I was chatting with Kate the other day, when she told me of a recent frustration of hers. She is the director of a program that trains a certain genre of professionals (which I won’t give away here for several reasons) who are highly degreed. As she was teaching one of the classes, she had to reprimand some of the class participants–again, degreed professionals–for texting and checking Facebook during class.

The “professionals” she reprimanded were highly agitated, saying that they could do what they wanted to do.

Is this what it’s come to, people?

I understand the temptation of today’s technology; in fact, I will be writing about that topic in the next couple of weeks as it relates to teenagers. I also understand that in America we have many freedoms. However, what about respectful behavior towards an instructor as well as those around you?

I had my own brush with this issue yesterday, except there was no technology involved. I was at the gym, preparing to teach my weekly Tuesday morning spin class, when three women I had never seen before came in the room and set up their bikes. Ten minutes later, class started. The three women chatted during the first song, the warmup. They also chatted during the second song.

By the third song, I was getting really annoyed. As I was cueing the class on proper form and breathing, I added in some motivational notes of a general nature:

“Let’s work, you guys!

This is YOUR hour! Make the most of it!

Come on, focus!”

They weren’t getting the message.

I don’t like to feel like I’m a jerk and didn’t want to have to confront them about the talking, whether I got off my bike and went over to them to say something (totally obvious since there were only ten total class participants) or into the microphone (also totally obvious, obviously!), but at the same time I had a feeling I’d have to. In the past when I’ve let the chatting go, other class participants have come up to me afterwards and complained about the distraction. If you’ve ever been distracted by people talking in any kind of a class, you know how annoying it is. Now try and put yourself in the instructor’s shoes: it is terribly, terribly difficult to teach over a chatter.

I tried to make eye contact with them. Nothing.

I tried a few more general cues. Nothing.

Finally, and it takes a lot for me to get angry, I screamed into the microphone, “COME ON LADIES: IF YOU’RE TALKING, YOU’RE NOT WORKING HARD ENOUGH!”

Hmm. That worked. They were quiet for the rest of class. I didn’t hold a grudge, encouraging them along with everyone else as we rode, and they didn’t hold a grudge either. I was pleasantly surprised when, after class, they apologized to me.

Now, dear readers, I ask you: what is it with people who sign up for a class or voluntarily engage in some other kind of self-improving activity, and then disrespect their teacher as well as the other participants by engaging in behaviors that are not only detrimental to their own learning, but also incredibly rude? Why bother going?


©2010 Suburban Scrawl


  • WeaselMomma

    I must say that without you and because my lack of gym experience, I would never know gym etiquette. The classroom setting should be a no brainer though.

  • Tara R.

    I am totally with you on this. Aside from being disrespectful to you (or any one in your position), it's completely disrespectful and distracting to the other's who are trying to be engaged. We aren't in middle school any more.

  • Mags

    It's funny b/c while I was reading this I thought, "How the heck can they even talk during a spin class?!"

    Yes, it is SO disrespectful. I hate it when people have side conversations-it's a huge pet peeve of mine. Always has been, even when I was "little". I don't get it.

    As for texting-grrrr. I hate that even more!! So. Rude.

  • NYCPatty

    I get teased by me dad all the time that I am going to have a sore index finger from my iPhone. Whatever!

    At business meetings I have my phone on vibrate but if all the men are checking their phones I do too. Maybe I'm checking Twitter instead of work stuff but so be it. No one seems to mind.

    At lunch with coworkers we all look at our phones/emails while chatting. No one is bothered except the girl without the smartphone. Oh well, can't please everyone.

    Yet when I go to a blogger event I always put it on vibrate and try not to look at my phone at all because I am talking to people and that's rude.

    I'm all over the place with this one trying to find the happy medium.

  • TheNoisyMartha

    I totally agree. Annoying. BUT I am most likely one of them. So I don't go to classes or do much that requires me to be quiet. I mean really. Can you even see me doing that?

  • Anna Tarkov

    I think the key is whether the class is voluntary or not. In the case of your friend, it sounds like something mandatory that those highly degreed professionals have to take. When something is mandatory for an adult, well, it doesn't exactly inspire someone to pay close attention. Also, is the class really necessary is what I would ask. Could the material be taught in another way? The way people process information these days is changing and this needs to be accomodated. Perhaps the people who prefer a class can be taught that way. Those who prefer written instructions can get that. Some others might prefer a video, etc.

    You spinning class is a different story. This is a voluntary class that people do not have to take. They choose to be there. So if their behavior affects the way others are experiencing the class, you're absolutely right to say something about it and not tolerate it in the future.

  • k a t i e

    I'm not sure why blogger isn't allowing me to post my comments – especially after the short story I just wrote – but I will say you did the right thing. Anyone over the age of 12 and of full mental capacity should be able to be polite. Maybe they were thinking they looked big by having witty conversations? Or just simply don't understand etiquette?

  • Lindz

    I hate to say it but as a teacher I have come to understand that that is society today. People have very little respect, teach their children little respect and are so CONNECTED all of the time that we don't seem to live in the moment or appreciate anything anymore. Frustrating!

  • Anonymous

    OK both situations are just plain RUDE. I'm sorry but I think people just don't care about anyone else but themselves. This has to STOP. Or this world will go to Hell in a hand basket. I hate to see people talking on their cell phones in the store.

    Or how many people send a letter or Thank you note in the mail any more.


    Grandma W

  • Heather

    I think that is ridiculously rude. Seriously, I can't imagine acting like that. (And who the heck can talk during that class, sheesh!)

  • Michelle

    In a class like that, I'm guessing it's more obliviousness for many people. But definitely not all. Glad those people apologized to you – and probably won't do it again. The participants for Kate? Sheesh.