A brag on my students

Restorative Justice class at an ancient mosque

They are in back-to-back class sessions (except for their lunch hour) from 9:30 am until either 4:30 or 5:30 pm (schedules vary only a bit) Monday through Saturday. Then they come to the Restorative Justice Certificate Course from 5:30 to 7:00 pm, Monday through Friday. Daily classes generally have daily homework assignments; I assign preparatory reading for each of my class sessions. Most students have major projects they are working on for one or more of their courses and many participate in extracurriculars such as the Legal Aid Clinic, Mediation Competition, Moot Court or writing scholarly articles for the University’s Law Review. Somehow they find time to shoot some hoops, play some volleyball and have a bit of social life. It is a 100% residential school and the students are not allowed to have any employment. Some students come from families that can pay their way. Some come from poor rural villages and have government scholarships for tuition, room and board, books and other expenses. Students from middle class homes get enough scholarship money to cover all of the above, less their parents’ ability to pay. (There are no crushing student loan debts because there are no student loans.) During the two-month summer vacation students are required to take full-time internships with courts, law firms, corporations, non-profits such as the mediation center, etc. These internships are very important but far from being a vacation.

The Restorative Justice Certificate course is non-credit (the University is applying to its governing body for credit for the next Restorative Justice course, next academic year.) Considering all of the above, it seems like a miracle that I have any students at all. The course is open to 3rd year, 4th year, 5th year and Master’s students. 48 came on the first day of class. During the first week almost half of them came to their senses after hearing what the Restorative Justice course would require of them, realizing that they could not handle this course in addition to everything else. Since then, the class has consisted of 26 students. During the first two weeks, a number of second year students approached me asking me to make an exception and admit them to the course. I could not/would not admit them, but I invited them to attend my extracurricular evening discussion groups and Restorative Justice video nights. They came.

The class has been a wild ride for the students and for me. Accustomed to lectures followed by questions from the professor, my highly interactive teaching style and use of experiential learning whenever possible has made for a course unlike any they have had before. Fairly early in the course, it came to my attention that this course was “the big buzz” of the campus. Throughout the course I’ve been approached by students I don’t know, introducing themselves and asking questions – sometimes about Restorative Justice, sometimes about me. The only light-skinned person here, I’m not difficult to recognize.

Part of the wild ride for me is that I have been creating the course from scratch and on the fly. My three-months-in-advance textbook order could not be fulfilled by the cumbersome government bureaucracy in time for the course. Welcome to India—efficiency is not one of its attributes. My 18/7 work schedule came to the attention of my students about two weeks into the course when they asked why they never saw me out and about on campus. I answered honestly. After I admitted that I had done no sightseeing at all (which they considered completely unacceptable) 14 of my students commandeered the Law University bus and took me out for a day of seeing Lucknow – their India. Since then, they regularly take me out for some cultural experience or just for a meal – also a cultural experience, of course. This Friday night, the students and I will be having dinner at the home of one of them – at the invitation of his father, who is the second to the Governor of this State.

As the course winds down, there is much discussion among the students about how they can carry Restorative Justice forward. Three students collaborated to propose a student organization (open to all students) to continue to learn about Restorative Justice and to develop ways to introduce Restorative Justice into the community and into the criminal justice system. (Lucknow is the capitol of the State and the Law University is well-connected with the gate-keepers to “the system.”) The students’ proposal was accepted and I will be the student organization’s “long-distance unofficial advisor.” One of my Master’s students will write his dissertation on Restorative Justice; I will have a similar relationship with him. And the beat goes on… I couldn’t be more delighted.

Student in the pic - a creative photo editor


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