Stairwell conversation about office hours
You: Hey Joe, what’s an “office hour”?
Me: It’s a time when I’m in my office.
Me: Sorry. It’s time reserved for students to visit. I’m in my office. I don’t make appointments. I’m there for drop-in visits from students.
You: Yeah, but I can knock on your door whenever I want. Sometimes you’re in; sometimes, not. What’s the difference?
Me: That’s hit-and-miss. You’re taking your chances. I’m in during my office hours for sure.
Also, come on. I deserve a bit of respect. My office is a workplace, and I’ve got a lot of work to do. Random visits can be great. But they also can be disruptive to marking, reading, writing, and even eating my lunch. Office hours help me balance the many demands I have on my time and give extra time for those students who seek out that opportunity. I hate sending people away when they appear randomly at my door or when I’m in the middle of something else. After all the effort you took to get there… but my time is finite, and I need to prioritise.
You: What if I can’t make it to your office hour? Can I never visit?
Me: You’re never stuck. We alwayscan make an appointment. Lots of people make appointments. You can too. Simply ask. More deeply, when setting office hours for students, I try to guess when in the week students will most likely be free from modules. Sometimes I get it wrong. (One term, not a single student came to an office hour. My fault, as I guessed a time when everyone was in class!) If that happens, talk with me. If I can add a new time, or change something, I’m happy to do it. Remember, I want to be helpful, and we’re in this together. Don’t be shy.
You: Can I phone you, instead?
Me: Sure. give it a go. But if I’m talking face-to-face with someone, they get preference. Leave a message, and I’ll phone back.
You: Use the phone? Man, you’re an geezer. What about my apps? Can I use my apps?
Me: That’s not going to be good interaction. Use your feet and come into your university. Make use of your tutors and time specifically dedicated to you. (I previously used Skype for office hours, but I didn’t like it. It’s felt too intrusive – not a neutral space. So I offer to use it only when I’m not able to be present physically in the office.)
You: What can I use your office hour for?
Me: Try these:
|Topic||OK for Office Hour?|
|pastoral needs and assignments||Yep. Top priority.|
|module content, degree planning, academic advice||Yep.|
|careers stuff, help from a mentor||Yep.|
|you just aced something and you want to brag||Yep. I love to hear this kind of news.|
|you got some feedback and want to talk about how you might improve – any module||Yep. This is one thing we really want to be helpful with but find students rarely ask about.|
|you want to “pick your brain” or “bounce an idea” or “use you for a sounding board” – whatever metaphor you want to use for talking about an vague idea you have.||Yep.|
|-A place to sit for lunch,
-A charge point for your phone,
-A cup of tea?
-Yep, but I’m going to talk with you about stuff like careers, modules, and your coursework. Juice isn’t free.
-Maybe. If you like black tea with no milk and no sugar, you might have a chance with that.
|NetFlix choices, new dance moves, anything about dogs, music, or politics.||I’ve got nothing here. I’m simply going to tell you to read New Scientist. (You should read New Scientist, every week.)|
|You’ve read one of my articles and have a few suggestions on how I might reframe the research question to make a stronger point.||Best make an appointment. Bring biscuits.|