Office hours, i.e. free time?

Mr. Fifer and school schedule, March 31, 2020 – screenshot from assembly stream

In the new virtual learning schedule, students face a two-and-a-half-hour-long block of unscheduled time in the afternoon. Are students using this part of the day, still considered school hours, or is it just free time? 

Poll by Austin Zhuang ’22

     Before understanding how different departments are addressing the issue, it is important to recognize that the administration and faculty are still working busily to smooth out Virtual Haverford.

     “I think we’re all learning as we go, sort of like how both students and faculty were learning how flex periods worked last year,” Upper School history teacher Mr. Hart said.

     Even more, some faculty argue that having undetermined time is beneficial in the current process of developing a virtual educational platform.

     Upper School English Department Chair Mr. Thomas Stambaugh said, “Having some sort of raw, unscheduled parts of an experiment is a good design process.”

     Office hours also provide a set time in the afternoon to work. After that time, students should be able to get a break from their screens.

     “I think the issue that is challenging is that from 8:30 to 12:30 all you guys are on your laptops, to then having a meeting in the afternoon, and then your homework is on the laptop—it’s just a lot of screen time,” Mr. Hart said. “I think it’s good to have that hardline at 3:30 to get away from the laptop.”

Screenshot of a meeting with Mr. Hart, April 7, 2020 – Jeffrey Yang 22

     Similarly, the science department’s goal is for students to step away from their laptops after office hours having completed all their day’s work for their classes.

     “If students are working on what they’re supposed to be working on [during office hours], my goal is for them to not have to work outside the confines of 8:30 to 3:00,” Science Department Chair Dr. Goduti said.

     From teachers’ perspectives, office hours provide a time to do their work.

     “With us being at home, we have a lot of things we have to manage. For me as a teacher, I try to get a lot of the work done for school at that time,” Dr. Goduti said.

     Mr. Stambaugh spoke about how faculty are able to engage with their families.

     “I think part of the reason why we have office hours in the afternoon is so that teachers can have some time to spend with their families, but on the other side, I think students need to have some time to access their teacher beyond the hour of class,” Mr. Stambaugh said.

     As a result, various departments are using office hours based on student appointments. For example, in the math department, teachers have been meeting with students in the afternoon to answer questions.

Poll by Austin Zhuang ’22

     “It works somewhat like a math class at Haverford. I’ll share my screen, have them ask specific questions, and then go through them,” Math Department Chair Mr. Justin Gaudreau said. “I try to get kids with similar questions together in a Meet so that they can work together.”

     In terms of the number of students having appointments in the afternoon, Mr. Gaudreau reported that other teachers in the math department have seen steady use of office hours. However, some classes have more students asking to meet than others.

     “I’ve personally had a bunch of seniors needing help in Calculus,” Mr. Gaudreau said.

     Teachers in both the science and math departments compared it to the volume of students that would get help in the mornings before classes on campus.

     “Much in the same ways as you guys have the mornings from 8:00-8:30 where you could just walk in and ask for help,” Dr. Goduti said.

     Dr. Goduti and some other faculty members use, a website where students can choose a meeting slot during which a teacher is available.

     “I’ve had a couple of students check-in with questions just for ten to fifteen minutes. I think it’s working pretty well,” Dr. Goduti said.

Screen Shot in a meeting with Dr. Goduti, 4-6-2020 – Jeffrey Yang ’22

     Other departments have had less engagement during the afternoon hours. For example, the use of office hours within the history department have been few.

     “I’ve had questions about grades, outside resources, but it definitely has not been widespread. It’s only been a handful,” Mr. Hart said.

     In the English Department, Mr. Stambaugh noted a number of challenges that still need to be settled.

     “We’ve been comparing notes on how things have been working generally,” Mr. Stambaugh said. “I think that going forward, talking a little and comparing notes on how office hours have been effective is a conversation we will definitely be having.”

     Despite the lack of meetings during office hours, faculty members across all departments have reported an influx in emails.

     “Emails are just easier, and [the office hours] is a time where teachers will be actively on their email,” Dr. Goduti said.

“With all the work students have at home, it’s more learning on the students’ end and clarification on our end.”

History teacher Mr. Jeremy Hart

     With teachers starting to run their classes with asynchronous work, many students have been emailing the questions they run into while completing the learning by themselves.

     Mr. Hart said, “I think that the idea is that with all the work students have at home, it’s more learning on the students’ end and clarification on our end.”

     Mr. Hart has encouraged students to use the office hours productively by having assignments due at 3:30.

     “That way, if students have any questions or need clarification, I’ll be there during office hours. I think there’s a lot of time in the afternoon for work,” Mr. Hart said.

     The Math Department has found a way to utilize the limited time of classes by providing videos or questions relating to the next class’s lesson for students the night before. Their goal, as Mr. Gaudreau said, is to have a “running start” into the class.

     “We’ve been trying to be cognizant of spacing out assignments so that it’s not a flurry of work,” Mr. Gaudreau said.

Screen Shot in a meeting with Mr. Gaudreau, April 7, 2020 – Jeffrey Yang ’22

     The various department chairs were uncertain about office hours’ future. Dr. Goduti noted that other activities could happen during the afternoon.

     “The school is thinking about offering non-academic opportunities during office hours, so there’s been some talk of starting some clubs or groups around science. Office hours may start out as for academic advice, but eventually, I think they’ll start using it just to seek advice and questions and to talk to teachers as they normally would, ” Dr. Goduti said.

“Everyone is working at their best to make this the best that they can under these circumstances; both students and faculty have to realize that.”

MAth Department Chair Mr. Justin Gaudreau

     The shift to virtual learning is uncharted territory, and everyone in the community is making an effort to settle into a new situation.

     Mr. Gaudreau said, “Everyone is working at their best to make this the best that they can under these circumstances; both students and faculty have to realize that.”

Author: Jeffrey Yang '22

Jeffrey Yang is an editor-in-chief of the Index, and has been a contributor to the newspaper since 2018. He also works on the school literary magazine, Pegasus, and the yearbook, Haligoluk, and participates in Reading Olympics, Model UN, and Cross Country.