How to Behave in a College Classroom: Life According to Teacher Lady
Unfortunately, I feel like so much of teaching is about "covering your ass." I swear, that's the first thing my advisor or department chair will ask me when I have a problem student, "Well, is it in your syllabus? Then you're covered." No one ever says, "Well, I don't think you're being unreasonable by expecting them to not bring Ebola-infested monkeys to class." They say, "Now, is there anywhere in your syllabus where you expressly prohibit bringing Ebola-infested monkeys to class?" I used to think certain things were just "common sense." Then I started teaching college.
Here's one I used to think was a "no-brainer." Do not bring a child - especially a sick child - to class with you. Last spring, I took a class from 10:45 - noon, then taught from 12:15 - 1:30. It was a fairly far distance to walk, but too close to drive (and no available parking, so driving would have actually made things worse), so I found myself often walking into class at exactly 12:15. This prevented students from asking me things prior to the start of class and this was sometimes bad. As in, "She didn't ask me before class, so I didn't get a chance to say, not just 'no,' but 'Hell, no!'" One day, I walked into our already overcrowded classroom to find one of my students (she was, I'm guessing, 20 years old) sitting there with her four-year-old daughter. (The chapter on birth control was more than a little too late for her.) Four-year-old daughter was adorable. And had one eye screaming, "I have conjunctivitis" and that eye was mighty pissed off and just about ready to pop off her head in a giant, oozy, crusty explosion. Since I had a lot of material to cover, I didn't really say anything. After class, the student came up to me - not to apologize, but to say to me, "Can you BELIEVE day care wouldn't let me drop her off?" Yes, as a matter of fact I can. And, did I mention, for some reason I am extra-super-susceptible to freakin' pink eye and I ALWAYS seem to get it when I have just purchased all new, very expensive eye makeup (and put in a new pair of contact lenses, of course) which must be thrown out immediately? But thanks for bringing your little conjunctivitis factory to class. That's great. I appreciate it.
So, there's the first rule.
Just so you know, kids, I can see you. Yes, that's right! You! Over there in the corner, text messaging up a storm. Or you, sleeping in a puddle of your own drool. Or you! Reading the student newspaper, with your feet up on the desk in front of you like my classroom is your own executive office. You two - writing notes on each other's notebooks. And, especially you two - chatting away about whatever is so important that you don't care if you disrupt the twenty other people sitting in your vicinity. I can see you AND I can hear you. Why do students think that entering a college classroom renders them invisible? Or do they think that where I'm standing, way, way up at the front of the classroom is not 20 feet, but 20 miles and therefore I can't see that well?
That one covers a lot: You are not invisible. Act accordingly.
Finally. (Sigh). This one never seems to stick. Ne. Ver. Turn off your damn phone. (And yes, it's in the syllabus.) Yesterday, the same student had her phone ring twice. Twice as in, once at the beginning of class, before I reviewed my "e-policy" and then again, over an hour later. Much as I love a good ring tone rendition of "Play that Funky Music White Boy," I just don't understand why she didn't turn her phone off after it rang the first time. And it's not just the ringing that's disruptive. It's the "Oh, my gosh, I'm so embarrassed, stop, stop, PLEASE stop ringing" digging through the backpack and shuffling of papers and everything else that goes along with it. Even though I have the satisfaction of knowing they will lose their participation points for that day (you'd better believe THAT'S in the syllabus!), it's just so annoying because really? Who is calling these kids? I have even put in my syllabus: Unless you are an EMT, physician, fire fighter or are serving in some other life-saving capacity in your spare time, your cell phone is to be turned off while you are in this class. Maybe I just happened to be surrounded by surgeons and fire fighters. Who knew? I feel safer already.