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Street Law, Inc.

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Street Law /

Preparing Law School Students

#1 Understand the roles and responsibilities of everyone involved in the program

Program Coordinator

The program coordinator—law school faculty or student group leader—organizes all program activities. This includes the following tasks:

  • Develop and execute an implementation plan for the program
  • Identify, coordinate, and prepare teaching sites
  • Recruit and prepare the law students to teach
  • Develop and maintain relationships with the law school and larger community
  • Visit sites and observe, evaluate, and provide feedback to participating law students
  • Communicate with the site(s) throughout the program to ensure quality
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of the program
  • Develop program improvements based on evaluation and feedback

Law Students

The law student’s role is to prepare to teach and help all student learn in a respectful and safe environment.

Law students should:

  • Be enthusiastic!
  • Use a variety of participatory techniques
  • Seek out and/or develop compelling and appropriate teaching materials
  • Create an informal but respectful atmosphere
  • Speak honestly with their students
  • Provide positive feedback
  • Use vocabulary that is appropriate (Think about this in advance!)
  • Set professional boundaries; it is not their job to be the students’ friend or provide legal advice.
  • Rebuff any approaches for social contact outside of school
  • Be careful not to be alone with a student
  • Review their own presence on social media to ensure that nothing inappropriate is seen by their high school students
  • Keep up with local news and be familiar with current events

On-site Teacher/Site Coordinator

This is the primary point of contact at the site.  This person works directly with the program coordinator and the site’s assigned law students. This person's responsibilities will vary depending on the established relationship.

 
< Running a Program
#2 Master interactive methods and select/create teaching materials

Prior to teaching, law students must make a commitment to use teaching methods and content that are engaging and student-centered. Law students also shouldn’t underestimate the time it takes to master the teaching methods and materials that are essential to a successful Street Law program.

Methods/Teaching Strategies

The most important part of teaching is how the content is taught—even more than the content itself! When law students learn how to use teaching methods, it ensures that the material is conveyed to their students effectively. Law students should be encouraged to practice, practice, practice! Like all skills, teaching skills are developed over time and through experience.

Interactive teaching methods are a standard ingredient in all Street Law programs. Here are detailed instructions for commonly used methods:

We recommend that program coordinators demonstrate these methods to the law students prior to using them at the teaching sites. 

Selecting Content/Materials to Teach

Law school programs approach the selection of materials in a variety of ways. Some require participating law students to develop their own teaching materials; others require law students to teach from the Street Law text; and some provide a prescribed set of lesson plans to be used.

Most credit-bearing programs require law students to develop their own lessons. It is crucial that these lessons be reviewed, preferably by the program coordinator, to ensure they are content-appropriate and use interactive, student-centered methods. Some programs require law students to prepare model lesson plans, which are then made available to future law students participating in the program.

When selecting lessons, ask the following questions:

  1. How will this topic fit into the syllabus of the class?
  2. Is this topic relevant to the young people I’m teaching?
  3. Are the methods I’m using engaging and student-centered?

It is strongly recommended that law students work with the on-site teacher to map out the semester and develop a plan that works well with and supports the teaching site’s goals and needs. 

Explore the Lessons tab to access information about developing high-quality lesson plans and Street Law-developed and recommend lesson plans, teaching activities, and resources

 

< RUNNING A PROGRAM

#3 Practice and develop essential teaching skills

Classroom Management

Law students need to learn how to organize their high school students into small groups, get their attention, set expectations, and handle disruptive behavior.

The best classroom management strategy is a well-organized lesson plan. If the lesson topic is compelling, student-centered, and interactive, classroom management challenges will be minimal.

The on-site teacher—who should always be in the classroom when law students are teaching—will be available to assist with classroom management, if necessary.

The on-site teacher, faculty member from the university’s school of education, or the school district's social studies instructional leader may be willing to help provide law students with an orientation on classroom management.

Peer Teaching and Feedback

Peer teaching—a law student teaching a lesson to other law students—is commonly used by Street Law programs. It allows law students to practice teaching in a friendly environment and receive feedback before teaching a lesson at their sites.

