Please Don’t Forget What You Came For

Here I sit, in my favorite class of this quarter, thinking about the things that keep me showing up and participating – since it’s clearly not the whopping 5% of my grade governed by participation.

Another classmate told me that he wasn’t planning on attending many sessions because “at 5% participation, it isn’t a priority.”

Why do we participate in class?

Are your classes, fellow law students, mostly comprised of glassy eyes glued to your computer screens and multiple gchat conversations?  Or do you participate?

I’m not a gunner.  I never have been – I’ll come right out and say I don’t generally get A’s, I’m not on law review, and I don’t do moot court.  Yep, I am, on paper, a mediocre law student.

However.  In my classes my hand is almost always up.  Even if I didn’t do the reading – I’m always asking questions or picking fights or getting involved.  (Except for right now, when I’m writing a blog post.)

So why do I do it?  Why put myself on the line and risk making a fool of myself, around professors who probably won’t remember me anyway?

I think I know the answer today.

Maybe I have this perspective because I came to law school with a Masters degree behind me (Wm! can add the perspective of someone who went directly BA–> JD) – but for the most part I’m not here for the grades or the prestige or the firm job or whatever.  I worked really hard in graduate school to discover my own interests and build a foundation of knowledge because I wanted the knowledge, not because it was  a step towards some other place.  Maybe that’s why I couldn’t find a job afterwards, but the perspective I got from two years of doing that was that I’m confident I’ll find a path, and the things I’m doing now are for me more than anything else.

My philosophy ties in with this post by Jon Katz//Underdog, which is cool, because he’s someone I’ve considered an intellectual mentor for a long time (I’ve been a follower of his blog for, like, ever).  Fear not – be here now.

I’m here for myself.  I was so excited before 1L year because I actually wanted to know all of the things I was preparing to learn.  I was genuinely interested.

So to bring it around, the reason I participate is because:
A) I follow Mr. Katz’s advice and I just take the leap and the risk and add my voice to the argument – I don’t fear the retort, because the future isn’t real.  I am here, now.
B) I’m not doing it for the participation points.  At 26 years old, when I’m paying for the education, the dynamic must change.  No longer am I an ignorant pupil with a blank slate on which my professors will write — I am an equal, a colleague, participating in the discussion, and it is really truly, as cliche as it sounds, no on else’s loss but mine if I stay silent, stay unprepared, slide by.

To me, class participation means reaching my goal of success in law school – gaining knowledge and gaining understanding; not the standard ‘getting good grades’ model of success.  Anecdotal evidence suggests that my method seems to be more effective.