Category Archives: November 8

Teaching law in China

Glennon and Adam with the class in Qindao, China

Last spring St. George residents Karen Adam and her husband Robert Glennon were offered the opportunity to spend three months teaching law at Ocean University in Qindao, China. It was an opportunity they embraced because at the very least they thought the assignment could be a fun—and enlightening—adventure.

“Part of why we wanted to do this was to be part of [an unfamiliar] community and figure out how to live there,” says Adam, who in November 2015 retired after 34 years as a Tucson City Court magistrate, Superior Court commissioner and Superior Court judge. “We knew no Chinese, but we rode the subway, Robert found a gym and a cleaners, we shopped in the local stores. We often were the only Westerners around.”

The chance to go to China arose because the University of Arizona’s Roger’s College of Law, where Glennon is a professor, has in recent years been moving toward being more international and global in its orientation. “We’ve always had an international law curriculum,” Glennon explains, “but now we are bringing international students into our JD program here in the U.S. and we are pursuing joint programs with universities in other countries.”

The University of Arizona’s partnership with Ocean University is one such new joint program. The way it works is that for four years Ocean’s undergraduate law students study both Chinese and American law, earning both an undergraduate degree from Ocean University and an undergraduate degree from the University of Arizona.

“The first two years the students are studying English, studying some Chinese law and taking some basic introductory classes in common law subjects and legal writing,” Glennon says. “They’ve had instructors during those years, but we were the first real American law school professor and the first real American judge to be there in person to teach. We were there from the end of April to the end of July, teaching 63 undergraduate juniors. Karen taught procedure and I taught public law.”

The reason for creating this kind of joint program, Glennon says, is the increasingly global nature of legal practice. “China and the U.S. are the two biggest economies in the world and there’s an awareness in China that even if the students don’t ever practice law—and most Chinese law students don’t end up practicing law—they feel that knowing how the legal system works in the U.S. can help them in whatever they do. Mostly they are interested in intellectual property, business, trade.”

For Glennon, teaching public law meant he could use the curriculum he has developed for his constitutional law classes at the University of Arizona (these days, however, his primary focus is water law, a specialty he’s been developing since 1988).

For Adam, the preparation for teaching American procedures, which is basically about due process—a citizen’s right to fair treatment under the law—was more involved.

“I’ve never been a law school professor, so it was lucky that I had access to the curriculum used by the law professor who is teaching the procedure class for Arizona’s new undergraduate major in law. So I had a PowerPoint presentation and I had the cases, but I still had to learn the material. I hadn’t thought about any of those cases since law school, which was 42 years ago. And I’d been busy since then being a judge. It was incredibly hard work—Robert is delighted that I figured that out, that being a law professor is hard! He thought I thought it was easy,” Adam says with a laugh. “So I spent last winter working on it, reading all the cases, reading interpretations of the cases and getting prepared to teach these students.”

But much of that preparation went by the wayside after the couple’s first class with the students, a four-hour session that Glennon and Adam taught together.

“Even though these students had been studying English at the college level for two years and some had very good English, others did not,” Adam says. “And we realized that the way they learn is very different. It is based on code, which is Chinese civil law, and in which there are clear answers to every question. In the U.S. we have a constitution and a judge rules on a case in light of that and interprets it and then other people disagree with the interpretation and it’s all about that, about the analysis of what a case says and how it applies.”

In addition, Adam points out, in China the students never talk in class. “There’s no give and take. A Chinese professor comes to class, stands at the podium and delivers information. And then the students regurgitate it on a multiple-choice final exam. That’s how it is done.”

So taking these factors into consideration, Glennon and Adam made some decisions during that first class. In many ways it was Adam’s judicial experience with self-represented and non-native English-speaking litigants that suggested the direction those decisions took.

First, Adam says, she knew that reducing stress in the courtroom, particularly when litigants are unfamiliar with the law and/or unconfident about their English, led to a better performance for all involved. So to reduce stress for their Chinese students who were not used to answering questions in class, let alone in uncertain English, she and Glennon told the students that neither of them would call on the students during class. “We said that if they wanted to volunteer that would be fine and if not, that would also be fine.” With a wry smile she adds, “And it turned out, of course, nobody would volunteer, so that meant we had to be prepared to lecture for two solid hours each time we went to class since we couldn’t count on a lot of engagement as we might in the U.S.”

