Reflections on Advising, Mentoring and Open Office Hours
Recently on FaceBook a former student, Jillian (now a high school teacher of AP Psychology) invited me to comment on Dana Dunn’s Psychology Today blog post about “The Overlooked Importance of Instructor Office Hours.” Thank you, Jillian, for alerting me to his thoughts — and for continuing to stay in touch. I admire what you are doing professionally in “giving away” psychology in your teaching and coaching and mentoring of other AP Psychology teachers.
Dana writes well and gives important advice in his blog “Head of the Class.” Here are comments I made to him in response to what he wrote:
Well said! I am saddened at how fewer and fewer students come to my office to see me across the past forty years. I have an open door policy in addition to scheduled office hours. “Today’s” student seems to think that email communication serves the same purpose. I respect the fact that they are so busy with multiple jobs, student extracurricular activities, and their studies. Meeting them in person, though, in my office, allows for mentoring, my learning from them, and the building of a relationship that can in fact last across one’s lifetime. I have been so blessed.
I’ve been reflecting lately on my role as faculty adviser to undergraduates here at Carroll and about those faculty who played such a crucial role in that capacity for me. Without doubt their influence shaped how and why I relate to students and former students as I do.
At Oberlin College my most influential adviser was Ralph H. Turner. Ralph, the first faculty member to invite me to address him by his first name, somehow was able to provide me the right balance of challenge and support I needed both inside and outside the classroom. I fondly and respectfully remember him as intellectually curious, patient, playful, kind, and unusually generous in his time with me. Indeed he was willing to stay in touch with me even across the years that I was continuing my education at The Ohio State University. Thank you, Ralph.
I was blessed with a similar and even deeper rich and enduring relationship at Ohio State with Tom Ostrom, who was my adviser, research collaborator, mentor, friend, and role model until the day of his untimely death. Tom provided emotional support for me while I struggled with the likelihood of being pulled out of graduate school to be sent to Vietnam, listened to me as I sorted out my thoughts about getting married, wrote me a teasing letter about a study I should do if I ended up in jail, guided me in the transition from the intense research world of Ohio State to my current home at Carroll and inspired me to share with others my love of learning. His wisdom, lust for life, optimism, sense of humor, firmness, and candor still guide and humble me.
Both individuals so impacted my life in so many ways. I draw upon their wisdom each time I am interacting with a student in an advising capacity or with my student research assistants. Advising is much more than helping students make the transition from high school, providing advice in course selection, or giving guidance in deciding whether there is an afterlife after graduating from Carroll. The lessons taught me by Ralph and Tom aren’t and can’t be learned from adviser training workshops.
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