The Office Hour: The Freeway Flyer’s Chance to Shine

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OrtizBy Jenny Ortiz

During my office hour  either I’m staring at the walls in my office praying for a student (even one that isn’t in my class) to show up to alleviate my boredom, or I’m so busy prepping I don’t have time to even consider sitting down with a student to discuss the class work.  Regardless, the office hour used to be a dreaded time in my day. It kept me from going home, forced me to come in early or, if in the middle of the day, kept me away from a nice end-of-the-day slice of pizza.

This isn’t a rant against the office hour. Far from it. However, it’s easy for me to understand how an adjunct could turn an office hour into the complaining hour or, worse, the bad attitude hour. If any adjunct has the right to grumble about office hours, it’s a Freeway Flyer. Not only am I jumping between three different campuses in one day, I have to sit in a drafty office with a mound of papers on the off chance a student decides to stop by. Be that as it may, does this mean I should have a bad attitude about office hours?

Take this case in point: it was the end of the semester and I was going over a version of a final exam at St. John’s. The adjunct office is one big room, so it’s impossible to have any privacy when discussing grades with a student.  On this occasion it was another adjunct who was having a meeting with his student. The first problem with this scenario was that the adjunct arrived late…twenty minutes late to his own office hour. The student, on the other hand, not only arrived on time, but arrived ten minutes early. She sat there alone, confused and worried. When he did arrive, he scolded her for being there.

After he took his time taking off his coat and joking with another adjunct, he sat down and began to loudly explain comma placement. Mind you, they were discussing a philosophy exam. The poor student asked for him to clarify his comments about her grammar, and he simply said she’d have to look for a tutor, without telling her where she could find one.

Needless to say the student left not only confused, but clearly upset. I don’t tend to meddle, but in this case I couldn’t help but to  discreetly run after her.

I found her slumped on a chair, staring at her exam booklet. She was not only upset about the exam but mortified that he had gave her a tongue lashing in front of a room full of other professors. I spent the next ten minutes comforting her and offering her some advice as to where to get help on campus with her school work. She left feeling a little better, but I was furious.

Look, the adjunct in question could’ve been having a bad day, but his behavior showed me that, as a Freeway Flyer who has to deal with the stress and the exhaustion of more than one campus, I have to stay positive during my office hour. To me, the office hour is the place that I can guide my students in a positive way.

Another group of students that I encounter as a Freeway Flyer is the first year student. My interaction with them is usually the first interaction they have with a professor. It is my job not only to teach the the course material, but to set a positive tone for their academic career. Although I’m not their academic adviser, they see me more and trust me more to ask me questions and voice their concerns. I may not be able to answer them, but I can direct them to someone who will. At the end of the day, if I have a successful office hour, it means that those students will be more willing to visit more professors for guidance in the future. It’s my job to welcome students to my office hour and encourage them to come for extra help. Isn’t that why I have a designated period outside of the classroom?

I’m interested in knowing what everyone’s thoughts are on this. What do you do during your office hour? Do you, like me find yourselves praying for intellectual stimulation from a visiting student? Are their tips to stay positive during that set time?

About the Freeway Flyer: Jenny Ortiz is a quite serious 23-year-old New Yorker, except when unicorns (specifically chubby unicorns) are involved. When she isn’t pleading with Kurt Sutter via Twitter to be her mentor, she is teaching at St. John’s University, Adelphi University, and LaGuardia Community College (see, quite serious). When she isn’t teaching, she’s hanging out with her friends showing off  earth and water bending skills (not serious, but super fun).  When she is alone and it’s raining, she likes to read Haruki Murakami, or listen to the Broken Bells and daydream.  If you want to be a fan, you can read Jenny’s work on fictionatwork.com, Blink-ink.com, Jersey Devil Press, dogeatcrow.com, Break  Water Review, Eighty Percent Magazine and InkSpill Magazine…or you can follow her on Twitter: twitter.com/jnylynn.

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