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43 J. Legal Educ. 247 (1993)
Taking Students Seriously: A Guide for New Law Teachers

handle is hein.journals/jled43 and id is 257 raw text is: Taking Students Seriously:
A Guide for New Law Teachers
Kent D. Syverud
All advice from colleagues, Professor Harlan Dalton once remarked, can be
reduced to four words: Do as I do. Or even to three words: Be like me. That is
true of my advice in this essay on managing law students. I'm going to tell you
to do as I do, with two caveats. You have to be yourself as a teacher, so if what I
describe just does not fit your personality at all, do what does. And second, I'm
going to tell you about what I aim for in teaching but rarely achieve. So, in
twenty-three words, this essay can be summarized as If it makes sense to
you, do what I try to do, and what I sometimes actually accomplish on a very
good day.
Three Propositions About Teaching Law Students
To start, let me advance three propositions about teaching law students.
First: Your students will know whether you like and respect them, and if
they know that you do not, you will fail as a teacher.
Many law professors, when they have had a few beers or a long day, will
candidly admit that they don't like most of their students: Oh, a few students
are wonderful, bright, interesting, and fun to talk to. But most are a pain. They
are not bright enough, or they are interested only in ajob, and then only in a
job that I could not imagine doing myself. First-year students work too hard
and buzz about me like flies, and second- and third-years don't work enough.
Finally, a few professors will say, I live for my research, and for the one or two
students a year who are wonderful.
If that is the way you feel now, as a beginning law teacher, you are in
trouble, and my first proposition tells you why. Very few of us are good enough
actors to hide what we feel about our students during forty-five hours of give-
and-take over a four-month period. If you don't like them, they will figure it
out. And many of them will stop listening to you once they figure out that you
don't like or respect them. Oh, they'll learn what is necessary to survive the
exam, but they will lose all sincere interest beyond the exam in the ideas you
KentD. Syverud is Professor of Law at the University of Michigan. This text was originally a speech
delivered to the 1991 and 1992 AALS New Law Teachers Workshops in Washington, D.C.
The faculty of those workshops will recognize that I have learned from their ideas (and in some
cases borrowed them), as well as from their example as fine teachers. In this regard, I am
particularly indebted to Okianer Christian Dark, Catherine Hancock, Elizabeth Hayes Patterson,
Roger Schechter, Marjorie Maguire Shultz, Gerald Torres, and Russell Weaver. I thank as well
three of my own best teachers: Allan F. Smith, Walter I. Giles, and Shirley Berger.

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