OIDSurviving the First Quarter of Teaching

Office Hours
Office hours are not just a time to get reading done or catch up on email. TAs in Math and the Sciences can find themselves going over specific aspects of the current problem set for much of office hours, while TAs in the humanities and social sciences might experience a large peak around the time of an exam or when a paper is due. Managing your office hours effectively can help you to reduce work later in the quarter. Looking at drafts of papers may mean that you write fewer comments on papers when grades are due.

What are office hours for?Reviewing specific difficulties and questions on problem sets or other homework assignments.
Let students know how they are doing, what they need to work on.
To share additional information and techniques with students.
Give personal attention to students in a more informal setting.
Discuss graduate school, and the field at large in more detail.

What things should you keep in mind regarding office hours? Spending too much time with a single student at the expense of others.
Potential Solution: Try using a sign-up sheet and ask students to sign up for a specified block of time (10-15 minutes, for instance). Use a timer on your desk that is visible to both you and the student and let the student know how long the meeting will be before you start. When the meeting time is up, stand up and tell the student you have another appointment.

Bickering over grades instead of focusing on the learning process
Potential Solution: tell students that your decision on the grade is final, but that you can help them to avoid this problem on the next paper if you begin immediately working on it. If this fails, inform the student that they will have to address the problem with the professor.

Poor scheduling. You may want to try to meet with as many students as possible during office hours. If you are comfortable working with groups, you may try explaining problems in groups as the need arises.

Stick to your own schedule. (Avoid showing up late or leaving early without communicating to your students in advance.)
Divide your time as evenly as possible. Communicate clearly to students that your time is limited. Leave them with clear instructions for independent learning and set clear and achievable goals.

How can you keep students on task during office hours? Ask students to come prepared with items to discuss or work to go over. This will ensure that office hours are productive discussions of student work.