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American Classroom Customs

English Language Center

  1. If the teacher asks a question, you are expected to give an answer. If you do not understand the question, you should raise your hand and ask the teacher to repeat the question. If you do not know the answer, it is all right to tell the teacher that you do not know. Then he or she knows what you need to learn.
  2. There is no excuse for not doing your homework. If you are absent, you should call your teacher or someone who is in your class and ask for the assignment. It is your responsibility to find out what assignments you have missed. It is not the teacher's responsibility to remind you of missed assignments.
  3. You must not be absent on a test day. If you are seriously ill, call and let the teacher know you will not be there for the test. If your teacher allows make-up tests, you should take the test within one or two days after returning to class. Serious illness is the only reason for missing a test.
  4. Be on time! It is considered rude to be late. Also, it bothers other students. If you must come in late, be sure to do it quietly. Have your books and papers out of your bag before you come into the room. Then go to your seat and sit quietly. In the U.S. it is not necessary to knock before you enter the classroom. Most of the ELC teachers will give you a low grade if you are often late.
  5. Have your book out and be ready to begin when the class starts. Your teacher should not have to ask you every day to take out your book. Be sure you have a paper and a sharp pencil ready.
  6. In America, you should call your teacher by his or her last name, not "teacher." Also you should use Mr., Miss, Ms. or Mrs. before the last name (such as Mrs. Smith or Mr. Jones). This is considered polite. The teacher will will tell you his or her preferred title.
  7. Be courteous to other students. If another student is answering a question, giving a report or an explanation, you should listen quietly and give them your attention. Everyone must be treated with the same respect you would like them to give to you. Also, the question they are asking may be something you need to know.
  8. It is considered impolite in the U.S. to eat, drink or chew gum during class. This is reserved for the break. Also, removing one's shoes in the classroom is not polite.
  9. If you must leave during class, do so quietly. There is no need to ask the teacher's permission. However, leaving the class for something other than an emergency is not acceptable. (Getting a drink or sharpening your pencil is not considered an emergency.)
  10. Copying another student's test or paper is never acceptable. It is called cheating. At BYU and most schools in the U.S., students who cheat are expelled (kicked out).
  11. Posters, bulletin boards, or any other thing hanging on the wall is considered property of the school and shouldn't be written on or removed without permission. (A sign-up sheet may be written on, but only put your name on it.)
  12. It is not acceptable to put up any sign, announcement or advertisement without first getting permission from the school office.
  13. Books, backpacks, lunches--anything that belongs to other people--is considered private and should not be moved or tampered with.
  14. Entering a teacher's office or any office with a closed door without knocking first is not acceptable. Knock first, then wait to be invited in.
  15. It is not considered polite to yell at people to get their attention. When talking in a group, you should not speak so loudly as to disrupt others who are close by.
  16. Wearing a hat in class is considered impolite by many teachers. Some teachers/programs may ignore it, but you should ask permission first.


1998 © Brigham Young University
English Language Center
Dr. Glen W. Probst