Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Reflections from a First Year Adjunct

Well, I survived. I made it through my first year of teaching employment law (LER201 - The Employment Relationship: Law and Policy) at Penn State. I figured I'd jot down some thoughts.

It's harder than I thought. More accurately: it's more work than I thought it would be. Have you ever had to give a 75-minute presentation? For my attorney-readers, have you ever delivered a 75-minute substantive CLE? Now, have you ever presented 27 in 15 weeks? It takes a lot of work. Even the second semester, after I had already prepared most of my materials in the fall, it took a lot of time and energy to fine-tune Power Point slides, re-read the assignments, and brush up on the topic.

The students are better students than I expected. I graduated from high school in 1994 - the term "slacker" was slapped on Generation X, and to some extent we delivered on that expectation in the classroom (somehow, I think we turned out just fine anyway, and definitely not slackers in the workforce). Millenials face similar criticism - they're "entitled" and don't think they actually have to work for anything. I'm happy to report that I see no evidence to support such generalizations.

Overall, they attended class, prepared for class, participated in class, and generally understood the material far better than I anticipated. Okay, not every single one - but generally.

I learned a lot too. The course covered "employment law," which includes a lot of topics. I have personal experience in most of the general areas, but not all of them. For example, workers' compensation. I just don't do any WC work (occasionally I'll chip in on a case to help an attorney at our firm). But I learned a lot about WC from having to teach it. I also discovered new points of law in the areas I already knew pretty well. And, it always helps to review.

Not to toot my own horn, but I feel comfortable with my knowledge of employment law, and my ability to answer questions on this topic. The students still manage to ask questions I can't answer though! Their inquisitive nature is another part of their collective personality that I greatly admire.

I had a lot more time than I thought. Since law school, I have always felt very busy working as an associate at a law firm. Then I added this blog. Then I added a child. Then I became president of State College Sunrise Rotary. Then I started teaching this 3-credit course at Penn State. Somehow, I always found more room. Obviously, at some point along the way, I was not quite as busy as I thought.

Now that my course is over (until next fall), I have this nervous feeling that I'm supposed to be doing something... surely there's a chapter of the textbook I need to read, or a homework assignment to grade, or some email from a student with some issue to address. I guess this feeling is called "free time." I loved teaching these past two semesters, but I'm looking forward to enjoying a little more free time too.