The Waiting Room

This could take a while...

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Building A Mystery

Posted by Seeking Solace |

My teaching schedule is AFU. One of my classes was cancelled at the end of drop/add last month due to low enrollment. My contract requires that I have a certain minimum number of teaching hours (Not my decision). So, I was assigned a class that was given to an adjunct, which was her only class. Don't feel bad for the adjunct. She has a full time job and only teaches because she wants to, not because she needs the money. Plus, I've had issues with this instructor inflating grades.

The course I am teaching is only six weeks. So, I have my work cut out for me. It is the kind of course that should not be taught in a six week format. There are just way too many concepts to cover. And, I truly believe that unless you want to only use half your ass, there is no way to effectively teach this course in that amount of time.

We are in Week Four and I have presented enough information to the students that they are ready for the project component of the course. The project that I assign is in three parts. Some requires library work and some they can find online. Also, the scope of the project is something that will be beneficial outside the classroom.

Last night, I am explaining the project and how to manuver through the various tasks associated with the project. When I asked them about looking up statutes using the books in the library, I heard crickets.

I asked them if they had used the law books in our library in their other classes. More crickets. Finally, one brave soul spoke up and said that they had not used the books in the library since I took them on their library tour when they had Intro to Legal with me. They used the General Assembly's website to find statutes (Not the "official" version, BTW), but they have not been to the library or have been required to use the books at all.

That was three terms ago.

Two terms ago, I asked my faculty to incorporate use of the law books in the Libra in their assignments, especially the final project. I told them that they should be taking their classes to the library and have them use the books. There is no reason why the students should not have to wait for Legal Research and Writing to find out the mystery behind the law books. Plus, I am the one who teaches the R & W class and early exposure to the law books would allow me to do so much more in the course.

I am also perturbed because it's not like these classes are huge. They are 12 students at the most. So, it is not that difficult to have a class do library work. Although our library is small, the law collection is 1/10 the size of a tradition law collection, it is enough for the students to do what is necessary for the program. Plus, I have a relationship with a law school in the area who allows the students in my program access. The law librarian understand that the limited resources of my little paralegal program and have embraced us with open arms. Also, the librarian at my college is awesome and has encouraged classes to use the library as much as possible.

So what's the deal?

My reasoning for having students use the books is that I want to take the mystery out of the law books. In the past, the B, my predecessor for those of you who forgot, would not allow the students to use the law books in the library until they had R & W. So, there was this perception that the books were off limits because they were "too hard" or "off limits".  When the students took R & W in the past, they were just thrown to the wolves and told to figure it out. 

I need to figure out why my instructors have not complied with my request. Perhaps, my faculty were taught that way when they took R & W in law school.  Maybe, they have become so used to Westlaw and Lexis that they have forgotten how to do research "old school".  Maybe, they just don't know how to put together an assignment using library research. Maybe, they are giving assignments and the students are blowing smoke.

Until then, the mystery continues.