Why you should go to office hours

PSA from a student and Calculus Assistant

I recently became a Calculus Assistant, and two of the largest portions of my job are to hold office hours and to grade homework.  I have yet to have a person show up to my office hours.  For me, this is fine.  I have my own homework to do and The Captain’s Log articles to write.  However, if no one is showing up to office hours, that should mean that they understand, or at least think they understand, the material being taught in class.  By this logic, at a minimum there should be no blanks left or question marks on the homework.  But I grade the homework, and this is not the case.  Students seem not only to not understand but also to know that they don’t understand how to do problems.  This is why the office hours that both I and the professor I work for have office hours.  We want students to come in because we want to see students succeed.  Even if there is the slightest chance of a misunderstanding, come to office hours.  The truth is, as nice as it is sitting here writing this article undisturbed, I would much rather be helping someone, and not simply because homework is easier to grade when students get things right.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand why people don’t want to show up for office hours.  I am still a student here.  Professors (and I guess Calc Assistants) can be intimidating and feel unapproachable,  office hours can be inconveniently timed, going makes students feel dumb, and it requires time and effort to go to another building to struggle again with the same material.  

Remember that all of your professors want you to succeed.  This is even more true because of the college we attend.  Christopher Newport emphasizes smaller class sizes, which allow for more interaction and engagement with students. That attracts professors who not only want to see you succeed, but probably want to get to know you as well.

If, for some reason, it is impossible for you to make office hours due to class times or some other (serious) limiting factor, almost every syllabus has this phrase directly under the office hours: “or by appointment.”  This means it is possible to email that professor to set up office hours.  This may feel like an encroachment on the professor’s time, but again, your professors (and Calc Assistants) want to see you succeed.  We can and will work with your schedule if you need us to.

Smart students go to office hours.  At some point everyone struggles with some concept or is unclear on an explanation.   Even if the question seems beyond the scope of the course, go to office hours.  Again, remember that your professors want to get to know students. This is especially true for students expressing an interest in a topic that the professor likes. Part of the reason I am a Calculus Assistant is, believe it or not, I actually enjoy doing and explaining calculus.  Professors have taken the time to get three times the education (at least) in the subject that I have, is it really even plausible that they don’t like to talk about it?

Not going to office hours because of laziness is understandable.  I don’t want to do my readings or my homework either.  However, remember that, as a student, you are paying (or someone is paying) quite a large sum of money for you to be here.  Office hours are part of what you are paying for, and by not going you aren’t receiving the full value of your education.  Not going to office hours is like paying for a Porsche and driving off in a Volkswagen.

Lastly, going to office hours has several side benefits.  First and foremost, most of CNU professors are interesting, engaging and friendly.  They are good people to get to know.  Secondly, at some point you will need a recommendation letter for something.  If you go to office hours, it is far more likely the professor knows who you are and thus can write a good one. Or at the very least, you’ll fill in those blanks on your homework.

~Liam Rowell, Business Manager~

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