I enlisted the help of an attorney from our community, who is an expert in the area. The student and I met first. I was honest with the student that I was out of ideas to help the student, but I wanted the student to meet with this expert in the field. I told the student that while he/she was doing OK in the class, I felt the student could really excel. The student agreed to let the attorney review the student’s work and give the student feedback. This was tricky. I made sure the student knew that he/she was not under any obligation to do this and whatever decision the student made, it would have no effect on his/her grade (unless the work improved, of course.) The student met with the attorney, received feedback from the attorney, and improved his/her work product significantly. This took some work on my part to find an attorney willing to put in the time, but it really helped the student.

Institute for Law Teaching and Learning