  • For the lesson demonstration, law students should select a specific method and topic to present to other law students. Typically, law students will present a 20 minute lesson—5 minutes for a review of the law and 15 minutes for the interactive technique.
  • After presenting their lesson, the law student or team should speak to the group about how effective they think their lesson was. The audience should provide a constructive critique of the lesson, commenting on how to improve the lesson and highlighting the positive aspects of the lesson.
  • The program coordinator should critique the teaching—he/she should ensure the law was correctly presented and the teaching method was effectively employed.

Each site will be composed of a variety of personalities—and law students need a basic understanding of how to best respond to their demands.  Margaret Fisher of Seattle University School of Law has developed an activity that assigns roles for law students to play during a peer teaching session. In addition to critiquing the practice teaching, each law student reads aloud their role and advice is given on how to respond to that type of personality or issue at the site.

For pro bono and student group model programs, which may not have a weekly meeting or seminar, consider a brown bag seminar. These lunchtime meetings will fit into law students’ schedules and provide a valuable opportunity for discussing the program, practicing teaching skills, and brainstorming program enhancements and solutions

 
< Running a Program
#4 Divide Into Teams 

Most Street Law programs divide law students into teams to maximize the strengths of each law student, to bring different perspectives to the table, and to spread the workload among the group.

Team teaching also allows law students to gain important professional development skills, including working together for a common goal, negotiating problems, and incorporating different viewpoints.

Although law students might want to work with friends, students will benefit from learning to work with someone who has different interests and perspectives.

Street Law Ice-Breaker

This simple introductory activity requires law students to speak in front of the group. It gives the program coordinator a sense of who is comfortable with public speaking and who is shy or less confident. The exercise can provide program coordinators with helpful information when assigning law student teaching teams.

  1. Put several interview questions on the board:   
    • Name
    • Describe any prior teaching or tutoring experience
    • Why are you interested in Street Law?
    • What are your concerns about teaching?
    • What are your interests outside of law school?
  2. Pair each law student with a fellow student that they don’t know well and have them spend five minutes interviewing each other. 
  3. Each law student should introduce their partner to the rest of the group.
 
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#5 Prepare for their teaching site
  1. Law students should communicate with the on-site teacher/site coordinator to achieve the following:
    • Share a final teaching plan with the on-site teacher/site coordinator and confirm that it fits well with their curriculum (Note: the law students should have included the on-site teacher in the planning process; this step is intended to be a final review of their teaching plan).
    • Confirm the site location and resources/technology available in the classroom.
    • Inquire about how they should be addressed by their students and what is considered appropriate attire for the job.
    • Remind the teacher that he/she must be present in the classroom while the law students are teaching.
  2. Law students should learn the rules and policies of the school. If the program is set at a juvenile or adult correctional institution, a staff member should orient law students to the facility to explore the additional security and privacy issues involved in working in an institution.
  3. If the law students include technology in their lesson, they should practice using it before the students arrive.
  4. It is helpful to involve the high school students and teachers in an orientation session with the law students if possible. Some Street Law programs require law students to sit in on a class taught by the on-site teacher prior to teaching.
 
< Running a Program
#6 Work effectively with the on-site teacher/site coordinator

The best Street Law programs have strong ties between their law students and the teachers/site contacts.

Together, the law students and the on-site teacher should create a teaching plan for the semester/year, paying special attention to how the law students’ materials will be integrated into the teacher’s course syllabus.

The on-site teacher/site coordinator should aid the law students by

  • Modeling good teaching strategies
  • Sharing his or her expertise in teaching methodologies and classroom management
  • Enforcing necessary discipline
  • Providing the law student instructors with feedback and suggestions for improvement
  • Orientating the law student to site policies and resources

It is recommended that the program coordinator invite on-site teachers/site coordinators to attend an orientation prior to the start of the program.

Margaret Fisher of Seattle University School of Law uses the following documents to help law students and on-site teacher communicate expectations: 

 
< Running a Program

 
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