Tuesday, June 15, 2010


One thing about the Socratic method is that it keeps your mind on a level of alert that it's not normally at and when it's over, you feel like you dug a deep ditch. I ache everywhere.

But, if all Profs are like Prof Contracts today, then excuse me while I leave to lay a wreath on Dean Langdell's grave.

Law Preview Dude warned us yesterday that Prof Contracts uses the Socratic method, and I read like mad on the train home, last night (after blogging, of course) and before class. I did the crossword on the train ride. Seemed like the right thing to do. Finished it before my stop, too.

Prof Contracts was also very entertaining. He has a very engaging way of teaching and discussing concepts. He lectured for a bit about Contracts on the whole and then used the Socratic method to discuss a case. We spent almost an hour with one case and he really held on to people for a fair amount of time. He wouldn't allow raised hands during the dialogue and that was a bit frustrating. Watching someone fumble when you know the answer is tough, but it's even tougher when you're in the hot seat.

I got into it after the break and I was so glad I was prepared. He called my case brief "very eloquent" and really gave me a chance to find the answer to the questions when I didn't know. The case I had didn't really give you everything in black and white and I had to infer about shit I knew nothing about. But he held on and I finally got where I needed to be.

The one thing I tried not to do was blather on when I didn't know. A lot of people talked around the answer and I found that frustrating. We would move a lot faster if you just said you didn't know and let him guide you. Or ask someone else. When I said I didn't know, he asked me pointed questions until I got it. At no point did I feel singled out or humiliated. I knew a lot and learned even more. He even called back to me when a point that was in my case needed raising again. He had to pull up a couple of people who apparently missed the conclusions in the case I just spent 20 minutes talking about. I think that was the only time I saw him just a little bit impatient.

He pointed out that once you're prepared, a Prof is willing to forgive a mistake or you realizing you didn't get it. It's not even reading the case is what pisses them off. He called me at lunch break and told me I did very well. I was just so pleased. After class, I stopped to shake his hand and thank him when I was leaving and he was so gracious and complimentary. I wonder if I can sneak into his class at the law school where he teaches? Must remember to look into that.

Being older than most people there has its merits. I don't feel the need to impress anyone. I've done my time with that. I'm not afraid to say "I don't know" or ask for help. Or show that I do know.

He asked people if they had any questions about the method and one guy said he felt really brilliant until he was asked a question and then he couldn't believe how unbrilliant he was. He asked how long would it take for a student to feel more comfortable with the method and to feel more secure about speaking out.

Prof Contracts said it's rare to get called more than once in a class to take part in a Socratic dialogue because classes are so big. He also made it clear that impressing the Prof by saying what you think he wants to hear or being belligerent is not the way to go. Just be yourself, he said. If you look dumb, so what? Learn from it and move on. Earlier, Law Preview Dude said the only person to impress is yourself. I agree. Although, I try to impress my husband a lot. And fail miserably. I need to get over that quick. Teachers, I've never had to try. I'm just naturally book smart!

ASIDE: A couple of people stayed back to thank him for making the experience not Kingsley. He had asked during the class why is the Hairy Hand case famous. I said it's featured in "The Paper Chase". NO ONE else in the class had seen the movie. It's a class of about 60 people and I am the only person who saw that movie. So when I say "not Kingsley", only I know what I mean. Sigh.