I usually give my students a minute at the beginning of a class period to settle down; I time it to walk in one minute after the official class period. But then I tend to expect that students will quiet down and pay attention to what is going on at the front of the room. Yesterday I went in to my 9:30 class, said hello, and started to review the quiz that students had done in class the session before. Then I realized that in spite of the fact that almost everyone was paying attention and was interested in getting back the test, two people at the back of the room were still talking. Not terribly softly, either. There was a guy and a girl sitting back there talking and talking. I asked them to stop ("Could you please stop your conversation?") but they didn't hear me. So I just stopped talking, and waited. I have been told by others that this silent patient treatment usually works better than direct confrontation. Not then. I just stood there for to minutes while they went on, and on, then I finally did catch the guy's eye again, and asked him to stop talking and said that it was "incredibly rude, and distracting to me and everyone else in the class, when you talk when I am talking." His response? "I didn't know you had started talking." And I couldn't help but answer "That is because you couldn't hear me." They did stop talking. Mostly. And we went on with the class.
A colleague of mine just talked with me yesterday evening about how it can help our students to think about their being a student as a professional job. Students know what a job is. And they tend to understand that you wear specific types of clothes depending on the job you have (a uniform, a smock, a suit, a pair of comfortable or high-heeled shoes; each job has its own vernacular), you don't talk back to the person who is your supervisor, the one who writes your evaluations, you learn quickly what you have to do, how you have to act, and how and when to follow the rules, even if the rules are not actually written out (for example, don't sleep with the boss unless you are willing to put up with the consequences). But when it comes to being a student, those ideas of what is a professional demeanor seem to disappear sometimes.
One of the most important "rules" in life for getting along in this world is that one should be polite and considerate of others. (I know, I know... Not all Republicans follow this, but do you really want to model your life on Republican values?).
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I am not offended if you don't want to be in my class. I am quite fine if you decide this isn't what you really want to do. I may well be disappointed, but I am not offended. But it will benefit you and me if we are both polite, and even one or the other of us doesn't really have sincere respect for the other, we can manage to live with a polite fiction.
So even if you don't want to be there, don't let me know that. I will pretend not to know, and you can pretend to be really interested, and we both will benefit in the long run by that pretending, and maybe in the long run you will learn how cool this content and methodology is, and I will get to know how really talented a student you are. Pretending is not the same thing as lying. One can benefit both parties by hopeful pretence.
Another thing to keep in mind is that I am your supervisor in the classroom. I am your elder. You wouldn't (shouldn't?) be rude to your grandmother. You shouldn't be rude to me. When you have a concern about a particular assignment or think I graded you incorrectly, I am happy to talk with you about it, and happy to talk things through and explain my grading and make changes if there is a cause for it. I do regularly recalculate grades, but I don't often give someone a higher grade simply because he or she thinks a higher mark was earned. But I will always listen to you. And I will try to explain why I gave you the grade I gave you.
You need to take a class seriously, as if it were a job. My job is to make sure you get exposure to the material and if you put into the class what I ask you to put into it, you will learn the material. Your grade is dependent on achieving that, not on your paying the fee for the class. You are not "owed" any grade. You will not get anywhere by telling me that you paid for it, so you should get whatever grade you need -- you will get the grade you earn (This very seldom happens, honestly, but I have been teaching for more than 21 years, and I have had a couple of these conversations). Don't bully me. Don't threaten me. In addition to being rude, that can also stray into criminal activity. Be polite.
I do think that many students have never thought about what activities are rude and how one should behave in class. It is like a movie theatre, or those ads for DVRs. When you are used to watching teevee and can have a conversation, multitask, and go back to repeat something you missed, and then you go to the movies and you want to do the same thing, but you can't. But if someone never told you it was a problem it might not occur to you. I once read a newspaper through a whole semester's class because I really knew the material (or thought I did) and so desperately didn't want to sit through the hour it lasted three times a week. I am still horrified at my own behaviour. But if the teacher had ever told me to put away the paper, I would have done so in an instant. It just didn't occur to me how rude I was being. Therefore I do talk about classroom etiquette at the beginning of every semester, and I include a statement about "Classroom Etiquette" in each syllabus, alongside the statement about disability services available to students, my attendance policy, and the grading scales. This is it:
GENERAL ETIQUETTE: Please do not eat in the classroom (the cleaning staff will hate us!). Generally be polite. Do not read the newspaper while class is going on or do homework for another class. Do not talk to your neighbour. Computers, phones, etc., should be turned off and remain off while in class (tests and quizzes will be hand-written and writing provides a different way of recording information as well as making test-taking much easier). If there is an emergency requiring your monitoring of your phone, please talk with me before class.I figure it doesn't hurt to have it written out, and to remind people that politeness is an important aspect of classroom survival. What do you think? What is the rudest you have been in class, and does it still bother you like it does me (that class for me was almost 30 years ago, and it still rankles)? What do you do when a student is rude to you as a fellow student, or when you are the teacher?