This semester, I worked part time as an ELL Writing Specialist with BC’s English department. I work with 5 non-native English speakers, undergraduate students who need extra linguistic support. Of course, at first, I was apprehensive about whether I’d be able to balance a job and the rigorous 1L courseload. However, as the semester comes to a close and I reflect on the past couple of months, I’m realizing how much I grew just by being a tutor. I’m really grateful for my job and I wanted to share some lessons I’ve learned this semester.
There’s a reason many people advised against taking a job my first semester- law school is intense. Between balancing hundreds of pages of reading with writing a memo, it can easily feel like there’s no time to do anything outside of law school. But, I learned to make time.
The way I think about it, my job takes around 5-6 hours a week. I can’t cut that time from my study schedule, so that means I have to carve that time from other activities to make up for the time spent at my job. With this mindset, I pushed myself to stop wasting time on my phone; I fought the urge to scroll through Instagram and stopped myself from watching the 100th cute dog and baby video on YouTube. In this way, from a logistical note, my job compelled me to make better use of my time, and I didn’t find that it affected my studying as much as I had been nervous that it would.
Tutoring, above all, is about relationship-building. With ELL students, we must recognize that they are putting themselves in a position of immense vulnerability learning to communicate in a language that is not their own. Thus, I always try to place myself in the shoes of my students and operate with empathy.
The legal field, too, is a people’s profession. Every couple of weeks throughout the semester, I would feel so buried in my textbooks and the cases that I forgot about the human element of law. However, every time I went to tutor, I was reminded that one day, as a lawyer, I will be helping real people solve their legal issues, and empathy will be of utmost importance then, too. Whether it be tutees or clients, kindness and compassion never hurts.
There is more to life than law school
As a 1L, it can be easy to let law school consume your entire life. It’s only natural; we’re spending so much time in the classroom and library with our law school peers that we forget we hold identities other than ‘law student.’ Tutoring helped remind me of that. I started viewing it as my “break” from law school instead of something that was interrupting my study time; this way, I valued the time I spent there more.
In fact, I’ve become good friends with the other tutors, most of whom are English Masters students, and it’s nice to have normal conversations with people that aren’t about Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Moreover, I’ve developed rapport with my students, too, and I love hearing their stories from back home. Rarely do they ask about law school—and this has honestly been so refreshing.
All in all, being an ELL Specialist was the right decision for me. It actually helped me manage my time better, all while improving my people skills and allowing me to make new friends along the way. While getting a job during 1L may not be for everyone, I’m convinced it was the right choice for me.
Roma Gujarathi is a first-year student at BC Law. She loves hearing from readers—contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.