If you mention that you are struggling to anyone on campus they will suggest going to “office hours.” I used context clues to deduce that this was in reference to seeing my professor, yet I didn’t really know what went on during this time or how to ask for it. Now I know that you often do not need to schedule an appointment to see a professor during office hours (although some prefer it) and there can be other people there, but often times it is just the two of you. Here are some typical situations where going to professors’ office hours throughout the semester has been helpful for me and how to approach them.
You have a question you are too embarrassed to ask during class.
I know that some students are just afraid to ask any questions in a class of 80 students, but by the end of the first semester, I was generally comfortable enough to ask most of my questions. However, there are times when a professor can spend an entire class explaining what a term means and I still don’t know how to define the term in my outline. Or sometimes I have questions that are only tangentially related to the topic but my curiosity will not let go. If it's a quick question the professor will likely answer it after class or in an email. If it’s longer then you should write out the things you do understand, and try to create a very specific question that will get the answer you’re looking for from the professor.
You don’t understand anything at all about the topic.
The number one reason I tried to avoid office hours first semester was because I felt like it would be disrespectful to go into a professor’s office and tell him that I was so confused that I didn’t even know what it was I was confused about. This changed when one of my professors reminded my class that the professors work for us and that we pay too much money to be confused. After hearing this, I started to admit my shame to professors and they were able to help me. However, the best way to avoid getting to this point, is to ask for clarity earlier. Many topics build on top of each other and missing the foundation bricks will make the house almost impossible to build. These may be longer meetings and I suggest talking or emailing the professor about making either one large block of time or several shorter blocks time to discuss your confusion.
You don't understand a specific section of the material.
What is likely the most common in law school is to not understand one particular section.
You understand the rest of the class but one or two sections still seem like a foreign language. A professor recommended that if I was struggling I should take that part of my outline to my professors. The concept was so simple and yet seemed to go against all the principles of law school. How could I possibly show my hand to my professor when I was attempting to master his exam? Well apparently, they want us to master the exam! Lol. So I nervously walked into office hours for one of my professor clutching my outline and asked him about a section. He then asks what I was holding. I told him it was my outline and he began to read it and tell me things I had misinterpreted or steps I had missed. It was the most amazing feeling to walk out of his office knowing that I had the professors stamp of approval (with corrections and suggestions) for information that would be on his final exam.
The official website can give you the impressive bios and credentials of professors, but I’d like to end with a shout out a few professors that I feel are particularly helpful when you are feeling help-less in the class.
• John T. Nockleby — Professor Nockleby is great with helping you with your academics as a whole. He helps you to realize where you’ve made a wrong turn in his class, and explains how to avoid that mistake both his class and your other classes.
• Robert Brain — I particularly appreciate Professor Brain’s candor and directness. I trust that when I write something amazing, he will tell me and when I write something that would get me laughed out of the legal profession, he would tell me. He also has the unsettling ability to remember quotes and statutes off the top of his head that can help you whether you’re looking to move from a C to a B or a B to an A.
• Allan Ides — Professor Ides has an uncanny ability to show you how brilliant he is, without making you feel stupid. Lol. But seriously. Sometimes when he speaks I write down every single word and sometimes I just marvel in in how much he knows that I don’t. He is able to explain how to work through a particular topic in an orderly and systematic way, but is still able to explain how it makes sense in the big picture.
All of the professors I have spoken to were not able to explain things in a way that suited my personal learning style, but I can say that every time I reached out for help from a professor here at Loyola, I was welcomed with open arms.