Man, is this week kicking my butt. Hence, the silence. But I do have something that's been on my mind all week, that I've been turning over and over in my mind but haven't really come to a good resolution.
So. We all have students in our classes that are maybe not doing as well as we think they could or should. That would benefit from coming in and talking to us during office hours, for instance. Asking questions about the course material, yes, but also discussing strategies for how to study, how to read the text, how to approach the homework assignments, even how to ask for help from the TAs and/or other sources.
Some of these students, left to their own devices, may in fact find their way to office hours, will figure out how to be successful in class, and find enlightenment. Many, though, will not, and will struggle unnecessarily.
For some, laziness may be the main factor. But for others, it may be a fear---of the professor (hey, I was scared to death of my professors, and never went to any office hours until my senior year), of who knows what. And it may even be one of those tricky "cultural capital" things---not coming from an environment where you know how to utilize the available resources, including professors. It's hard to tell, sometimes, what forces are at work.
How, and when, and how much, do you reach out to these students?
I probably do more than most. I keep a careful eye out early on to catch those who are struggling right off the bat. I reach out to them as soon as I sense there's an issue---usually by email, because I figure that's less awkward than confronting them face-to-face. ("Hey, you're failing! Why don't you stop by and see me?" Yeah, awkward.) I do this throughout the course, too, especially after exams and other milestones. And I try to check in periodically with those who have taken the time to come and see me.
Many students, though, never take me up on my request, and continue struggling.
Now, I'm not talking about excessive hand-holding here or dealing with lazy students. But sometimes I wonder if I should be doing more for some of these students who maybe fall into one of those latter camps: the fearful ones, or the ones lacking cultural capital. Should I be more persistent? Where is the line between persistent and annoying? In short, how do I help the ones who want my help (but may be too intimidated to take advantage of it, even if I'm the one who reached out) without annoying those who don't?
Maybe this is one of those questions that doesn't have a nice, pat answer.