Oberlin Blogs

Professor Plaut's Office Hours

March 3, 2009

Ma'ayan Plaut ’10

One of the things you will encounter in college is office hours. Professors are required to have them as part of their class schedule, both at a set time every week and by appointment. During exams or before major papers, office hours may be required. They can be used when you're having trouble in a class, or have questions about the lectures, or if you're fascinated by the material and want to know more. Office hours in general are highly encouraged and possibly one of the most underutilized resources on Oberlin campus.

As an academic ambassador (and as a well-seasoned student), I actively encourage office hours. One of your "jobs" as a college student is to get to know at least one professor very well throughout your college tenure. Not only are your professors ridiculously cool and fascinating people, they are valuable resources both in regards to your classes and your life as a student. They have wayyy more experience than you and they really want you to succeed, and know what it takes. Use them. Use them.

Personally, I was completely terrified of the concept of office hours my freshman year. The professors were amazing and awesome and being in the same room as them one-on-one just seemed like a god-given experience, something not worthy of a lowly freshman.

So, baby steps. I don't sit outside my professors' offices every week, but I frequent them more often than I had in the past. I visited Jan Cooper this morning to talk about an adjustment I made in my grant proposal, and it was a really invigorating experience. I walked out of her office with more ideas than I had before, and I was ready to talk about the project with other people. I promptly got in an hour long conversation with Yoshi about the project, which twisted my brain even more. It felt good. (Sorry for the distraction, Yoshi.)

Last year, I took a cue from my professors and put a spin on this part of the college experience. I was so incredibly busy and still wanted a social life but not the headache of planning times to see people. The solution? Holding office hours in my room, from 4-6pm on Mondays (with an invitation to join me for dinner at Harkness following, if so desired).

It was cool. I had some frequent visitors and some special guests, and generally, it was just a relaxed atmosphere in the middle of a flurry of activity. I could never do anything functional on Monday afternoons except for sitting around and socializing anyways, so this was a good concentrated use of my time. I think my attendees were happy with it too.

This semester, I luckily have a wonderful social magnet of a roommate who loves to entertain just as much as I want to have my friends gather in a cozy space. Last year, Harris had tea times in his single in Noah, and even built a coffee table for this express purpose.

So what happens when two socialites get an itch? Harris and Ma'ayan hold office hours!

We send out emails with details, the hours, the location, and that we would include tea and goodies and hugs to anyone that attended this brief distraction from the end of weekend work catch-up.

Invitees are still confused by the name, though. We're obviously not professors (well, Harris taught an ExCo last year, and I'm planning on teaching one next year... but we don't have the education or salaries to back it up). We really like the open door policy. It means we're here and willing to devote our time and minds to our intellectual peers for a period of time each week.

Our office hours could, in fact, be true office hours, if so desired. My friend Greg swore he was going to come with deep philosophical questions to provoke us, and I swore back at him that we, in true professor form, would answer his questions with other questions. This week, though, he got caught up in the hustle and bustle of the event (there was a massive game of Set on the floor interspersed with tea, pie, and Oreos), and forgot completely about his goal. Guess we're not great professors. We're easily distracted. We're also not as wise and experienced, but we sure are fun.

But then again, so are your professors (they have much more in the wise and experienced department, too). Use them.

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