Wednesday, April 8, 2015

My Law School Escape Plan

Law school is a rigorous, competitive environment. On my first day at the WVU School of Law, they brought the entire first year class together into an auditorium. There, they told us to look at the student to our left, and then to the student on our right—after which we were told that the historical average shows that one of the three of us would not survive the first year.

During that long first semester, I didn’t have a good idea of whether I could survive law school or not. Unlike college, there was little feedback on how you were doing—no term papers, no mid-terms, no pop quizzes. Grades at law school when I attended were primarily based on high stakes (and thus high anxiety) final exams. This traditional method helped to “thin the herd” and ensure only those who could handle the pressure stayed in school.

[When I started teaching college, I made sure my classes had multiple grading events spaced over the semester, rather than an all-or-nothing final exam. This strategy means a lot more grading work for the teacher, but allows students better feedback to improve their performance.]

I mentioned in my original announcement about joining the Peace Corps that when I went to law school, I felt like I needed a backup plan. I decided that the Peace Corps would be my backup plan. I remember talking to a visiting Peace Corps recruiter one day at the WVU Mountainlair (the name of our student union building). If I were to flunk out, heading overseas seemed like a great escape to put law school behind me. Fortunately, I never needed to activate this escape plan.

As I prepare to head overseas with the Peace Corps this summer (anyone looking for a house in Parkersburg?), I’ve been examining old boxes of stuff I’ve accumulated over the decades. This upcoming adventure provides the perfect reason to downsize my life. I had a lot of books, papers, and souvenirs that had been stored for decades—never having seen the light of day.

One night after work, I was going through a box from my law school years in Morgantown. To my surprise, I discovered the actual brochure for the Peace Corps from that meeting I had in the WVU Mountainlair. [The cover and the first few pages are pictured below.] At that point, the Peace Corps had only recently celebrated its 20th anniversary—now it is heading into its 54th year. I’m not sure exactly why this brochure lasted all these decades, but I was thrilled to find it again. It provides some physical evidence of my long-standing interest in the Peace Corps.

I think I’ll take it with me as a good luck charm on my Peace Corps journey (along with my JFK flag). I’m glad that I didn’t flunk out—but I’m glad I still get to try out my backup plan (albeit as a fifty-something rather than a twenty-something). I’ve led a lucky life!