The Skills I Use In Law School, I Learned From Third Graders
Law school draws all kinds of students: Scholars, athletes, bluebloods, and English majors all come to mind. Occasionally, you’ll find students who’ve been seminarians or even strippers. But Marquette University boasts a student with a truly unique (and helpful) background: Third grade teacher.
According to Jessica Simons, a 2L at Marquette University, the skills she developed teaching elementary school were quite applicable to law school. While Simons worried that her background—which didn’t include any pre-law or social sciences courses—would place her at a disadvantage, they’ve actually been integral to her success. So what is Simons’ advice for her peers? Basically, she encourages them to adopt the same practices as she did as a teacher:
1. Be Overly Prepared: “I would plan for hours what I would do each day with my third graders… However, no matter how I planned, activities that I thought would last for an hour would last ten minutes, and activities that I thought would be a short exercise would end up needing reinforcement with several more lessons. Law school translation: Stay on top of readings, and maybe even try to read one class period ahead. Things come up in life, and the best way to not get frustrated and stressed is to ensure that you are overly prepared.”
2. Be Organized: “As a teacher, I had to be very organized, so that I could keep track of all of my students with their individual reading test scores, grades, curriculum tests, and other important papers and emergency contact information. At a moment’s notice, I would need to know where things were kept in case a parent popped in unannounced, or in case the administration decided that they needed a spreadsheet of test scores by the end of the school day. Law school translation: Make sure you keep your notes and class assignments organized.”
3. Expect The Unexpected: “Days in the third grade were NEVER as I had planned them to be. I would plan a math lesson, only to have it be interrupted by a fire alarm test, or by a child who became sick in the middle of the class period. I would plan a reading lesson, only to be faced with a teachable moment after a child had asked a good question… Law school translation: You need to be prepared to think on your feet…You may go into class thinking that you won’t be called on because you were on the spot last week only to have the professor speak your name to your surprise. Be prepared for class, do the assignments, stay on track with reading, and be prepared to think on your feet. Lawyers have to do it all the time in practice… why not start now.”
4. Take Mind Breaks: “Every once in a while, we had standardized testing in the third grade. During this time, I would often give my students ‘brain breaks.’ This was time given to them where we would take a short walk outdoors, or where I would read a book to them while they sat on the carpet. This allowed them to rest their minds so that they could think more clearly and not be too stressed out on their next tests. Law school translation: Give yourself brain breaks! We all think we can sit down for hours on end and study for our exams. However, we quickly become fatigued or unable to think and process information as clearly after a while… The time we give our brains to rest will enable us to study more effectively and do better on exams.”
5. Don’t Take Grades Personally: “My students always tried to do their best… However, sometimes things did not go as planned, and I had to remind them that grades are letters or numbers, and that their lives are not defined by grades. One can always improve, and there are always chances to improve. Law school translation: …We are not defined by the grades we get… We can always do better next time, we learn from our mistakes, and we move on, so that we focus on the future, instead of dwelling on the past.”
Source: University of Marquette
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