The Truth About Office Hours

Pema I’Anson exposes the mysterious of the office hour.

I had never attended an office hour before. I never really understood what they were, or why tutors kept reminding us when they were. I felt a little sorry for my tutors, maybe, that they had to keep telling us that they existed, because that probably meant nobody was going to them. I thought office hours were for people who were seriously behind, or failing, or had missed a tutorial. None of which were me. So I continued on oblivious, living my days out, office-hour-less.

But then everything changed. I missed a tutorial. (I had a good reason, I swear.) I emailed my tutor, self-certified, all of that. My tutor emailed me back with the dreaded please come to my office hours on Friday. Okay, I sighed. Wrote it into my planner. Prepared to go along, have an awkward chat, and leave ASAP. 

Come Thursday. I had an essay due the next week. My tutor for another module had some confusing rules about essay topics, and I literally had no idea where to start. So I thought, what the hell, I’ll go to his office hour. I dropped by. My life has never been the same since.

Every question I asked, I was given an answer to and more. He basically planned my essay for me. I understood the question, how I was supposed to answer it, what to do with my life. Comprehension dawned. Office hours do exist for a reason! I left feeling more confident about that essay than I had ever felt about anything in St Andrews.

Friday: I go to the office hour I’d been summoned to. I didn’t manage to do the reading, but that’s okay. I’m honest with my tutor and she’s honest with me. We chat about things, the course, the topics, what I think of the lecturers, how I’m doing generally. I felt incredibly supported, for the first time. The module is huge, there’s hundreds of people in the lecture theatre, and it’s so easy to feel anonymous. Like it doesn’t matter if I understand or not. Even my tutorial is big – it took a couple of weeks for her to learn all of our names. And yet, here I am, in this office hour. A cute room, there’s tea and biscuits, and we’re chatting. I feel like I’m finally understanding every elusive concept we discuss, and every possible thing I haven’t understood completely is open for me to grasp. Things are making sense. It’s a one-on-one conversation with someone who is passionate about the subject you’re learning; how can you not enjoy it?

The moral of this story is, go to office hours. Please. Even if you feel like you understand what’s happening, just go along to chat to your tutor about things. Maybe they’re a super cool person. Maybe they help you realise something you hadn’t before. Maybe your essay is confusing you, or a problem seems impossible, or everything in your life seems to be falling down around your ears. Tutors are there to help you, and understand you, and assist your learning. It is literally their job. They have office hours for you to go to, and really – if you’re not going to office hours, you’re missing out. Learning is vital (this is a university, after all) and you can learn more than you know from an office hour.

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