Malik ’18: The door is open

Opinions Columnist
Monday, October 12, 2015

Every time I visit a professor during office hours, I feel nervous. The most recent time, I felt especially anxious. I was worried that I was wasting my professor’s time, despite the fact that my professor seemed happy to see me and had told me a couple of times that it’s completely okay if I drop by once in a while. Regardless of what I felt before the meeting, afterwards I was very happy that I had stopped by and that I had not let my worries stop me.

It seems to be a pattern for me: decide to visit during office hours, feel bad before, feel okay during the meeting, feel great afterwards. I don’t think I’m alone in having these feelings. A few of my professors have mentioned that they wish more of their students used office hours, and I therefore think that several Brown students may have similar concerns. I will outline why office hours provide extremely useful opportunities for students before offering a few tips to help my peers overcome any hang-ups they might have.

Office hours give students the chance to have one-on-one meetings with faculty members, and this allows for a deeper level of engagement than what takes place during class. During lectures, the instructor has to focus on conveying the lesson to all the students in the room. During sections, the instructor has to facilitate discussion amongst the students around the table. During office hours, the instructor can focus entirely on each student who stops by. Office hours therefore let students who have questions about the class or who need help on assignments get the aid they need.

In addition to letting students receive help, office hours allow students to see their instructors more as people. In the classroom, the instructor usually has to take on the role of a lecturer or a discussion leader. During office hours, the instructor is an instructor, and the student gets a better understanding of who the instructor is and what the instructor is like. In the same way, the instructor can get a better understanding of who the student is and what the student is like. This can make their relationship stronger.

Now, I’m not suggesting that students should become buddies with their teachers. The teacher-student dynamic has to remain intact. But I believe that any relationship can improve if both sides know each other better. Students who have a good understanding of their instructors can be more involved in the classroom.

Using office hours to talk to teachers is clearly useful, and for those who have any hang-ups about meeting with instructors, here are a few useful tips based on my personal experiences. It’s a good idea to send a quick email to the instructor before stopping by. In this email, you should express an interest in attending office hours and suggest a particular date and time to meet. Doing this can help ensure that the instructor is available, for he or she might be expecting to meet with other students or planning to do some work during that particular time. By sending an email to schedule a meeting during office hours, you can make sure that the instructor is available and prepared to meet with you.

In this email, you should also briefly explain what you would like to talk about. This will make sure that you don’t get flustered when you show up. This also works as a great way to let the professor prepare for your visit. And despite what I’ve mentioned earlier, the meeting doesn’t have to be confined to just topics covered in the course. During office hours, I have talked about events in the news that were related to the course material. I have also asked for general advice on my academic pursuits and for more specific help on tasks outside of the classroom. The faculty members here have a wealth of knowledge and experience that they can impart, which can help you both inside and outside of the classroom. Again, that is why it’s a good idea to mention what you plan to discuss in the email. By doing so, you can feel more comfortable when you arrive by making sure that it’s okay to discuss matters not directly related to the course.

When the date and time for the meeting is confirmed, show up on time. Be respectful and amiable. Be receptive to what your instructor tells you. If you had specific questions and got them answered, write down what you learned in a notebook immediately after you leave the meeting.

I hope that with these tips, my fellow students will feel more confident about approaching their professors during office hours. Some of my best experiences at Brown have involved meeting my professors. Each time, I have left more informed, knowledgeable and grateful for my professor’s time. I hope that all my fellow students get to have such experiences while at the University.

Ameer Malik ’18 can be reached at

One Comment

  1. why is malik still allowed to talk..

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