Minor Debacles and Free Pizza

Mistakes are hard to write about.  But, I learned something the hard way this week, so I thought I’d share.

Remember that undergrad seminar I’m teaching on ‘Social Networking and the Law’?  Up until this Wednesday, everything had been running smoothly; folks were showing up (small victories!), class discussions were lively, and I suspected that there was some learnin’ afoot.

My coinstructor, Jared, and I decided that it was an important part of the law school experience to see the inside of a courtroom.  Because of time constraints and our evening time slot, going downtown wasn’t an option.  Thankfully, UB has a courtroom on site, and adjuncts teach ‘Trial Technique’ in the court.   So, I set up an observation for this week’s class, created some follow-up questions for next week’s class, and thought to myself: My work here is done.  Silly Theo.

As requested, our students arrived early at the courtroom, so we wouldn’t disrupt the adjunct’s class.  But, much to our chagrin, an innocuous print -out was taped to the courtroom door: “This class has been moved to the fifth floor.”  Okay, so the courtroom’s out.  Maybe we can still observe…?  Leaving Jared with the students, I ran upstairs, and scoped out the teeny room the class had been moved to…eight chairs total.  No dice.  There was some scrambling as the adjunct, administrators, and I tried to find an alternative room, but all were taken up by the first-years’ oral arguments.   I shook the adjunct’s hand, apologized for delaying his class, and thanked him.  Les sigh.

As I trotted down five flights, I tried to think of solutions; the thought of missing out on a class period drove me nuts!  And I was kicking myself for not having a back-up class waiting in the wings!

Thankfully, Jared is much quicker on his feet, and discovered that a guest speaker was giving a talk on corporate law, and that there was free pizza to boot.  Our students got exposed to a few law school experiences (just not the one’s we’d planned on), so it wasn’t a total wash.  The speaker asked them questions, they asked her questions, and she spoke to them as ‘people in the know.’  However, they missed out on the courtroom and on hearing live legal arguments.

A minor debacle.  Not the end of the world, but definitely not putting my best foot forward when it comes to teaching.  Lesson learned: always have a back-up session waiting in the wings, and be prepared to teach it!

Anyone else want to share some mistakes or missteps?

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2 Responses to Minor Debacles and Free Pizza

  1. Ben Keele says:

    Teaching my first classes this semester has taught me two basic things about demonstrating database searches in class. First, plan a few searches that you know will have decent results. A couple times I’ve tried to make up searches on the fly and discovered that they either produce a massive list of cases or are two narrow and only give a couple. Second, be sure you can spell all the terms you are searching for. Westlaw and Lexis are not as forgiving as Google for misspelled words.

    • Theo Belniak says:

      Thanks for your comment, Ben. Decent results are crucial! I discovered that the more planning I could do with database instruction, the better. Something always seems to go a bit wonky anyway, so I will often develop a theme for the day’s instruction…”Today, we’re going to look at DWI crossover cases in New York, so all of the resources we use will be using that as starting search terms.”

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