I have been given the gift of first-year students this term. By “gift” I mean that after 22 years of teaching, I have a room full of fresh-out-of-high-school minds. These students are unique in many ways and I could spend the rest of the term writing posts about their uniqueness, but today I’m going to focus on one feature that unites them: FMOOWMP, or “Fear of Meeting One-On-One With My Professor.”

I didn’t come up with this roll-off-your-tongue acronym but I do believe it describes MANY students, not just those in their first year. Watch this 2-minute video produced by ASU (I showed it to my class) and tell me if you agree that the cure to FMOOWMP is FOH.

If I think waaaaaaay back to when I was an undergrad, I can totally relate. I was struggling in many of my lower division science classes and although I had an inkling that my professor might be able to help, the one thing that kept me from taking advantage of them as a resource was that I didn’t even know what to ask. I didn’t know where to start. I was so baffled and confused and couldn’t risk my professor believing that about me too. So…I waited until things were almost beyond repair to visit an office hour, and low and behold, things started to turn around.

I queried my first year students, “how many of you have been to a faculty office hour?” About a quarter of them raised their hand. “Here” I added. All of them dropped their hand. I had them discuss why that is, among their table groups. Responses ranged from, “I don’t know where their office is,” to, “I don’t even know where to start.” All familiar. I asked the class if they would be more likely to sit with their professor and ask questions at a table in the dining hall. Their eyes lit up, heads nodded, and smiles surfaced. They clearly liked this idea.

Many faculty have already figured this out as evidenced by the tables full of students gathered around them at various hours throughout the day in the dining hall. Faculty who do this report that “coming to the students” telegraphs to them that “I am meeting you where you’re at” both literally and figuratively. I’m on board.

When I have had students sign-up to meet with me for 30 minutes in my office as part of my WIC class, the feedback was that I needed to do that more! I’m not sure my schedule could handle that but I think students are telling us that they might just need a little nudge. If all of my students are “required” to spend time with me, then it takes the risk of feeling like an imposter out of the equation.

Edit: I forgot to give Jenna Goldsmith credit for this awesome post idea and Dianna McGinnis for sharing the NPR article that Jenna references in her comment below! 

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3 thoughts on “Do your students suffer from FMOOWMP?

  1. I have sooooo struggled to get students to meet with me one on one. This is actually something we talk about in my U-Engage class. I tell them how when I was an undergraduate, the line for my teachers’s office hours would be out the door. It was understood, and indeed expected, that student visit office hours if they needed extra feedback or help on something. Nowadays, it seems like students just suffer in confused silence (where does this trend come from, I wonder?).

    Recently, Dianna McGinnis shared with me an article from NPR on office hours. You can find it here: https://www.npr.org/2019/10/05/678815966/college-students-how-to-make-office-hours-less-scary

    I had my students read and respond to it and share their own fears. It was fascinating to learn what scares them about meeting professors on on one. Mostly, they worry about coming across as stupid. Interesting.

  2. Thanks for sharing! Love the video – I shared it with colleagues at other institutions.

    At a previous university, we had a bowling alley on campus. One semester I rented a lane for one hour each week and held “office hours” there. More students came than ever before (or since). I think it was partly to see if I was serious, but also because it was way less frightening than meeting in my office. However, while I had more people come by, few actually wanted to discuss things of substance from the course. Instead, they talked more about other things going on – their course load, extracurriculars, etc. I see the value in having an outlet for those discussions, but didn’t feel I was the right one for that – nor did I feel like it needed to be in office hour format.

    What I’ve done since, including here, is to require students to come to my office hours one time in the first 2 weeks of the term and tell me their goal for the course. If they can’t make office hours, they have to set up a different time with me. They only have to plan to be in my office for 5 minutes – just long enough to tell me in person what they want to get out of my course this term. This forces them to a) know where my office is, b) know when my office hours are, c) know/see it is possible to set up alternate times with me, d) think about what their goals are, and e) communicate their goal (which will make them more committed to it and allows me to check in on them specifically as it relates to what they said they wanted). Scheduling this can be a nightmare, but it has been worth it.

    Again, thanks for posting this. I continue to be amazed at how few people come to office hours here. It would be great to systemically change that!

  3. I’m one of those faculty members who does office hours in the Dining Hall. It started because, as an adjunct, I didn’t have a private space to meet with students, so I had to spend time in their public spaces. It was so successful that I kept it going. Students will stop by to say hi, run across the hall to ask a quick question, or make an appointment to sit and chat. If they want to discuss something private, we can go to the library or find an empty conference room (or the new adjunct shared office), but I find that happens only once or twice a quarter. My rule is, “If you see me in the dining hall, I’m available to you – yes, even when I’m eating.” Give it a try!


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