FRANSEN: In office hours, deeper conversations are key
March 6, 2014
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My first experience with office hours was a disaster. I got lost trying to find the offices on the fourth floor of Lalumiere, making me late for my scheduled meeting and turning me into a flustered mess as I tried to ask questions about an upcoming exam.
As a freshman, I got scared off for a while, but I eventually got through all the mix-ups. Now when I go to meet with instructors during office hours, it’s a lot easier and more beneficial.
I’ve come to realize that meeting with professors to discuss class assignments, finals or just life in general helps me to answer burning questions while maintaining meaningful conversations with professors. Instructors are required to offer office hours, and they want you to use them. Every time I attend office hours, 30 minutes seems like 10 minutes because of how welcome the professor made me feel.
Office hours are meant for speaking candidly with professors who may only know students based on their distinct sneezes or the seats they sit in during class. Connecting with instructors outside the classroom makes them aware of you as a person, not just a presence. It also lets them know you are interested in your academic success.
While it is helpful to talk to professors about class, I think I get the most out of the conversations I have that are unrelated to coursework. I’ve discussed racial problems within the world of academia, and in one particularly interesting exchange with two history professors, we discussed a news story about a Packers fan being tasered in the buttocks three times after losing a bet with her husband, a Bears fan.
These conversations made me more comfortable with professors, to the point where I started to see them less as dominant authority figures and more as academic mentors. I have some professors I no longer have classes with who I will still chat with about my plans after graduation or other coursework.
I think it is important for students to speak with professors – after all, they do most of the talking during the week. Meeting outside the general classroom setting allows students to benefit from open dialogue, as well as information about their status in the class.
There is only so much that D2L and CheckMarq can tell you about your grade. Meeting with instructors gives you a better impression of your progress in the course. Some professors don’t even post grades online except after midterms and finals, so speaking with them face-to-face may be the only way to find out your grade.
Professors may hold doctorates and other prestigious awards, but they are much more than just an information resource in class. Office hours set the stage for student-faculty dialogue, which makes everyone more interconnected.
The student-teacher relationship stands to benefit greatly from the use of office hours, and students should take the initiative to start the discourse with those who are successful within their fields and eager to interact with students. It’s worth getting over that first awkward experience – trust me on that.