BASIS Independent Schools are known for offering a robust curriculum that is internationally benchmarked. Subject Expert Teachers and highly motivated and curious students make the classroom a very special place. In the midst of engaging lectures, spirited discussions, and hands-on practice; our faculty have an additional item in their toolbox—Office Hours. Office Hours have long been celebrated at BISV, but what they are and how they are structured has not always be clearly defined.

There is often a misconception that office hours mimic what many of us experienced in a collegiate setting: waiting in line in a hallway to see a professor in their office to ask a question. At BISV, our Office Hours are an extension of the classroom that offers teachers a more robust way to engage with their students in a variety of ways.

What are Office Hours?

Traditionally, each of our Subject Expert Teachers has scheduled two office hours per week (in the year to come, each of our faculty members will be scheduling two and a half hours per week), and students are invited to drop in. Teachers hold their Office hours in classrooms, and often the sessions allow many students to participate at once. During these times, students can make up exams or quizzes, or perhaps ask questions about a recently returned exam or quiz. They can ask questions about a topic they need help understanding, they can offer feedback about a discussion that was held in class, or they can work with a small group of classmates to review an in class assignments. Or, they can do all of these things! As with all things pertaining to our Subject Expert Teachers, they have autonomy to run these Office Hours in a way that makes sense for their discipline, and even in a way that makes sense for a particular child. These sessions may be completely unstructured, or may be very structured depending on what is currently happening in class or what is coming up. The grade level of a particular group of students may also dictate the strategies used to structure the session.

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Writing workshops before an essay is due, review games before an exam, working through complex equations with a Peer Tutor at the whiteboard, picking up a bonus worksheet to further cement skills—these are all ways in which our Subject Expert Teachers leverage their scheduled Office Hour time. This added academic, and often social, support is paramount for our high achieving Bobcats. There are so many different important lessons being focused on during Office Hours. Ms. Srivastava, a Subject Expert English Teacher, often runs her Office Hours to work on soft skills such as organization, or extra review. She explained, “Office Hours are my number one tool for anything a student needs. Office Hours are often where we develop relationships with students, strengthen skills, and boost confidence in a subject matter. I always encourage students to come as the best thing I can give my students is more time!”

Some teachers may have very busy Office Hours, and may ask for students to schedule specific drop in times, while others only have a few Bobcats pop in over the course of their two hours a week and their time is generally unstructured. Ms. Jones, a Subject Expert Spanish Teacher and Teacher Mentor shared,” I prefer students to tell me when they are coming and be prepared to see me. First, I have them choose a time slot and the reason for their appointment. Then, if I see that more than one student has the same question, I can see them simultaneously. Depending on how many students come to office hours and their needs, we do different activities.”

 

Why are Mandatory Office Hours Helpful?

Office Hours are a wonderful opportunity to connect with students in a way that is different than in the classroom. Sometimes there is progress that just cannot be made in a traditional classroom setting, and students need a different approach. Ms. Srivastava shared, “There is always an ‘ah-ha’ moment when a student starts to come regularly to Office Hours. In the five years I have been a teacher at BISV, I have seen students often struggle with a particular concept. Then, students try to come to Office Hours right before a test or quiz, and sometimes, they think one Office Hour will do the trick. However, when students can come and work on something regularly, they eventually grasp it. One of my grade 8 students started coming once every week and managed to turn his C into an A- after three or four sessions. It is always wonderful to see students dedicate their time to come and get help or ask questions!”

Repeatedly, our teachers have shared with us that Office Hours help their students in many important ways other than seeing higher grades on their progress reports. Dr. Noble, a Subject Expert Physics Teacher, has several weekly worksheets that students can pick up to hone their skills. With encouragement, a particular student began working on the more difficult worksheets that he offers. He shared, “It was a struggle for her at first, but by the end of the year she was doing the more complex problems of the week without any difficulty. Her confidence in class grew as she kept coming and doing the work, her participation increased, and she did better overall. That little bit of extra work can change a student's entire outlook on the class.”

 

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For those learners who are more shy and reserved, this quieter, non-class time is a wonderful time to connect one-on-one. For many of our faculty, this is their favorite part of Office Hours—the ability to engage with a child who is not confident enough to speak up in class. Mr. Vermouth, our Director of Student Affairs and former Subject Expert English and Psychology Teacher, explained, “This is the time where students who are normally too shy or reserved to speak out in class, can shine. They often ask questions or share insights with me during Office Hours that I then ask them to share in front of the class. This has helped a number of my students with being more confident in their abilities.”

 

Why Our Teachers Love Office Hours

Our Peer Tutoring program thrives because of Office Hours. Students who enjoy a particular subject, volunteer to help our at various Faculty Office Hours, and add an additional resource to the sessions. If Office Hours are especially busy, students can get support from their peers.  Sometimes, this support from their fellow Bobcats is actually preferred. Dr. Bozidarevic, a Subject Expert Chemistry Teacher explained, “As much as we do our best to be approachable and not intimidating, students are more likely to ask questions of their peers than teachers in some cases. Peer tutors often have their own way of explaining things, and it is very helpful for students to hear different explanations of the same concept if they are struggling to grasp it.” Dr. B, as the students affectionately call her, relies heavily on Peer Tutors, and has seen students coach their peers for various Chemistry competitions (and do very well at said competitions), all because they were all able to find time to connect during Office Hours.

Even experts like feedback! Office Hours are an important part of a curricular feedback loop on campus. Ms. Jones explained, “This time with students outside of the classroom helps me get feedback about my teaching and what they would like me to cover, or do, differently. Also, I like when they share what they like about the class and/or what confuses or challenges them. This time gives me room to reflect on what is working well and what needs improvement.”

Finally, another wonderful element of Office Hours, is that our faculty is available for students who may be seeking advice or mentorship in entering contests that are tied to a specific discipline. Or potentially club members who need some one-on-one time with their advisor. Ms. Silva, an English and Business Subject Expert Teacher who is also an advisor to our DECA chapter shared, “I have many students who are looking for support with their poetry or art portfolios; or my DECA members who have come to discuss club issues, plans for the next meeting, or would like to practice for an upcoming competition.”

 

Office Hours are an amazing complement to our curriculum, and offer support to our student community. We welcome you to learn more about the globally benchmarked BASIS Curriculum to get an even better sense of how Office Hours go hand in hand with our culture of student autonomy.