One of the many hats I wear is teacher. This term, I'm teaching general chemistry to 39 science and engineering majors. Not only do I have to dazzle these 39 students with chemistry in the classroom, I've got to invite them to my office on a regular basis for chemistry chats. That's right. Office hours.
Actually, I love office hours. I enjoy talking with students one-on-one about the awesomeness which is the photoelectric effect, or hydrogen bonding, or acid-base reactions... Problem is, the majority of students don't come to office hours. Seriously. Students don't go to office hours. Even though there are 5 excellent reasons to attend office hours and attending office hours is often a tip in those 'How to Succeed in College' things that come out every year. Even though there are how-to guides on attending office hours. Even though teachers want students to attend office hours.
We're 3 weeks into the term and only 3 out of my 39 students have attended my office hours. I know their names and exactly what we talked about. Not because I have a good memory, but because I keep a log.
I keep a log for two reasons...
- Letter to politician effect*. If a student takes the time to come to my corner of the college with a question, that question is IMPORTANT to them. This question is probably being asked by 5 other students. Knowing that potentially 6 students in my class are confused about something means I need to clarify that something.
- BIDEIC (bid-ek). At the end of the term, 1-2 students+ may come to my office and express confusion, dismay, and - sometimes - anger over their D or F grade. They'll say, "But I did everything I could." And I'll have to show them they did not do everything they could. They never asked for help.
Though BIDEIC is a good reason to start a log, it's reason #1 that motivates me to maintain my log. It's helping me be a better teacher.
*Not an email or a phone call. An actual handwritten letter. Watch Omar Ahmad's TED talk.
+This number doesn't represent the number of D or F grades received in one of my classes. Also, in my experience, most students earning a D or an F are not surprised at the grade.
Image of Captain Kirk from In My Copious Free Time