Perhaps no single student question creates more logistical nightmares than “I can’t make your office hours, is there a time when we can meet?” But fret not my friends, I have a foolproof system to make this a snap.
Step 1: Ask Them To Email You
Never schedule a student meeting verbally. Students love to ask you to schedule them in as you are setting up for class, as you are tearing down after, or when they see you somewhere on campus. DON’T DO IT! It’s too easy to double book or forget to write it in your calendar later. Asking your students to be responsible for formally requesting the meeting via email unburdens your memory and provides a paper trail that can help both of you be accountable.
Step 2: Ask Them To Give You THEIR Availability
“Give me 5 half hour windows during the next few days that are convenient for you to meet with me and I’ll pick the first one I can make.” This simple request puts the onus for scheduling the meeting on your student. It also changes an ambiguous question, “when can you meet,” into a focused simple and concrete one.
That’s all there is to it. Easy to implement & easy to remember.
Some of my colleagues balk at my method because they think it violates some social niceties or makes them seem unavailable. I totally agree, that’s why after asking them for an emailed request with five possible times I say to them something like, “Thank you so much for doing this. I know it can seem unreasonable, but this approach helps me keep my appointments straight. I’m really glad you came to me and I look forward to meeting to discuss these.”
I love meeting with students. I used to hate it because scheduling meetings and keeping them was a giant bag of stress. With my simple 2 step system it’s easy to make and keep meetings stress free. That last sentence sounds like an infomercial, but I genuinely mean it.