Wednesday, September 01, 2010


The First Day

Yesterday was a great day-- my first day of teaching at St. Thomas. Even though I was a little rusty, it felt wonderful to be in front of a class again teaching sentencing. I'm very excited about the group I will be teaching, too-- they have a variety of backgrounds and opinions on criminal law, and all seem engaged in what I get to talk about.

I started by telling them that they were my first students here. There is something important about that, I think-- being the first. I remember well very well my first class at Baylor, and ten years later I am still in touch with three people in that small group-- David Moore, Emanuela Prister, and Jim Dedman.

The picture above is from last year, obviously, since I can't stand to lecture in my current condition-- instead I used the one stool at St. Thomas, which now has unfortunately been dubbed the "Osler Stool." I don't think that hurt, though; I was still able to put some passion into it even though I couldn't move very much.

Some of you have been in my classes, and know that I try to make first and last days special, to frame the rest. I tried something different this time, and hope that it worked. I spent a long time talking about my own story, and then bringing out some of the compelling stories of those in the class-- why they came to law school, why they are interested in criminal law, whether they are more inclined to the defense or prosecution. As so often happens, what they had to say did a very good job of establishing some of my themes for the class.

I think this is going to work.

Did you surprise them by talking to them about specific details in their lives? I'll never forget when you started asking me about Ecuador during orientation. It amazed me that a professor cared enough about us to read our profiles.

I'll bet I remember your response better than you remember the question-- it was when I first saw the best part of your intelligence and heart.
Remember, you can't just yell at them and assign memos, Gerald Powell-style. This is a Catholic university. Smack their knuckles with a ruler.
When you retire they will endow a stool instead of a chair. How memorable.

And I doubt you were rusty; just the first day jitters of not knowing your audience.

Not really my style... but then, I was educated by hippies, not nuns.
There were hippies at William & Mary? I find it hard to believe that there were any in Grosse Pointe or William & Mary
Maybe there are some nuns around the school that you could use as class aides - you point, they rap. Sort of an ADA accommodation for your ankle.

That's funny, I was educated by hippies who WERE nuns.
Hippie curriculum:

"Sitting Around and Talking About Stuff 101"

"Advanced Patchouli Application"

"The Art of Joint Rolling"

"Music Appreciation with Phish"

"Advanced Drum Circle"

"How to Completely Fail at Contributing to Society in any Meaningful Way 200"

"Intermediate Dissapointing Your Parents"

"Birkenstock Maintenance and Repair"
The only experience I have with a Catholic Law School comes from my friends that went to St. Mary's (don't tell Professor Guinn I have friends that went to St. Mary's), where they said nuns would bring out kegs of beer for relaxation in the student center on Fridays.

So I assume you could reward good behavior with beer, which sounds appropriately hippy-ish in that it is positive, rather than negative, reinforcement. And you were always the "nice" PC professor, so that actually sounds like a good idea.

"Hey, yeah, that was the holding of Schmerber. Have a brew!" and then toss them whatever it is Minnesotans drink for beer. If I knew I were going to get a beer for knowing the answer, I honestly would have studied harder.
You've got this bizarre trend with seating surfaces and first days.

First, you had to steal a dilapidated chair for your first day at BLS, and now you're cornering St. Thomas's stool market for your first day there, too.
"Stool market" just sounds wrong.
You especially should not be "cornering" a stool market. Ick.

When will the St. Thomas students discover the Razor??
I propose a moratorium on the use of the phrase "stool market" until the current financial crisis ends.
The only hippies I knew in Grosse Pointe were the Oslers. I think they even had a VW vanagon.
Mrs. Strayer! Christine, don't you remember Mrs. Strayer? She played folk guitar and taught us "Michael Row the Boat Ashore" and smelled like patchouli.

That's pretty much all I remember about third grade.
I knew once you got back to teaching that no matter what your foot was up to you woudl start to feel at home. Teaching and your family, That IS your home. SO you could do that, and be with them, in TX or MN or Austria, or Nigeria or Alaska or anywhere and you would still be HOME.
I remember that VANAGON OMG. I remember Bill/Will complaining that it had no heat. I think it was red and then later it was beige? or amyeb there were two of them> OMG
I think my brother had Mrs Strayer. I was at Monteith for 3rd grade. I think it was Ms. Thorn with the bouffant hair.
But come to think of it, Miss Schmid was into the whole love your neighbor mantra and self respect for yourself and others. Not a traditional 6th grade teacher at Barnes.
better "Osler stool" than "Osler's stool"
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