Classes need more etiquette

Phillip Khun

To my right, two people are talking excitedly about their weekend. To my left, someone absent-mindedly flips through their Facebook comments on their iPhone. Just in front of me, another person is listening to music with one ear bud in, all but hidden from view in her hair. A cell phone goes off, with a top-40 song clamoring out not too long before being silenced by its owner. Can you guess what’s wrong with this picture? We aren’t in a cafe, or sitting on a bus, we are sitting in the middle of a college class.

Somewhere at the front the teacher talks about the subject at hand, though I couldn’t tell you what it was. Sifting through all the other noise its difficult, and I can only catch so much with the murmuring all around.

The instructor pauses from time to time, leveling dagger eyes in the direction of the loudest offender; waiting for the noise to subside before continuing. But this affords only a brief respite before the conversation creeps back in from the corners of the classroom, and the lesson is lost in the clamor once more.

One would hope this kind of behavior would die out after graduating high school. College isn’t mandatory. Remember, we sign up for these classes, hand selected to fill our learning objectives and set us on the path toward a lucrative future.

And students have to pay far too much in the eyes of many to attend. One would imagine the hefty price tag might lend a certain gravity and prompt students to take their classes seriously, as failing a class represents a monumental waste of money and time.

So why do so many students roll into class in the last fifteen minutes, or show up only to pay absolutely no attention to the teacher?

This is no time to be trying to be cool. Few employers will care about how popular you are perceived to be. Few employers will look beyond whether you have the qualifications they are seeking, and those who don’t give their classes the attention they deserve put getting those at risk.

And yet, classrooms are plagued by disrespectful students who insist on disrupting the class, robbing not only themselves of quality instruction, but stealing it from others who show up with a serious desire to learn. At least some realize the jig is up, but there’s another group who think that although they have attended only a fraction of the classes that they will get a good grade.

They pile around the instructor after class, armed to the teeth with excuses and plea bargains, asking for extra credit, extra time, or for a grade they don’t deserve, because they “really need an A in this class!”

Often it is too late, and they loudly decree how the teacher doesn’t like them, it’s personal, it’s racist, it’s because they’re just mean or don’t care.

Teachers do care. They care enough to work in a thankless job where disinterested students pay them little to no heed. And they care enough to fail those students, making sure they only move forward when they are finally armed with the knowledge they need to succeed.

Teachers want to help others reach their goals, but those goals must be earned. Giving out grades to students who don’t deserve them is not only unfair to the ones who give their all in the classroom, it hurts the ones pleading for them too.

College classes build off of each other, each assuming a base set of knowledge has been acquired before it is taken. Handing out a passing grade to a student who has not learned anything from the class sets them up for an even greater failure in their next one.

The only people responsible for our successes or failures is ourselves. Give each class your all, and you may be surprised how much it gives back to you.