Most students aren’t rude. But some are extremely so, and a few take rude behavior to new heights — or depths, as the case may be.
The other day, for example, while I was going over MLA documentation in my freshman composition course — not the most stimulating topic, I know — a young woman got up and walked out, leaving her books behind but taking her purse.
Now I’ve been married for 28 years. I have a grown daughter. I know better than to question a female student who leaves class suddenly carrying her purse.
For that matter, I wouldn’t have questioned a male student, either. Because that sort of thing usually doesn’t bother me. I tell my students at the beginning of the semester that if they have some sort of emergency and need to leave class, they should just leave. They don’t need to ask permission or make a big production of it. Just get up and go. I do ask them to be considerate of others and not to disrupt class unnecessarily. So when somebody does get up and leave, which is pretty rare, I assume it’s an emergency, or at least that there’s a pressing need.
This particular student, however, returned to class a few moments later clutching a bag of chips, a candy bar, and a Diet Coke. I was frankly stunned, although I didn’t skip a beat in my lecture.
Perhaps I’m judging her too harshly. Maybe she needs to eat frequently because she has low blood sugar or some other condition. But I think she was probably just hungry and decided the middle of my class was as good a time as any to go get a snack.
I don’t actually blame her, or students in general, for their rudeness. I blame the adults in their lives up to this point, in particular their parents, who obviously failed to teach them better.
And of course I’m partly to blame, as well. My classroom rules, as I mentioned, allow students to come and go as they please, with the understanding that they’re responsible for the material we cover whether they’re present or not. (If the young woman in question had come up to me after class to ask what she had missed, I would have politely reminded her of the rule and declined to go back over that information, unless she could convince me that her “emergency” consisted of something worse than the munchies.) Most students don’t abuse that privilege, but a few do.
I just don’t think it’s my job to teach students manners. I teach writing. If they haven’t already learned proper etiquette by the time they get to me, there frankly isn’t much I can do for them in that regard.
So my standard response, in situations like the one I describe above, is just to ignore the disruption altogether — unless a particular student becomes a frequent distraction for the rest of the class, in which case I would deal with the problem with him or her directly. I hardly ever have to do that. For the most part, ignoring the disruptive few while focusing on the rule-abiding majority has proved to be an effective approach to classroom management.
But occasionally, like the other day, I want to say something really scathing. Or at least confiscate her bag of chips. Hey, I get hungry during my lectures, too.
So, what rude student behaviors have you had to endure in your face-to-face classes? How about online classes?Return to Top