During one of his first graduate classes at Southern Methodist University, Abhijit Sunil grew aghast at a bag of chips — not the food itself but how a classmate was handling it.
Sunil, a native of India, watched as the student loudly pulled out the bag, opened it and began eating the chips. As he recalled in a commentary for The Daily Campus, SMU’s student newspaper, the noise of her mid-class meal was so distracting it competed with the professor for other students’ attentions.
Sunil called the incident “one of the starkest contrasts that I experienced between the student culture in America and the student culture in a third-world country. Certain liberties and informalities in an American classroom setting would be completely unacceptable in other parts of the world. … All my life, I have called my professors and teachers as ‘sir’ and ‘madam.’ Indeed, we sat very still in classrooms, almost like statues, because, for us, this was a display of respect and obedience. … In my view, the education system in the U.S. follows the principle of treating students as equals with the professors, thus instigating them to rise up to such a level. But this could also mean students may miss out on some important lessons in life of reverence and manners.”
Sunil’s assessment is a reminder of the classroom etiquette issues students — and professors — face each school day. Who are some of the most common culprits of class indiscretions?
In a piece for The Crow’s Nest, University of South Florida St. Petersburg student Amanda Pretulac shared: “There is the gum-smacking student. There is the student who can’t get enough of their snack-size Cheetos and never learned the art of chewing with a closed mouth. Hopefully none of you have ever had to take a class with Rapunzel, who sits in front of you and throws her hair all over your desk while you’re taking notes. There is the student who answers questions so often that you’d think you were on an episode of ‘Jeopardy.’ Or maybe you’ve endured a class period next to the heavy smoker who emulates Pigpen from Charlie Brown?”
To fight back against these types of individuals and others engaging in similarly impolite acts, here are five rules for classroom etiquette recently laid out in student newspapers.
As Molly Waddell wrote in the spring for The Houstonian at Sam Houston State University, “You may feel the need to tell your friend that thing you just thought of right now — but is it really necessary? Talking in class not only distracts your friend and risks both [you] and your [friend] getting embarrassed if the professor calls you out, it distracts other students in the class — and yes, they can hear you, even if you’re whispering.”
Keep mobile use to a minimum
As Joanna Wheatley wrote earlier this year for the Black & Magenta at Muskingum University, “This is an obviously overstated rule that is not always followed. College students get bored in class and like to send and receive text messages. The problem is that not paying attention to the professor means missing vital information. When someone is talking to you, you generally look at them and give them your attention. If a professor is talking to you, why not give them the same courtesy? They don’t take out their cell phones when you speak to them, do they?”
Be polite to your professors
As Taylor Young wrote near the start of the semester in The AT&T Register at North Carolina A&T State University, “What saddens me is that I have also seen students talking back to professors and as a result being thrown out of class. … One could only think that a newfound respect and gratefulness would be portrayed to professors and other professionals. Ladies and gentlemen, I ask you to simply grow up. In the eyes of the law we are all adults! Wake up and act like you have some sense. This is college, not high school. You should enjoy yourself, but not at the cost of disrespecting the adults around you. Think before you act and speak. Allow these professionals to assist you; it is their job.”
Hang around until the end
As Lisa McMahan wrote in The Beacon at the University of Portland, “Keep it together until class is over. If you respect professors’ time by showing up when you’re supposed to show, they will most likely do the same and let you out when they need to. Packing up early and causing a scene generally doesn’t speed up the lecture, and if professors go a minute or two past the official end of class, take comfort in the fact that it takes less than 10 minutes to get anywhere you need to be on campus.”
Handle class problems after class
As Elizabethtown College professor Sharon Trachte told The Etownian, “Students should always schedule an appointment with their professor. They should make a list of issues [they may be having]. If this is unsuccessful, they should meet with their faculty adviser or the faculty adviser of the department [to resolve any outstanding issues].”
What classroom etiquette rules would you add to this list?
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