Classroom etiquette is something that you will hopefully grasp over the course of your first semester in college. Of course, it is most important to understand and follow the basic rules every professor sets at the beginning of the semester, usually listed somewhere in your syllabi. But there are a few things in particular that pertain to almost any class and that I feel I should mention for you to keep in mind when starting school:
Computers: Some professors are picky about the use of computers or iPads for taking notes; others really don’t mind. If you want to use a computer for note taking, you will definitely want to do so in such a way that is respectful to your instructor and those around you. First, remember that everyone around you can see what you’re doing. If you have programs open that distract you from what the teacher is saying, it probably is distracting other people too. Also remember that most professors can tell when you are not paying attention. If you are on your laptop chatting with someone on Facebook or checking emails, it is very obvious to your professor and may even distract them. Keep in mind that class time is meant to be spent learning, not for being social, and that the people around you are aware of what you are doing. So just be considerate of everyone else, they are there to learn too.
Cell Phones: As the popularity of smartphones grows, they are becoming more and more of a problem in classrooms. For some reason students believe that if they can hide it under the table or in front of their computers the teacher won’t know they aren’t paying attention. False, false, false! It is too obvious if you don’t make eye-contact with the teacher or don’t participate in the class discussions that you’re playing with your phone. Not only does this hinder your chances of getting a good grade in the class, but it will almost definitely distract others around you just like laptops. The constant vibration of incoming texts is one feature in particular that should be avoided. The sound of someone’s phone around you vibrating is such a huge distraction. It is okay to leave it on vibrate, but you’re better off leaving it in your backpack and not setting it on the desk to begin with. That will remove the temptation to surf the web or text friends when the class starts to feel boring. Again, some professor care a lot more about the use of phones than others, but just think about those around you and whether or not you want a good grade in the class.
Dr. / Mr. / Ms.: It is very important that you call your professor by the degree they have earned. Getting a PhD takes a lot of work. If your professor has one, they deserve to be called Dr. Some professors feel very strongly about this, but may not say so to you directly. If you really aren’t sure, call them professor or look up their background info on your school’s website. It should be pretty easy to find!
Arriving late to class: This of course has many negative consequences. The most apparent is that all your classmates and your professor will immediately notice you (and not in a good way). Professors expect their students to take their course seriously and arrive on time. If you repeatedly show up late, it damages your reputation as a serious student, and your fellow students will feel less inclined to fill you in on what you missed. Not to mention your arrival will disrupt the class’s focus on what the teacher is saying.
Talking during class: It is important to stay active in your class discussions, but that does not mean you should talk to your friends while your professor is talking. This should go without saying, yet I’ve been astounded to see how many people have side conversations during class. Not only are they wasting precious class time to discuss irrelevant, and usually unimportant, things but they are also wasting the teacher’s and their fellow classmates’ time by being insensitive to their attempts at staying focused. So wait your turn and raise your hand if it is a big class and you have something to say, otherwise don’t talk, just listen. Whatever you have to say to the person next to you can wait till class is over.
As you spend more time in college classes, you will notice things other people do that really bother you. Let that be a red flag for you – if it irritates you, don’t do it yourself. It probably bothers others as well. Remember that you’re only in each class for a few hours a week. It’s not like high school where you see the same teachers every day. Every little impression you make counts for a lot. Do your best to stand out as someone who is polite and involved in class, not rude or disruptive.