TAs are expected to hold at least two scheduled office hours per week, and make appointments as necessary to meet students who have schedule conflicts with your scheduled hours. According to the Center for Teaching and Learning, "At the University of Washington, it is typical for instructors to offer two to three office hours a week." Including appointments and a few extra office hours and/or review sessions before exams, your average over the quarter should be about three hours a week.
If you are TAing for a course that is served by the Math Study Center (MSC) – 111, 112, 120, 124/5/6, 127/8/9, 144/145/146 – you are required to schedule one office hour a week in the MSC, and strongly encouraged to schedule two there. At the MSC, you are welcome to give top priority to your own students, give next priority to other students in your lecture section, and, if you wish, help students in other sections of the same course. If no students from your course need help, you may, if you wish, help students from other courses, but only if you are acquainted with the material (e.g., if you've taught that course before). You may reserve one of the cubicles at the MSC for your office hours, or move into one if working with a group of your students or if a private conversation requires it. (Note that the cubicles have white boards.)
There are many advantages to having office hours at the MSC. Students have many sources of help there: not just you, but other students in the same course and other TAs and undergrad tutors working at the MSC. Some students use the MSC as a study hall, doing homework and getting help when they're stuck; this is more productive than working alone at home and piling up questions to ask the next day. When your office hour is over, the MSC usually is still open, so you can leave in good conscience even if some of your students still have questions. If your students need help when you don't have office hours, they'll probably go to the MSC instead of coming to your office asking "May I have an appointment right now?"
If you hold all scheduled office hours in the MSC, be especially careful that your students know they can make appointments to see you privately or in small groups in your office. (At the MSC, you can use the cubicles and sometimes the room next to the MSC director's office for more private consultations, also.) Remind the students several times throughout the quarter that it's easy to make appointments to see you outside of scheduled office hours (especially if they have conflicts with all your office hours). For instance, after midterms is a particularly good time to do so, when many students may need some individual, possibly confidential, attention.
If you find that the MSC doesn't work well for office hours for you and your students, an exception to policy may be made if the following steps are taken.
- You've tried office hours in the MSC, and have specific reasons why you think holding all your office hours in your office would serve your students better.
- You've talked with Matt Conroy, the director of the MSC, about possible changes in the way you use the Center to solve the problems you experience working there. (For instance, would you do better in a reserved cubicle or at a central table? With a larger/smaller cubicle? At a different time?)
- If no adjustment can make office hours in the MSC serve your students well, ask your lecturer for permission to hold all your office hours in your office. If s/he agrees, tell your students, the rest of your teaching team, and the MSC that you will be in your office instead of the MSC.