Here are 3 great reasons why you should go to office hours.
Office Hours, Part 2
Do you ever go to your professors' office hours? I have written about office hours before; in that post, I said, "office hours are the time that your professors specifically designated to meet with students, answer questions, help with homework or essays, and so on. This doesn't mean they won't meet with you other times as well, by appointment. But office hours are YOUR time." But I want to spend more time here on why you should go to office hours.
Here are 3 great reasons why you should go to office hours.
Emailing your professors
In my experience, students sometimes feel hesitant to email their professors. Perhaps they worry that the are bothering their professors (they're not), or maybe they're worried that they don't know what to say (here's how to email like a pro). But worse, what happens if you get up the nerve to email a professor and they respond in a way that is dismissive, rude, or does make it sound like you were bothering them? How do you come back from that and get up the nerve to keep on reaching out when you need help?
Recently a student emailed me asking for advice on how to be successful in online classes. I've written a little on the topic previously: here and here. But the basic premise for success in online classes is that you really have to take ownership of your own education and be prepared to advocate for yourself.
Online classes became common during the pandemic, and often professors were creating their classes very quickly and with very little help. There are absolutely best practices for how to create and administer online education, but not all professors are aware of these best practices or able to implement them. In reality, that means that there is huge variation between how different professors in different subjects will run their online courses. And unfortunately, as a student, you have relatively little control over how your online classes are designed. That being said, there are some things you can do to make sure that you are successful in these classes, regardless of how they are set up.
Asking for Feedback
I have written previously about incorporating feedback on your work, but I don't think I've previously really explained just why feedback is so incredibly important and how you can seek it out. It's still early in the semester, so now is the perfect time to write this post. Why? Because feedback is something you should be looking for early, and often. Buckle up, and I'll tell you why.
What do you need to bring to the first day of class? The answer will probably depend on what classes you're taking and what expectations the professor might have set in advance. But let's talk about what you might need and what to expect.
No matter what, don't show up totally empty handed to the first day of class. The TLDR of this post is: bring a pen and paper. Actually, any writing implement is fine, any type of paper or notebook is fine. A laptop or tablet is optional unless the class specifically requires you to have some kind of technology. And in fact, research shows that writing notes by hand is often a more effective way to retain information. Given this, a pen and paper is always a good way to approach the first day of class. You may also want to bring
Who’s Who and What’s What?
College presents a new environment and new opportunities, but also an entirely new organizational structure. Navigating the university setting means figuring out which people and resources can help you and when. Every university has a slightly different organizational system, so some of these offices, roles, or individuals may differ at your institution. Nonetheless, this section should give you a basic idea of what to expect and who to turn to when you need help. Below, you'll find a brief list of some of the main people and offices that you may interact with.
Getting Organized for Finals
We are rapidly nearing the end of the semester, final projects are due, exams are coming up. It's time for the final push. Unfortunately, students and professors, alike, are feeling burned out these days. The best cure for burn out is re-prioritizing yourself and getting necessary rest, and hopefully, for many of you, rest is just around the corner as summer approaches. But in the immediate term, the only way to reach summer is to get through the end of the semester. The best advice I can offer you for a (relatively) painless end of the semester is to get really organized and to create systems for yourself that will make life easier, rather than harder, for the next few weeks.
Embracing the Mess
I've been thinking a lot recently about the topic of mess: living a messy life and leaning into it. Some of us (ahem - me - ahem) prefer order. We prefer to be organized, we watch The Home Edit and we try to Marie Kondo our lives, both personally and professionally. That's fine, maybe you prefer order in your life too. In fact, there's some evidence that order and organization bring us joy, partially because they give us a sense of control in our lives. But I'm fairly convinced that, even if you're someone who loves order, the path to joy comes through embracing mess.
To be clear, I don't mean that you should give up on doing dishes and start living in squalor. Please don't do that, your roommates, parents, and / or families would hate me. What I mean is that we need to embrace the fact that we cannot perfectly plan out our lives or impose perfect order on the world around us. Instead, we need to be flexible enough to find joy in the messy parts of life, just as much as we do in the perfectly color coded and organized parts.
Low Motivation Remedy
Do you ever have the kind of day when your head is not in the game, you can't focus, and you just don't want to do the work? That's okay, I get it. It happens to all of us sometimes. And sometimes you can afford to play hooky and take a day off. Unfortunately, on other days, playing hooky is simply impossible and it raises the million dollar question - how do you get work done when you are very, very distracted? There are a few strategies for this but the most important thing is to start with baby steps.
Ordinarily, I recommend doing a difficult task first when you are still fresh. But on a day when you simply cannot bring yourself to do anything at all, I recommend going in the opposite direction. List everything you need to do and pick the easiest thing. Get that one thing done. Then reward yourself in a small way, but not a way that will lead to further distractions. Do not reward yourself by watching TikTok - that path will suck you in and lead you nowhere (at least in terms of your to-do list). Reward yourself with a handful of m&ms or something.
Once you've done one thing, it might get easier to start on that to-do list. Research shows that setting small goals and accomplishing them releases a dopamine boost to your brain. If you're still struggling to get into a deep flow of work, pick another small goal and do that one next, then give yourself another small reward.
If checking off two small goals still doesn't get you in the flow, it may be time to accept the reality that today might not be your best day. If this is looking like the case, then it's time to prioritize the things that absolutely MUST get done. If you're only going to accomplish a few things in your day, then make it the stuff that is absolutely necessary and for which there could be large consequences if you fail. Not every day is going to be your best, most productive day. You are not a robot. Some days are going to be days when your brain and body need rest. If today is one of those days, then it's time to do the bare minimum. That means, do anything that is absolutely REQUIRED and cannot be postponed - the assignment that is due tonight, perhaps. Then just call it a day. Some days you're going to knock it out of the park and accomplish everything like a freaking rockstar, some days you're going to do the bare minimum. If today is a bare minimum day, then do not sit at your desk, staring at your computer and feeling bad about yourself. Do the minimum to get by, then give yourself a break. When you sit at your desk and do nothing but feel guilty, you waste your day entirely because you neither accomplish anything nor do you get the rest and respite that you so obviously need. If today is not your work day, then go out and find some joy, some rest, and some peace.
Speaking up in class
For some students, class participation comes naturally. Other students are more inclined to quietly absorb but rarely speak up. From a professor's point of view, we are usually thankful for students who are willing to participate, but we also want to draw out the quieter students; we want every student to feel involved and invested in the course material.
If you are one of the students who speaks out frequently, you may need to check the impulse (sometimes) so that other students have more opportunity to speak. For students who are quieter in class, it may be time to consider how you can speak up and participate a little more. Why, you ask?
Speaking up in class, at least occasionally, is important two particular reasons:
Clare Brock is a professor of American Politics and Public Policy at TWU. She works primarily in the areas of food policy, lobbying, and money in politics.