Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Bitchy Bear from Boston on Office Rannygazoo!

My uni requires at least 3 office hours a week per class. You teach two classes, you're meant to have six hours. So I do. I carefully arrange my schedule so that I have writing days and meeting days/class/ office hour days; I stagger the office hours so that I don't preclude students with TTh or MWF classes being able to come.

And I never have anybody show up. I know: my classes aren't hard enough. But when I do have difficult assignments or a midterm coming, I just get peppered with emails that say "Can u xpln Wlter Benjamin 2 me? Cuz I dnt get it." When I respond with "Benjamin was a complex thinker. It's best we talk in person. Why not stop by my office Monday?" I get either no response or "Ok thx" in return, and on Monday, I will be in my office, with moss growing all over me, and nobody showing up to talk about Walter Benjamin or anything else.

Alternatively, the answer will be "I cnt cum on Monday, gt clss." Me: "How about Thursday's office hours?" Them: "Nocndo. I need appt." Then my assistant will go through 70 emails trying to schedule this person, between his apparently 4,000 classes a week, his 1,400 hours of work, his volleyball game, and his bunion-prevention exercises, and I will show up, on one of my normal, at-home writing days no less, during the only 30 minutes he has available in the next 72 years....only to have moss grow on me again while nobody shows up.

If my dean is reading this, you should know that I put those hours to extremely good use and the high score I have on Breakquest is entirely coincidental.

The only thing that seems to vitiate the nobody-showing-up rule is if **I** don't show up or even step out for minute to get my mail or a cup of coffee. Then we seem to enter a parallel office-hour universe where simply hordes of people show up just to see me, and I'm not there. If I have to be gone and miss office hours, I will announce it two weeks ahead of time, again a week ahead of time, and post it on Blackboard. Inevitably, like the sun rising in the east, I will receive email after email saying: "I needed help and you weren't theerrrrrrre. I waited and waited and waited." Then, of course, the same comment goes on my evaluation along with a emphatically blackened spot under "poor" for "This instructor was available for questions outside of class."

My office hours only ever have a rush during one time: when I catch some little shithead cheating and it's time for him to tell me his life story as a misunderstood genius whose parents didn't potty train him right/grandma died/abusive piano teacher killed his desire to learn, or at the end of the semester when it's time to badger and grub. Someday I will tell you the story about the student who, impatient at having to wait while another student grubbed, stood in my door and snapped his fingers for five solid minutes to let us know we were displeasing him.