[M.A.P.L.E. V-3] “Office” Hours

Because I teach classes at the college level, I am all-but-required to hold office hours for my students to ask me questions. It was even like this when I was a graduate student at Northwestern. I’m obviously not complaining about it, because the one-on-one or one-on-few interactions with students I really enjoy.

But, there’s the interesting title of this post, the fact that I have scare quotes around the word “office.” Explanation will come!

There’s nothing saying that office hours need to be held in the professor’s or instructor’s office! Indeed, when I taught EA4 (Engineering Analysis 4), I held office hours that were supposed to be held in a small conference room in my department, because with over 200 students, the likelihood of overwhelming my office was very large.

During my last year of TA’ing that class, office hours, particularly near project due dates, got so crowded that they had to move them to a large classroom! The students all got together in groups to work on the lab assignments and so it was a big balancing act: one of me and up to 50 of them at once!

However, when I taught Math-234 (Vector Calculus), the class sizes were more manageable, and I could often go times of seeing only one or two students at a time in office hours for that class.

My first experience with “office” hours, i.e. student contact outside of an office, classroom, or conference room, in order to offer advice for the class or other pertinent information, was on April 21, 2011. I was at Northwestern Hillel for the Passover Matzah Pizza party, and was enjoying myself in the kitchen/dining room area, chatting with friends, eating good pizzas and dessert pizzas, and randomly small-talking with a bunch of people (this was exactly three months before I went on Birthright, so I wasn’t quite as engaged with the Jewish community, and hadn’t developed particularly close friendships there yet).

After the party started to die down and I was getting ready to leave, I moved from the dining room area to the main lobby, and noticed a few Math-234 students working on homework. Thus, as I wrote in my journal on that day:

Toward the end, though, the party became POP OFFICE HOURS!

I have no problem helping students out with their work if I incidentally see them elsewhere. In fact, I enjoyed seeing my students at Northwestern in other contexts, like Hillel, bridge, or sporting events, among others.

Well, today, I decided to take that to another form. The weather today was absolutely gorgeous, and I wanted to see the UW-Stout baseball doubleheader, which started at 13:00. Therefore, on the last day of classes, when I gave the students my open-door policy for the two days before the final exam, I said,

“Tuesday office hours: In the afternoon, they will either be in my office or the UW-Stout baseball game.”

Pictures to prove that I was there:


The note on my office door.


Shameless baseball/office hours selfie

And a few students DID actually come to ask me questions!

Maybe it would be nice for students to see me in a venue outside of the academic buildings when I give office hours every once in a while. Hmm… maybe at Acoustic Cafe if I am at Stout next semester? Who knows?


Today is the third day of the fifth round of M.A.P.L.E.

היום עשרה ימים-שהם שבוע אחד ושלושה ימים לעומר

Parkside On The Phone: 2 days.

Tourney Times: 18 days.

Rochester: 25 days.

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