Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Novosibirsk November 18

Novosibirsk November 18, 2008

A special request has been made to photograph the pencil-size holes in the ice and snow made by the stiletto heels. You don’t believe me, Diane? (Get well soon). (It's not letting me put those photos on the blog. I'll have to try tomorrow).

It is 1:44 pm and I am just putting a few things down before going to class. I am meeting a student early to show her the web site regarding law schools in the US and their entrance requirements. I’m looking forward to today’s class because: 1) we haven’t had class in 4 days and 2) today we get to talk about how they are going to do the trial. It will be interesting to see how many students want to be lawyers. I need ten. I also intend to tell them that I will be video recording their efforts, for those who want it. I can bring the discs back with me and make copies to send to Almira, who can hopefully provide them to the students.

Two brief notes. I am becoming more comfortable ordering my cappuccinos at the café. Big deal. Everyone understands “cappuccino”, but do they understand “another?” Yes, if I go to the Russian-English dictionary and show the word to the server. I guess that doesn’t really qualify as un-aided ordering at the café. I’m still lost.

Second, the internet connection is strange. I paid good money yesterday to ensure that I would be able to have a connection from the flat. It worked fine last night and this morning. But I just turned it on and got a “page load error” message. That usually means there is no connection. I then tried a different site, and it connected. I’m supposed to connect through NSUNet, and when I tried, it said what it had said over the weekend: “cannot connect to server”, which means I’m over my limit. I’m trying to connect now, and it’s slow. But it connected.

8:02 pm

Today was a marvelous day. The weather was beautiful, and the washing machine worked. I now have enough clean laundry to get me home.

But the day was really made wonderful by two facts. First, we had a really good class. There were three segments: conclusion of our discussion of the stages of a criminal trial; legal education and the practice of law, including the Oath of Attorney new Florida Bar members must swear to, and legal advertising; and finally, the nuts and bolts of the factual pattern I gave them, as well as the jury instructions. I’ve been advised by some of my colleagues that students don’t prepare. These students have: they have read the case and the law. They asked very good questions about trial strategy, including some I hadn’t thought of. For instance, one of the students commented that a defendant’s testimony would be self-serving, and wouldn’t it be better if the defense presented other witnesses to corroborate the defendant’s testimony? Another asked if it was good strategy to ignore facts that are unfavorable for your side, or address them and try to explain them. This was high-level thinking for this age group, but you know what? I am constantly impressed with how smart these foreign (to me) students are. It is what keeps me returning to the CILS program, even though logistically it is difficult. I have great faith in the ability of young people to think, and when I see the results, as I did today, it is gratifying. If I could only be a law professor . . .

I asked them what facts were good for the prosecution and which were good for the defense. By answering those questions, they showed me they had read AND understood the material. We did a modified limited Socratic session, and it was evident that these students have excellent logical thinking abilities. Some of them want to go to law school in the US. Prior to class, I met with two students who have that interest, and showed them how to access information regarding the law schools in the US, and entry requirements and costs. There is a web site (www.lsac.org) that gives the probability of admission based solely on LSAT scores, and GPA’s. When we talked about GPA’s (there is something equivalent here), one of the students said: “But that is something that can’t be changed now.” I encouraged her to select five to ten schools that her scores and GPA were on a par with the most recent entering class, and a couple of reach schools. There have to be quality law schools that would LOVE to have Russian students. That’s what this whole big CILS concept is about, to me: communication leads to understanding leads to cooperation. We ought to encourage law schools to accept students from Russia, Lithuania, Ukraine and all other Eastern European and former Soviet republics.

The second great thing about today was that THE PACKAGE ARRIVED. It only took 4 weeks to get here, but Almira went to the post office today and brought it class. I had felt bad that I might not be here to give the t-shirts and calendars to the students (we actually gained 4 students from last week). But when I opened up the box and started passing the national parks and American coastline calendars out, they were very excited. And then when I pulled out the t-shirts, they went nuts. There were all different kinds, from USA flags, to Florida beaches, to Florida palm trees, and a couple of t-shirts promoting the Leopard operating system from Apple. The Apple t-shirts have a big X on the front. When I pulled those out, two people said “X Files!”. I loved it. They knew one of my all-time favorite TV shows. They weren’t at all disappointed when they saw they were Leopard t-shirts.

The reaction of these students to something so simple and inexpensive to provide was worth the whole experience. They are so grateful for our time, for our willingness to share our knowledge, and for anything from our native country. And I for one am grateful that they are the future of their country.


Luc said...

Sounds like a great group of students. I loved the 'X Files' response, as it's one of my old fav's too. :)

Adam said...

I'm glad that The X-Files continues to entertain... Let's hope they didn't hear about the second movie.