Thursday, September 30, 2010

Chirp chirp chirp

Here I am, enjoying another round of office hours. Thankfully the cheerful chirping of the crickets echoing from the windowless, cinderblock-walled cavern that is my office keep me company, or is that just the delirium from the crushing boredom? No, no, there cannot be boredom, because we all know what office hours are good for: getting work done. I can sit here and grade papers, I can read journal articles, I can type up nifty abstracts to submit to this year’s Giant Haughty Academic Conference. I think I’ll write about… biochemistry and… poststructuralism (see, I have a “conference paper topic” dartboard!). You know what I won’t do, though? See any students walk through that door, unless one condition is met: it is the day before a major assignment or test, and Sam Snowflake needs to have everything, absolutely everything, explained to him. But Sam, I say, how did you possibly understand anything in the last three weeks of class without understanding Basic Concept Q, which we went over so many times in class that even the dust mites in our cheap carpeting learned it? Oh, you were confused about it? Well, that’s ok, when I ask in class if everyone understands, and I offer to answer questions after class, and I repeat time and again to feel free to send me emails, of course I prefer the delightful chorus of crickets to, you know, students actually asking questions about concepts they don’t understand. Of course, the snowflakes only appear in my office about two or three times a semester. All those other hours when I’m stuck in the office when I’d rather be at home with the kids, or in the library, or in a bar with a pint of beer, well, not a soul drifts by. Office hours feel like an archaic, vestigial practice of academia the need for which was soundly obliterated by email. I’d be happy with “by appointment only” office hours, which of course requires a commitment from the snowflakes that never ever materializes, but of course the department has to cater to the wonderful little tuition-payers, our customers. So here I am, feeling like I should be scrawling hieroglyphs on some fresh sheets of papyrus, or pressing little triangular rods into a clay tablet, but instead I shake off my daydreams and realize that, yes, this is the 21st century, and yes, here I am stuck in my office hours for no reason.


  1. I feel the same way. Office hours are an absurdity. I can't concentrate because I share an office with 5,000 other people, and a student might walk in at any second, so I never do any grading. I browse the internet, do some class notes, etc. But the whole thing is just stupid and pointless. I usually shave off about 20-30% of my hour, because students will usually either be there when I show up, or won't be there at all, so WHY WASTE MY LIFE SITTING THERE?

  2. We were talking about this a few nights ago...what did students do before email? Oh, right they WENT TO OFFICE HOURS.

    So, it seems we have two options. Either we say "I will only answer questions during office hours and not via email" or we do not have office hours.

    Why does something tell me tenure committee chairs and the like won't enjoy that idea?

    ps: Colleague, I CAN hear your Pandora station and NO I don't share your taste in whining post-alternative guitar whatsits and I DEFINITELY want to throw up from the smell of whatever tomatoey thing it is that you are eating. XO, Black Dog

  3. I have a surefire way to make snowflakes appear instantly in one's door during office hours.

    Open up a website with Kim Kardashian or Jennifer Love Hewitt or (all right, David Beckham shirtless) on it. Before your eyes can even focus and refocus, a student will appear and say, "Hey, proffie, what you lookin' at?"

  4. @ELS...If only I taught in a field that did not appear to be 80% female, because frankly I'd rather look at Kim Kardashian than David Beckham...and even more than that I tend to get all moony over Morne Steyn from South African rugby.

    BUT...funny story. I got into the elevator in Impossibly Complexly Laid Out Repurposed Building yesterday in order to give my exam to the Zombie Section. A young woman with the David Beckham "sharkfin" hairdo gets in with me. She has some ear plugs with triangle rainbows on them.

    She (a) checked me out and (b) offered to CARRY MY EXAMS to class, despite the fact that we'd discussed how this elevator had totally screwed her out of her floor...which was not my floor.

    Ladies, please! One at a time!

  5. When I teach on campus, for some reason, I actually do have a lot of students come to my office hours and I'm happy to help them out. However, what I do not like is having to keep office hours for an ONLINE course. I have to go all the way to campus, sit in my empty office/broom closet for one lousy hour, and go all the way home. No students come -- ever. What do I do during my office hour? I answer emails and discussion board postings that I could have answered from home.


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