Faculty-to-Faculty Classroom Courtesies

By Darrel G. Fontane

“Learning makes the wise wiser and the fool more foolish.”
- John Ray

When I was a new faculty member I learned the importance of being courteous to other faculty following me into the classroom in which I was just wrapping things up: finishing on time, erasing the board, picking up after myself, etc. These “cultural guidelines” were not written down: I learned them through interaction with my colleagues. Below, I share some of these guidelines.

Imagine the following scenarios:

It is the first lecture of the semester and you want to write your name and contact information on the board. There are numerous markers available; however, none of them work.

The previous instructor did not erase the board and you discover why; there is no eraser.

You have a guest lecturer who has a lot of material to cover. You go over early to help set up the classroom. The previous class is finishing up an exam, however, and they do not leave the room until 5 minutes after the hour.

You try to set your computer for your lecture and discover that a connecting cable is broken.

While teaching faculty are not usually intentionally discourteous, situations such as these do happen all the time. With a little attention to the details, we could all be more proactive in helping our colleagues.

Following are some suggestions to make the transition between classes and the general classroom experience more pleasant:

  • Ask your students not to come in before the previous class is over.
  • Close the doors if you are showing a video or if you are conducting a noisy activity.
  • If you had your students rearrange the chairs, have them put back in their original order before leaving the classroom.
  • Finish on time so as not to delay the next class: Each new instructor may have his or her own set-up chores.
  • Log off the computer rather than shutting it down. The next instructor will appreciate just having to log in.
  • Erase the boards completely.
  • Don’t leave the next class entering a dark classroom. Return overhead lights to their normal setting.
  • Throw away dried out dry-erase markers so the next instructor doesn’t have to go through the dis-covery process of finding ones that work.
  • Have your students collect and take out all the newspapers, water bottles, etc., with which they came.
  • Clear the instructor’s podium of all your personal items: water bottles, coffee mugs, books, etc.
  • Inform the next instructor of any classroom problems you encountered: no markers, no eraser, equipment not working, etc.
  • Promptly report all classroom related problems and follow up to make sure they were properly re-solved.

Fifty minutes is a pretty short time for a class, and we would all better off if none of it got wasted. If all of us went a little out of our way helping our colleagues, the teaching experience for all of us would be that much more improved. Many of you bring in your own markers to class. If For instance, when you discover a classroom with no markers, offer to share some of yours with the next instructor. He or she may not have brought some of their own.

I’d like to end this tip with a personal story. Last semester I went into my classroom and discovered that a “missing eraser problem” had been solved with a roll of toilet paper placed near the board. While I appreciate the creativity in the “innovative solution” of the previous instructor, I could not help but ponder the subliminal message we might be sending our students by using toilet paper to erase the board!