Gibson’s Guide to Classroom Etiquette

By Chris Gibson

One of the things that differentiates university from high school is that every one attending is an adult, and is usually treated as such. In high school, your teachers help you with everything: getting your homework done, going to class, behaving yourself, etc. In university, you are simply expected to be able to do these things since you are, legally, an adult. When it comes to the classroom, at least, university is a more grown-up environment where certain codes of conduct are expected. It’s not fun, I admit, to sit quietly and pay attention, but it’s something you have to do when you grow up, and the benefits of this (getting a good mark, getting your degree, getting a good job, etc) are worth a few hours of boredom.

Here are three tips to avoid being an annoying knucklehead during class.

1) Enough with the talking: Small aside comments or jokes or whatever are fine. Nobody is going to tell you to be absolutely silent during a class. But long, extended conversations during class are annoying and disrespectful, especially if it’s a class where paying attention to what’s happening and why (say, a math course) is vital to understanding. It’s not freshman year of high school anymore. Of course, some professors are too lenient with talkers, so here’s some advice for them: explain why talking a lot during class is disrespectful, and if they keep doing it, give ‘em the boot. If they are going to act like they are 14, then treat them like they are 14.

2) Don’t waste our time: This applies mostly to arts courses. We all know that guy or gal who likes to talk about his or her favourite topic, or treats the class as a forum for them to espouse their personal opinions on anything but what the class is about. This is a big waste of everybody’s time (and money, since we are paying to be there). Some professors are easily derailed, and some students take advantage of that for whatever reason. In this case, it’s up the rest of the class to get things back on track and chugging along smoothly (I hope the train analogies are getting the point across).

3) R E S P E C T: This is the biggie. The above two rules are all based on one word: respect. Respect gets its own rule because it’s a concept that a lot of people don’t seem to understand. I could go on for twenty pages about disrespectful behavior outside of the classroom, but disrespectful behavior in the classroom includes not just talking a lot and wasting everybody’s time, but also coming to class late and interrupting, falling asleep during class (yeah, it still happens), eating a giant meal during class, making fun of people behind their back…the list goes on. Here’s a simple way to remember how to not be a jerk: if you wouldn’t do it during a movie, don’t do it in class1.

1. Making out is the obvious exception here. I’ve only ever seen somebody making out in class once, and it was really distracting. Use your best judgment. 


  1. I think “Don’t listen to music during class” should be added. We didn’t pay $500 to listen to people’s music while the instructor is talking.


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