What am I supposed to do during office hours?

  • #1
ProfuselyQuarky
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Seriously...I want to get to know my teachers outside of sitting in class, but I can never come up with a good reason to go to office hours without being extremely awkward :( Most questions I have regarding the material can always be answered within 1-2 minutes after lecture or on the internet. I have no idea what people mean when they say to just go and “talk”.

About what??

"Hey how’s it going?"

“I was wondering if you could write your fours better. The way you do it on the board is super irritating.”
 

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  • #2
ZapperZ
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In your case, I strongly suggest you don't go to your instructor's office hours or try to get to know him/her better.

Zz.
 
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  • #3
ProfuselyQuarky
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In your case, I strongly suggest you don't go to your instructor's office hours or try to get to know him/her better.
Lol why is that?

What am I going to do when I need a good letter of recommendation or something similar?
 
  • #4
BillTre
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You could:
ask if the course will cover some favorite subject of yours that might be within the scope of the course
ask about other reading you might do that would elaborate on the course material
ask about what other courses this course might be good to follow up with
ask about job opportunities in the lab
ask about a recommendation from the teacher, if you are near graduation
ask about what graduate school they might recommend
ask how they got their job
 
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  • #5
ProfuselyQuarky
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ask if the course will cover some favorite subject of yours that might be within the scope of the course
Isn't that what the syllabus is for?
ask about other reading you might do that would elaborate on the course material
Good idea.
ask about what other courses this course might be good to follow up with
Also a good idea, but only for classes that don't have an obvious sequence.
ask how they got their job
Wouldn't that sound wrong unless I wanted to go into teaching?
ask about job opportunities in the lab
ask about a recommendation from the teacher, if you are near graduation
ask about what graduate school they might recommend
Inapplicable atm.
 
  • #6
StevieTNZ
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  • #7
ProfuselyQuarky
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Academic matters. Not a chance to forge a friendship, though.
Entirely understood. I can never come up with anything involving the former, unfortunately.
 
  • #8
Fred Wright
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Seriously...I want to get to know my teachers outside of sitting in class
Why? Your instructor is required by the university to provide time for office hour consultation. The instructor is not required, however, to waste time with idle chit chat. People advising you to go to office hours to "talk" are advising you to make a huge nuisance of yourself.

Peace,
Fred
 
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  • #9
ProfuselyQuarky
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The instructor is not required, however, to waste time with idle chit chat.
Yes, I understand. I have absolutely no wish to waste my time, either. The people telling me to get to know my teachers are saying that that’s the only way to score good recommendation letters, etc.

But, okay, I suppose if I have no real reason to attend office hours, I just won't.
 
  • #10
mathwonk
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If after hearing lectures and doing your studies and homework you still never generate any open questions that interest you, perhaps you are not thinking very hard about the material. If you aspire to a research career, it will be useful to you to try to develop the ability to see what has not been done after learning what has. You might try this.
 
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  • #11
ProfuselyQuarky
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If after hearing lectures and doing your studies and homework you still never generate any open questions that interest you, perhaps you are not thinking very hard about the material. If you aspire to a research career, it will be useful to you to try to develop the ability to see what has not been done after learning what has. You might try this.
THIS. This is great advice, thank you. I know that this is a weakness of mine. I’ll certainly try harder.
 
  • #12
Choppy
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The people telling me to get to know my teachers are saying that that’s the only way to score good recommendation letters, etc.

You get good recommendation letters by working hard. While it can help to be friendly and put the effort into getting to know your professors as appropriate, this isn't the kind of thing I would focus on to improve anyone's recommendation. In some cases too much schmoozing can backfire (particularly for those students who are near the borderline).

Instead look for opportunities to contribute something of value to your department: help out organizing colloquia or conferences, help teach first year labs, volunteer to be a student representative on department committees (search and selection, academic program review, etc.), help put out a monthly newsletter, try to get an executive position with your local undergraduate physics club, volunteer to help out with high school outreach, or departmental tours, etc. These are the kinds of things that give someone acting as a reference something tangible to write about. It comes across a lot better to say: "As an example of this student's academic initiative he organized an undergraduate journal club, which met once a month to discuss review papers," than to say something like, "This student seems keen to study physics because he asked be a lot of questions during office hours."
 
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  • #13
dipole
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Don't go to office hours just to go... People's time is valuable, don't waste it purposely.
 
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  • #14
kuruman
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Don't go to office hours just to go... People's time is valuable, don't waste it purposely.
And if you do go, don't ask your professor, "Can I bother you?" or "Are you busy now?" as soon as you enter the office. Questions like this can be very annoying. Office hours are set aside by professors with the expectation that they will be "bothered" at that time. They look busy because they continue doing what they have to do during them and they don't twiddle their thumbs staring at the ceiling until someone walks in. Finally, if you make an appointment to see a professor outside office hours, keep it or cancel it as soon as you know that you will not be able to make it. Doing neither is the kiss of death (almost).
 
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  • #15
Ygggdrasil
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If you ever find yourself with an academic and want something to talk about, ask them about their research. Professors are more than happy to talk about their research. The best way to get a great letter of recommendation from a professor is to do research in that professor's lab. If you are interested in undergraduate research, you can ask to speak to that professor (not necessarily during office hours) about their research. It helps to read up on their research a bit (e.g. their lab webpage, though these can be outdated, and browsing a few of their recent papers), and you can impress them if you have intelligent questions about some of their papers.
 
  • #16
Fervent Freyja
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Some methods you can try without getting personal:
-Be respectful as possible in class (toe stepping hard for me to avoid with some), have a positive attitude about learning and the class in general, and be friendly when you see them outside of class
-Be at the top of the class gradewise
-Be competitive and set yourself apart from your peers at any and every opportunity
-Figure out how to make them laugh during class, share your jokes...
-Get permission to use labs or resources that they control during after-hours
-Volunteer when they may need assistance
-Join clubs or organizations where they are party
-Follow them on social media

Getting too personal can be stressful. I dislike using office hours. Simply being consistent with the above can earn you a good reputation among most staff over time.

I said most staff. If you keep getting into it with one every now and then, then it doesn't matter who likes you, you could be toasted by the dean/principal.
 
  • #17
Seriously...I want to get to know my teachers outside of sitting in class, but I can never come up with a good reason to go to office hours without being extremely awkward :( Most questions I have regarding the material can always be answered within 1-2 minutes after lecture or on the internet. I have no idea what people mean when they say to just go and “talk”.

About what??

"Hey how’s it going?"

“I was wondering if you could write your fours better. The way you do it on the board is super irritating.”

I wish my university had office hours. I have to make appointments with professors and/or teaching assistants if I want my questions answered, and I always feel like I'm wasting their time, as gor them it are probably trivial questions (not always though lol).
 
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