Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Step Away from the Door!

In my first years as a teacher, at least once a semester there would be a full-time, more experienced professor who would come into one of my classes and observe the way that I taught my class. He or she would take notes on what happened during the class, and then we'd talk about the things I did well and the things I still needed to work on. I felt kind of nervous at first in front of the other teachers, but once they gave me their advice, it was worth it.

One professor said that I had to be more strict with my students about making sure that they did not start packing up their things too early. He said that it always bothered him when students did that in his class; that is, ten or fifteen minutes before the class ended students would start putting their books away and noisily zipping up their bags, even though he was still teaching. I didn't even really notice that the students did that, but once I did, I realized that there were some students in almost all of my classes, no matter which school I taught at, who did the same thing.

When students start packing up like that when I'm still teaching the class, it basically makes me think that they've stopped listening, because in their minds the class is over. Or at the very least they're half-listening. It's irritating because not only is it distracting, it's also disrespectful. Not all the students do it; most students will sit quietly and patiently until I actually dismiss them. But when it's happened with a select few students in past semesters, I've called them on it and told them to wait until I actually dismiss the class before they put their things away.

Why are they in such a hurry? Maybe they're worried that they won't be able to get to their next class on time. Maybe they have to be at their jobs and will get in trouble with their bosses if they're late. Or maybe, in their minds, as they're closing their notebooks and fussing with their bookbags, they're thinking this:

Impatient student: Run for your lives! She's trying to EDUCATE us!
Fellow impatient students: AAAAHHHHH! Must resist! Must resist! The door is only a few feet away! Think she'll notice if we sneak out early?

(FYI: I WILL notice, and I WILL get mad. Students have snuck out early before, and they ALWAYS get in trouble with me when they show up for the next class.)

What REALLY bothers me is when students will literally stand up and start walking out the door when I'm still talking and I haven't even dismissed the class yet. I'll say, "I'm not done talking yet! Class is NOT over! Sit down!" And inwardly I'm boiling, because I shouldn't even have to say that. It's like there's this stampede towards the door, and students are practically running to get back to their dorm rooms/apartments so that they can catch the latest episode of Jersey Shore/The Hills/Pretty Wild or play Guitar Hero or update their Facebook page for the thirteenth time that day and give huge sighs of relief, thinking, "Whew! At least no one's trying to educate us here!"

I don't have any illusions about the classes I teach; I know that most students take them because they're required to, not because they want to. But as I tell the undergrads, doing their school work is their job. Even if they don't get paid for it, a lot of what they get out of college is what they put into it. And if they're not willing to sit through the full class period, then they're going to miss out on a lot. And I have little patience for the e-mails I will inevitably get later on from students asking about stuff that I covered in the last ten minutes of class when some people were in such a hurry to leave.

I'm going to be teaching during the summer session, and I'm thinking about standing in front of the exit towards the end of class. That way no one can walk out early. There aren't any locks on the doors, and anyway if I were to lock the door it'd feel too much like the setting of a prison movie or something. But I'm definitely not going to tolerate anyone packing up or leaving too early.

I told my students this semester that I'm treating them like adults, because I'm holding them accountable for their actions. Maybe when they're older, they'll understand.

Jeez. Now I sound like my parents. Maybe watching the Jersey Shore will make me feel better.

Then again, definitely not.


  1. you're right. it's just plain rude.
    in a way i think it might be passive aggressive behaviour as well. i can't be sure since i was always the obedient one waiting to be dismissed.

  2. Haha! I used to hate it when student did this. I taught secondary school, so I used to really come down hard. I'd actually make the class longer if anyone did this, more for my own 'enjoyment'. Yes, I am that sadistic!

  3. It's your class and your rules, so good for you for setting boundaries. I guess once we're in the position of authority with young people, we can't help but sound like our parents.

    And I hate when students pack up early too. What's the rush? I'm way too fascinating for them to rush out like that. I'm sure you are too!

  4. Hi mi,
    It is rude when they do that; rudeness is one of my pet peeves. But then again my list of pet peeves is about as long as Michigan Avenue.

    Hi Talli,
    Oh, sometimes I wish I could make the class longer, but students are very vigilant about that. It's one thing for them to show up late to class, but God forbid I should end the class late.

    Hi Theresa,
    We're both fascinating. :) I just have to figure out a way to convince my students of that fact.

  5. I've never taught kids...worse...I taught adults as a corporate trainer. Cell phones, checking email. Urgh. I used to threaten to charge a dollar every time they broke one of the ground rules.

  6. Hi Shannon,
    I wish I could charge students a dollar for every time they broke one of the ground rules. Then I'd be rich.

  7. I will say that I'm currently a college student and in most classes I've packed up early before class was over and the teacher continued to teach. I packed up very quietly at the last few minutes of class, but I've never left any class after packing up unless the door is in the back of the class and I have access to get up and walk out without making sudden noise.

    On the other than, in relations to this post, it does bother me when other students end up packing early and they are being noisy and it catches my attention. So I lean on both sides of the fence.

  8. Hi Kelvin,
    I have to admit that every once in a while even I'd like to leave class early, and I'm the teacher! But I don't, because it's my job to stay for the whole class. And I think that it's the students' job to stay too, because otherwise they'll miss something important.

  9. I could go on an epic rant about undergrads these days. I swear in the time since I finished my degree and now, there has been a huge change in the culture of entitlement. Students are pissed off that they have to come all the way to school for a lecture and stay the whole time-- they seem to think they should be able to access everything online and not leave their house... hmph. I'm an old grumpy grad student.

  10. Hi Princess Pointful,
    Oh, I'm totally a grumpy grad student too. I used to be pretty lenient with undergrads, but that lasted less than a semester; I quickly realized that it's important to be firm about these types of things.