Skyler Simpkins ’23
Office hours never cease to exist in the consciousness of college students. At the beginning of every semester, our professors give us the elusive offer of talking to them in a more personal setting. While this is meant to promote a relationship between the professor and the student and provide a means for discussion beyond pleasantries between two people separated by occupation and prestige, office hours often represent a greater dilemma in the minds of students. Am I a teacher’s pet if I go to office hours? I never have a question to ask, so how can I go to office hours? All these thoughts continuously circle in our minds, culminating in the Shakespearean conflict: To go or not to go?
As I am now a junior, I have experienced both extremes relating to office hours. My freshman year, I went as often as I could. Last year, I did not go to a single office hour. So, which is better? Unfortunately, this conflict cannot be solved with an arithmetic equation considering free time and office hour availability. It simply depends on the professor. Some professors are incredibly approachable and can quickly become your friends when you visit them a couple of times a month, other professors seem to use office hours as a sort of intimidation: come to show that you are unprepared and cannot understand the material instead of coming to have a deep conversation about the course material. And some professors, never respond to you – and probably will never from my experience. Deciding to go to office hours is, then, a sizable dilemma requiring a constant evaluation of the professor’s attitude, willingness to have a conversation, and overall friendliness. This is, however, tough to do in a classroom setting. Some professors can seem rather intimidating in class but are the greatest conversationalists in their office and, vice versa, some professors are very laid back in front of a full classroom but quite tense in more private settings. My advice for this constant tick on the college consciousness: begin speaking to your professor after class and, if you can gauge a positive connection, attend an office hour with that professor.
After class is a time where a student can ask a quick question, but more importantly, a student can catch a glimpse of the professor in a less professional context. A student can easily sense an annoyance or happiness when approached for a one-on-one conversation, and this can give you a pretty good insight into how your long conversations would proceed during office hours. This approach is not always accurate, however, as a professor could be stressed after class and respond with a slightly negative attitude yet, during office hours, the professor could be very approachable. Regardless, this is the best option for gauging your success during office hours if you, like me, are very introverted.
Unfortunately for me and all my fellow introverts, the best way to understand if office hours are a positive addition to your relationship with the professor and understanding of the class is to attend one. If you would like to quickly put an end to the cognitive dissonance triggered by the elusiveness of office hours, simply attend a meeting. Make up a quick question clarifying something you are studying in class and maybe ask a question about the professor’s academic career, with this, you have engaged with the course material and shown an interest in your professor’s academic accomplishments. These are two big positives that should boast you in the right direction in regard to a positive relationship with your professor. And if this task results in a snarky, unappreciative response from your professor, simply stand up, thank them for listening to you, and leave. Always remember, going to office hours one time does not mean you have to go at every single opportunity. So get out there and go to a few office hours with those two questions readied in your holster, you might just build the most important relationship of your college career.