Dear college students...
Congratulations, you’ve made it through the worst of the semester doldrums, and the end of term is in sight! It is also time for more unsolicited advice from me, harried college professor and spinster aunt of Tumblr.
For the love of all that is good and holy, COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR PROFESSORS. Professors like this. We find it reassuring. This is because we care about your well-being. Note that I say "your well-being” and not “your academic success.” We totally do care about your academic success too. But on communication hang, as it were, all the law and the prophets. Why do I find it necessary to write this blog post? Because struggling students tend not to come to me until assignments are overdue, and we’re both stressed out and anxious about the situation by that point. Also, I see a lot of students very hesitant to come into office hours without “something to show” or “ideas to discuss.” In response to these phenomena, I wish to say this:
THERE ARE NO PREREQUISITES FOR COMING TO OFFICE HOURS.
If you’re struggling to find ideas or create “something to show” or… anything, really, then that is a good time to talk to the person who is an expert in the subject matter you’re working with and who is responsible for designing the assignments you’re working on. There is no bad time to visit office hours. You can set up appointments if the usual hours don’t work for you. Some professors even have tea on offer. And popping into a 10- or 15-minute meeting can really pay dividends, I promise… not least because it communicates to your professor that you are serious about developing skills and/or mastering content. Talking with students about work is literally what office hours are for. In theory. In practice they’re for me drinking too much coffee and worrying about the students who aren’t coming to see me.
Additional communication strategies include:
- Quick pre- or post-class questions to clarify small points
- Drawing the professor’s attention to tech glitches, if you have an LMS you’re using for the course (I am always, always grateful for this)
- Sending emails
- Responding to emails
All of these things demonstrate engagement, and that is a good thing. Also, re: responding to emails… for the love of all that is good and holy, answer your professors’ emails, even if it’s only to confirm receipt! This isn’t necessary for a general message to the class, but if you’re being sent a list of references, or a question about field trip registration, or a missing assignment… answer the email. I’m not gnashing my teeth in my professorial lair, waiting to assign demerits if the answer to the email is something along the lines of “I’ve been really overwhelmed and have barely even started the assignment; can I come to your office hours?”
Please. If you’re struggling, or if you’re not; if you want a little extra help, or just want to talk more about Wednesday’s reading… communicate with your professors. And consider coming to office hours; there might be tea.
Anxiously and affectionately yours,
A College Instructor With a Stress-Induced Twitch