Second, because when Adam was on the bench she had found it very important to get everyone’s names right, to be respectful as a matter of fairness, she and Glennon told the students they would call them by whatever name they wrote down on the seating chart. “Ninety percent of them wrote down their Chinese names, not the English names they had been assigned in English class to make it easier for Western teachers like us,” Adam says. Pronouncing those names was not easy, however, since in Mandarin there are four different ways to pronounce every word. So Adam made phonetic notes below each name as an aid, hoping this would give herself and Glennon a chance of getting the names right.

Finally, for her procedure class, which required that Adam be able to assess each student’s ability “to research a legal issue, employ legal reasoning and then argue a position effectively”—in a climate where students were not engaged in dialogue with the professor—she staged a moot court exercise for which they could prepare in advance and work with a teammate. This also gave her the chance to call each student by name (as best she could) at least once during the term.

Not surprisingly, both Glennon and Adam say that over the course of their time at Ocean University there were many situations which highlighted for them that they were teaching American law to students who live in a country with a completely different legal framework. In an essay Adam wrote after coming home she gives this anecdote by way of illustration: “One of the sharpest students in class … challenged her grade on the midterm. She got an A but was upset that her answer to a multiple-choice question about the balancing of private vs. government interests was wrong. ‘I’m Chinese,’ she said, ‘the government’s interest is always more important.’ I respectfully reminded her that this was a class in American legal procedure and that, though she might think us silly, her answer was still wrong.”

Reflecting on this aspect of their experience Glennon adds, “We were in an awkward position because it is a communist country. The rulers exercise total power. Yet at the same time it is a full-blown capitalist country with people making tons of money—it was not unusual to see cars that cost six figures parked on the street. But it’s an oppressive place. Everything is censored. There are cameras everywhere, including in our classroom. There’s no accountability, no transparency. So by the end of three months we were ready to leave.”

That said, Adam also is clear that her Chinese experience “was one of the best things I’ve done in my life. Yes, the government is oppressive, but the people everywhere were so amazing to us. We considered ourselves so lucky to be living there for three months and not to be blowing through. And our students—we just loved our students!” —JW

(The article Karen Adam wrote about her experience at Ocean University, “Teaching Law in China: What works in the courtroom works in the classroom,” can be found at the website of the National Judicial College, judges.org­­

‘LBJs’ on the side of the road

Nature bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen

White-throated Sparrow

Animal migration is a wonderful phenomenon to observe. Be it lobsters, monarchs, or in the case of this column—birds—watching the comings and goings of animals can bring a lifetime of lessons about the earth’s tilt, weather patterns and survival in general. Connections between water depths, different countries and even hemispheres can be made, and after a while the earth starts to feel a little smaller. Power of migration.

At times, bird migration can be subtle and tricky to see. The hundreds (or even thousands) of Saw-whet Owls that pass through mid-coast Maine each fall (passing through as I type) may go largely unnoticed by humans except for the random, stressed owl(s) that remains active during daylight hours. Observing fall songbird migration can be tricky as well, as male songbirds aren’t singing as they do in spring. Instead, some songbirds get shy and stick to the shrubs and thickets, or go high in trees during migration–meaning the average nature observer has to use patience and maybe even a little work to get a good view.

Dark-eyed Junco

For every tricky migration observation, however, there is an example of a more readily accessible migration observation. Such is the case with species each fall that use the not-so-subtle bird habitat and migration corridors that line the sides of our roads. These birds feast on seeds and insects while following safety-in-numbers survival strategies. Within a group word of incoming threats spread quickly in the form of “alarm calls” and groups will erupt in flashes of browns and whites at the drop of such a call. These groups of birds can be impressive in number and, depending on weather conditions, may show up where a single bird had not been seen the day before.

Some drivers of St. George’s roads have been referring to the roadside birds as “Kamikaze birds,” as they seem to play with death while darting in front of cars, buses, and bikes. Others describe such roadside birds as “Little Brown Jobs” or “LBJs.”

White-crowned Sparrow

The vast majority of LBJs along Watts Avenue I saw recently were Dark-eyed Juncos (easy to identify in flight as their outer tail feathers–both left and right sides–are white in contrast to the dark central tail feathers) and White-throated Sparrows. Both are members of the Emberizidae and both species breed in the midcoast. The large numbers of roadside individuals, however, tells a story of birds from further north stopping at our “roadside diners” before heading to their wintering grounds in the south.

White-crowned Sparrows also made up a healthy part of the LBJ groups I saw in St. George. This species breeds up north, Hudson Bay, Labrador and above. But, for a few weeks each fall we get to see this species as individuals pass through on their way to wintering grounds in the southern half of the U.S. Along the coast most White-crowneds seen in migration are first-year birds (hatched just a few months ago) and “white-crowned” can seem like a misnomer for them as their crowns are red-and-cream colored. Song, Chipping, Swamp, and Savannah sparrows rounded out the sparrows I crossed within the LBJ groups.

