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Office Hours & Recitations Scenarios

A: When you are not adequately prepared for office hours.

  • You should try your best to be prepared in office hours! Make sure you don't just read the problems/solutions, but also understand them (this will save time during OH).
  • Sometimes things happen or you might be over-committed so this situation might come up, and if this is the case, try your best to work with the students through their thought-process on coming up with solutions to problems they might be stuck with.
    • Describe what concepts or approaches you might try to investigate solve the problems if you were in their shoes.
  • If you get stuck, refer to the following Scenario B.
  • Ask fellow TAs or instructors for help if you are over-committed, however, try to plan a couple of hours for preparing for OH ahead of time. Visit Occupational Therapy for help.

B: When you don't know the answer to a question.

  • Admit that it is a great question and you don't know the answer (don't pretend to know).
  • Explain your thinking process that might get to the answer.
  • Tell the student that you will get back to them once you find out, then let them know once you do know.
  • Direct the student to other resources (Piazza, other TAs, instructor) that might know.

C: Students seem to take advantage of you in office hours (students panicked or unprepared).

  • To prevent this from happening, try to schedule your office hours so they are sufficiently before the homework assignment due date but close enough so students will have attempted the questions.
  • In the case that they are panicked and unprepared, ask students to take some time (during the office hours) to process the questions and get to a point where they get stuck.
  • Also, help students with conceptual knowledge or misconceptions that will help them get unstuck.
    • Avoid directly telling or prescribing students the solution (no matter how pressed for time they might be).

D: When you are feeling overwhelmed by number of students at office hours.

  • Let the instructor know what is happening and ask for more resources (i.e. more TAs for the office hours).
  • Direct students to other resources if appropriate (Piazza).
  • Address this at the TA meetings and ask other TAs to help.

E: A student's code has tons of test failures and they are asking you for help.

  • Figure out what the student has already tried.
  • Check the student's approach with them (pseudocode).
  • Step through a simpler version of the program.
  • If it is taking too much time, tell the student what you would try given more time so they could try it on their own. Remember to check back with the student to make sure they are not stuck.
  • Don't try debugging for hours since there are likely more students that need your help.

F: Your office hours have no students.

  • Ask the other TAs - it could be that students had a busy week so all office hours were empty.
  • Change the time of the office hours if most students happened to be busy at that time and advertise the time of the office hours. Note that students may have different timezones during online instruction.
  • Don't stay silent - let the instructor know since office hours are a tight resource.
  • Don't leave the office hour early when there are no students since more might come later.