What are Canadian Etiquette Expectations at School?

Noisy classrooms, students who arrive late to class, and students who are disrespectful are some examples of bad etiquette. This behaviour can create a difficult learning environment for everyone.

Below are some tips for how to act when you arrive and leave your classroom, when you communicate with other students, teachers, and how to be respectful during the class.

Arriving & Leaving Class

On Being Late for Class

Lateness is generally considered rude. If you are late for a class, enter as quietly as possible, and take a seat near the door. You may want to apologize to your teacher after class, and offer a truthful explanation if you have one (e.g. “Sorry, the streetcar broke down.”).

Leaving Early

If you need to leave the class early, plan ahead by taking a seat near the door to avoid disrupting the class, and tell your teacher you have to leave early. If you need to leave early on a regular basis, offer an explanation to your teacher.

Missing a Class

If you have to miss a class and know ahead of time, you may want to let your teacher know. If you do not know in advance, you may want to let your teacher know why you missed the class. "Sorry I missed the class on Thursday, I had a medical appointment." Most teachers will allow students to miss an occasional class, but if you miss many classes, your grades may suffer.

Elevator Disasters

Watch your backpack! If you don't remove it in the elevator, it may wind up in someone's face or spill someone's hot drink. People in wheelchairs are particularly at risk from backpacks. You should let people off the elevator before you get on it. Let people with mobility devices (e.g. wheelchairs) on first, especially on crowded elevators. If you see that someone is almost about to enter the elevator, hold the door until they arrive.

Interacting With Students

Talking to Other Students

If you don't chat with others in your class, they might think you are shy, or unfriendly. Having a good relationship with other students can help you learn better. For example, you may be able to form a study group or practice a new language with other students you meet in class.

Excluding Classmates

Classes that require a lot of group work can sometimes cause conflict. You should remember that not everyone has the same abilities, and making use of a student’s strengths can reduce conflict in a group.

Talking During Class

If you talk during class to other students, it is considered rude. Whether you are having a private conversation about your excitement with the lecture or talking about plans for the weekend, your teacher will not know. They will assume you are not paying attention.

Greetings in the Hall

Some cultures may consider the absence of a short conversation rude, but here often a wave is enough. You may want to follow-up with a basic greeting (e.g. “Hi, how are you?”).

Blind & Low Vision Assistance

If you see someone struggling to do something because they are blind or have low vision, ask them if they require help before giving it. Touching anyone without permission is generally not welcome.

Deaf Culture

If you are speaking to someone who is deaf or hard of hearing, don't cover your mouth or put your head down, so they can see what you are saying.

Interacting With Your Teacher

Some teachers are more formal than others. If your teacher invites you to use his or her first name then it is OK.

Special Accommodations

Some teachers are more generous than others in giving extensions or other accommodations. If you need an accommodation for a legitimate reason, you should ask for one.

Anger, Gratitude, Disbelief & Other Emotional States

If you have a strong emotion that you want to share with your teacher, it is best to do this in the teacher's office and not during class. If you have questions about whether this is a good idea or how to do this, you may want to discuss this with a counsellor.

During The Class

Sleeping in Class

Some students have difficult work and transportation schedules, which may make falling asleep in class a possibility. Avoid sleeping in classes. It is considered rude, insulting to the teacher and disruptive to the class (even if you don't snore). It’s also a waste of your money!

Reading in Class

If you are reading material unrelated to class during a lecture (e.g. a newspaper or text messages), it is disrespectful and distracting.

Eating in Class

If the teacher permits eating and/or drinking during class, then make sure you do this quietly and clean up after yourself. You generally need to seek permission for this at the beginning of the term since this may be against school policy.

Cell Phones

Cell phones should be turned off during class. If you forget, apologize. If you must take the call due to an emergency, do not answer it until you exit the class.

Participating in Class

You will be expected to participate in most classes even if you aren't receiving credit for them. Participating in class helps you learn the material. Find a balance that doesn't make you someone who takes over discussion or lets others carry the show without your contribution.

Commenting On Others' Comments

If you are asked to comment on what other classmates say, keep it limited to the context. Avoid anything that can be seen as insulting or personal.

Using The TTY Phone

The TTY phone is for the use of deaf students. Deaf students can't make use of the other phones so if there is a TTY phone in your class, they should get priority in using these phones.

Contributed by Susan Qadeer, a personal and career counsellor with decades of experience. Susan currently works with college students.

Last updated: November 15, 2016 4000687