Hermit Thrush

Two larger bird species that I also saw in this year’s roadside groups were Northern Flicker and Hermit Thrushes. Flickers–state bird of Alabama!–are a woodpecker that spends a lot of time on the ground eating ants. When they take to flight, the white rump patch at the base of their tail (dorsal side) is easily seen and makes identification just as easy. Hermit thrushes–state bird of Vermont–have been extremely tame this fall, especially those with the roadside groups, and approaching close for great views has been the norm! That is never the norm at all!

All in all, I picked out nine species of birds in the St. George roadside LBJ groups and there were undoubtedly other species that passed through. It was hard not to note the sheer numbers of LBJs. They showed up almost magically overnight and seem to have disappeared as quickly as they appeared. The power of migration–a quick show along a roadside near you! See you out there!

PHOTOS: Kirk Gentalen

High School Choice: An important part of the 8th grade year

8th grade students at the St. George School browsing high school handbooks and brochures

This year’s 8th graders are currently going through the High School Choice process as it is their last year at St. George School. This month we are taking tours and getting presentations about the main schools we have to choose from: Oceanside High School, Camden Hills Regional High School, Watershed High School, Lincoln Academy High School, and Medomak Valley High School. The choice process is an important part of the 8th grade year because the school we choose is the school we will be attending next year. It may be stressful for some of us, but St. George students are fortunate to have this choice of schools. The High School Choice process helps each of us pick the right high school best suited to our way of learning.

The High School Choice process begins in September, starting with High School Choice Night. This is when representatives from each of the main high schools as well as Midcoast School of Technology (MCST) sets up a small table with handouts, brochures, and schedules. The representatives each give a brief presentation about their school and what it offers, including different programs or clubs they have and graduation requirements. After the schools have presented, students and their families are free to walk around to the different tables and ask questions or take handouts that the high school representatives provide. This year, in addition to the regular schools, we also had presentations from North Haven Community School and the Maine Ocean School in Searsport.

The next step in the process is when 8th graders tour each high school in October. This is helpful because students can get a feel for each school and can even see classes or activities they are interested in. So far, our 8th grade class has visited four of the five schools. Each tour has been excellent; many of us have had a great time exploring the schools’ music programs, their theaters, and their visual arts. Others enjoy checking out the hands-on programs, international options, sports programs, and electives.

The third step of the High School Choice process is the potluck for families of students who have gone to St. George in the past. At the potluck supper, students and their families can chat with high schoolers to get an idea of how they like the school they are attending and answer questions we might have about their schools.

After the potluck, students have a chance to shadow a student at the high school that they are considering. For some students, it may be two schools. Eighth graders get to spend about one school day at that high school shadowing a student who has the same interests and a similar schedule as theirs. By shadowing a high school student, St. George students can get a good feel for the school they are considering.

The final step of High School Choice is when you have made up your mind about what high school is the best fit for you. To complete this step by January 31st, you must fill out a form stating what high school you will be attending the following year.

In the spring, the counselors from the high schools help get us registered for courses, and we each attend orientations at our school of choice to help ease the transition and meet other students. No matter where we go to high school, we will always know that we can come back to St. George School for advice and support or to give back to our community.
—Adeline McPhail, Grade 8

Upcoming ceremonies to honor veterans

A Veterans Day ceremony is to be held at the St. George School on November 9th at 9am. Members of St. George American Legion Post 34 will be in attendance and will be honored by the students. The message given to the students is the importance of service to our country.

In conjunction with “Wreaths Across America” on December 15th, Legion members will also lay a wreath for each branch of service in a noon ceremony at the First Baptist Church in Wiley’s Corner. The noon service will occur at the same time as the wreath-laying service at Arlington National Cemetery and across the country. The local Girl Scouts will also participate with the American Legion. — Dave Percival

Share the warmth!

This year the St. George Community Development Corporation (CDC) will be accepting donated coats in all sizes for distribution in the community through Thanksgiving. Residents are welcome to bring donations to the CDC office located at 47 Main Street in Tenants Harbor during office hours: Mon.-Tues. 9-2, Wed. 9-12, and Thurs. 2-7. Please donate items that are either new or have been laundered and are in good condition.

Those residents or families that would like to pick out a coat (or coats), please come to the St. George Community Cupboard, the food pantry located at 47 Main Street, during open cupboard hours on Thursdays from 2 to 7.