College is expensive and a lot of students pay dearly for it. This is why I’m always incredibly astounded by the lack of classroom etiquette that people seem to get away with.
There are some rules that warrant discussion or review. Admittedly, college is it’s own wild atmosphere and everyone’s learning about learning. But some guidelines will make learning itself easier.
First, if you start a comment in a classroom with a disclaimer, don’t finish it. We’ve all heard them: “I don’t mean to sound racist but…” Or, “Not to be sexist or anything but…”. Just don’t say it. Think it over. Keep it in your head for bit and reorganize your idea until you can articulate it with clarity and consideration and without a disclaimer. The comments that begin with such disclaimers are almost always racist or sexist or homophobic or xenophobic or generally offensive.
Second, there is a time and a place to share personal experiences. Most of the time, the classroom is not the place. If a professor asks, “Have any of you ever…” then use judgment, and a professor’s expertise on discussion facilitation will hopefully keep everyone in check. But most personal experiences are personal. Your fellow students don’t really want to hear about your children or ex-wives or your travels or your boyfriends. Insert your experiences into your papers if they are applicable or keep a learning journal in your classes where you talk about the material and the way it relates to your life.
Third, be timely in your comments. It’s weird for students to take more than a minute to answer a question or address the class. If it cannot be said concisely, write it on paper and see if you can downsize it. When a class is only fifty minutes and every
student takes a few minutes to say something, time flies out the window and it’s easy to fall behind. Also, professors are very smart people. They can spend decades studying what they are teaching you and, while students can teach
each other, the most valuable information comes from their intellectual archives. People who talk too much or too long in class have a sense of entitlement, as though they are as familiar with a subject as a professor who wrote a thesis on it. If you need clarity on a particular point you learn in class or want to discuss something more in depth, make an appointment with your professor during their office hours. Start a study group with people in your class where you can talk about all of the concepts in a less formal setting. This way, you can have hours at your disposal.
Fourth, listen very closely to what is being talked about in class and follow discussions carefully. Sometimes, eager students are so excited to share an idea that they don’t realize it’s already been expressed. Learning to think in college means learning how to speak and write but also learning how to listen and process information. Semesters are four months long and if an opportunity is missed to share an idea, another one will present itself. If you are absent for a class period, talk to your fellow students about their notes or schedule to meet with a professor. It can be rude to start a comment with, “I wasn’t here last time, so I don’t know what we talked about…” The entire class shouldn’t have to backtrack because one person missed something.
There are people who stopped teaching here because of how negligent and entitled the students were. I also know students who have dropped out of school because of how unfocused discussions were and how rude and offensive their fellow students could be in classroom settings.
If teaching were easy, everyone would do it. If going to school at UVU were not a challenge, our graduation rates would skyrocket. But, teaching isn’t easy. Managing a classroom of people who come from all walks of life, who range in age and differ in interests is one of the hardest jobs, particularly in this valley. By being considerate and learning how to listen and express our thoughts carefully we are practicing what we are paying for. We are easing the burdens of our incredible staff and acquiring skills we will use for a lifetime. That adage we use, “Everything I learned, I learned in kindergarten,” is true in so many ways – because respect and learning to raise your hand are things we learned in kindergarten. Hopefully, we’ve mastered those concepts by the time we graduate here.
By Felicia Joy