Getting students to come to your office hours is not always a problem; you may find that many students will come in, and for many different reasons. You may find yourself helping a student with material for the general chemistry course, with the logistics of the course, or with a personal problem. Here are some ways to facilitate your sessions with the individual student:
- Try to be as approachable as possible. The best thing to do when a student comes in during your office hours is to make him/her feel welcome. It is very easy to make students feel that they are intruding. It takes only a little bit of care to create a relaxed, pleasant atmosphere in which communication is natural and easy.
- Rely on the student to tell you what he/she has come to see you about. You may suspect some hidden problem, but you should not press the student to tell you about it. You should help students if they actively request your help. Your responsibility need not extend beyond their requests.
- Listen to your students when they come to your office. Give them your undivided attention. The best way to show that you are listening is to ask questions. It also shows the students that you find their concerns important. Students often fear that they are wasting your time. If you listen attentively and respond thoroughly, you will alleviate their fear.
Finally, you should realize that you won’t always be able to provide the answers or information that are needed. If, for example, you are helping the student with a general chemistry problem, there is nothing wrong with saying, “I don’t know, but I will find out.”
In a situation in which the student is asking for personal counseling, remember that you may not be the most qualified person for the student to be talking to. You should suggest that the student goes to see the people at Counseling Services (Counseling and Mental Health Services, www.counseling.uconn.edu, or 860-486-4705).
Sometimes, you may encounter students who are over-dependent on you either for assistance with course material or for companionship and counsel. It may be necessary to set limits with these students. You might try encouraging them to tackle assignments on their own before coming to you for help, or explain to them that you have limited time to spend with each student and must, therefore, restrict the duration and frequency of office visits.
Assisting Emotionally Troubled Students
Should a student come to you with serious emotional problems or, if you become concerned about a student’s emotional health because of comments made in your class, refer the student IMMEDIATELY to counseling services (Counseling and Mental Health Services, www.counseling.uconn.edu, or 860-486-4705). DO NOT try to solve the problem yourself. Remember, you MUST take all verbal threats of suicide seriously. Ask your supervisor for advice.
Assisting Students in Need of Tutoring
Many students feel overwhelmed by the burden of four or five courses. This is particularly true of students who have poor study habits or who are deficient in certain skills, e.g., math. You may notice these students in class, or they may come and express their anxieties to you during office hours. Either way, refer them either to their instructor who may be able to recommend a plan of study, or to the Institute for Student Success (www.iss.uconn.edu) where tutorial programs in the evenings are available free of charge.
Assisting Students with Disabilities
Generally, you will not receive advance notification that a student in your class has a learning or a physical disability. Instead, the notification will usually come from the student himself/herself, especially in the case of a learning disability.
Having such a student in your class is no cause for alarm. You should realize that many disabled students are fiercely independent and may take offense at being given special attention. It is important that students with disabilities be held to the same standards of conduct and academic performance expected of all non-disabled students, even though their testing conditions may differ.
You must refer all such cases to the student’s course instructor who will make arrangements with the proper agencies on campus. Do not attempt to make the arrangements yourself, or to check the veracity of the disability.