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Chemistry made me feel stupid, my professor made me feel empowered

I turned my assignment in with the most confidence I had ever had. My confidence was not enough. After getting the assignment back, I realized that I only got two questions right. I was shaking, scared and panicking. Never in my life had I approached a class that humbled me so quickly. With a knot in my stomach and weird feelings of guilt, I tried to muster some kind of belief in myself that I could even finish the class. As a last result, I went to my chemistry professor Dr. Douglas Wick’s office hours, and that truly changed how I felt about myself, chemistry, and my future. 

Many college students have had the same experience. Whether the nemesis was chemistry, biology, physics, or math, we’ve all had that one class where we felt like we didn’t understand anything. It doesn’t help that we’re living in a time where teacher shortages are as common as morning rain in January. This environment makes it harder to go seek resources when you need them.

Why you should go to your professor’s office hours

Fear that they’re not struggling enough prevents students from reaching out to their professors. The good news is that they don’t care if you have one problem or ten. When I first walked into my professor’s office hours, I was really struggling, but I still felt ashamed to admit it. I told him about my background, and I got to learn about his love of chemistry: from his first chemistry kit to the moment he decided to become a teacher after working in what should have been his dream job. 

After leaving his office, I felt empowered to accept the discomfort and stand up to the challenge. My mindset surrounding chemistry changed, and I realized that I’m going to make mistakes and that’s okay!  Even if I do have assessments where I don’t get the best grade, the grade isn’t the point; the point is that I’m learning from trial and error. The same trial and error when trying to figure out life.

Go to your professor’s office hours: it could change your life. It even changed the life of Johnny Horton, an English professor. Horton described himself as a freshman who had an idea of what he wanted, but with really no clue at all, “I didn’t want to speak up too much.”  He set out to major in psychology, but he took an interest in English comprehensively, “The English teachers I met were enthusiastic about what they were teaching and were just a lot of fun to talk to.”  As his interest in the subject gained more momentum, so did his relationships with his teachers. From attending more office hours, he could identify with their love of English and see their joy in teaching it, “It opened the door into a world of possibilities.”

As mentioned above, building teacher-student connections can go beyond just homework help. When looking for a scholarship or college recommendation, do you think that the professors you never talked to are going to say amazing things about you? No. They won’t. They don’t even know you. Let’s imagine that you applied for your dream school. The professor you spent time with every Thursday from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. is going to be able to explain that while you did get a C in the class, you’re passionate about the subject, you have perseverance, and you were faced with obstacles and challenges that you continuously pushed through. Who would think that these kinds of recommendations aren’t crucial?

The decision to attend your professor’s office hours can be a very difficult one to make. Pushing through those self-limiting thoughts will allow you to take your education and future in the right direction. A personalized approach to understanding the curriculum and building a solid rapport with your professor will only benefit you in the end. Look at office hours as more than just getting help, but as a reflection of your dedication and the will to campaign for the life you deserve. One hour can be one small step for your grade, and one giant leap for your personal development. 


Haylee Jarret
Staff Writer

Meet Haylee, a writer with a passion for the unique and the strange. When she's not writing for The Collegian, you can find her binge-watching Real Housewives or getting lost in the world of plane documentaries. When she's not in front of a screen, she's either tide-pooling or sipping on an oat milk latte, both of which provide her with a sense of peace and calm as a chihuahua dog mom. With a unique perspective and an eye for detail, Haylee uses journalism as a way to understand the world and the people that make it special.

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