I was almost late for my first class.
I had left home on time but I was lost on the huge campus and none of the students I stopped to ask for directions seemed to know the location of my building. I eventually found it a couple of minutes before my class was due to start.
I hate being late. Back in France, if you were late for class, you could be sure you’d be singled out and made fun of. My best friend, who was never on time, was a n excuses specialist. My Chinese teacher would always ask her stand up in front of the class and make her explain in Chinese why she was late — I bet she still remember how to say “对不起，我又迟到了” (“sorry, I’m late again” in Chinese), even though she probably hasn’t spoken the language in eight years.
I took a seat in the class and waited. The teacher was himself an hour late. I guess a few minutes wouldn’t have mattered, then.
The way people behave in class never cease to amaze me. The macroeconomic class I took this summer was quite small. My best guess is we were about forty students, in a normal classroom, not an amphitheater. Therefore, we were all sat pretty close and the teacher was right in front of us.
I soon realized being late apparently didn’t matter. Students would arrive ten, twenty minutes late, sometimes carrying their bikes with them to class, and sit down without excusing themselves. The teacher himself was late for almost each class, muttering that the campus was to big every time he stepped into the class, visibly out of breath.
But not only students were late, it was also apparently okay to get up in the middle of the class to go to the bathroom or take a phone call. The class was three hours long with a break in the middle, yet it wasn’t enough. Now I agree, the break was pretty short, especially if you had a question for the teacher (and had to have a smoke because between us, macroeconomics isn’t so fun). But I had never seen people getting up, leave and then come back in class before.
I went to an introduction class a few weeks ago. A few minutes into it, it became apparent that I would have a conflict of schedule since there were mandatory discussion groups in addition of the class that had not been mentioned on the official schedule. I decided to wait the break to leave, since I wasn’t going to take the class. Five minutes after the teach laid out the main requirements for the class (a research project, two tests), students just left. And when I said students left, just imagine a packed amphitheaters where at least 75% of the people take their stuffs and walk to the door, while the teacher is still mid-sentence! Okay… so apparently I wasn’t the only one dropping that class.
This seem to be a local trend: whenever the class is boring, whenever students have something to do or whenever they simply don’t care, they leave the class. No matter when, no matter how. In France, when the class was boring, we would be equally impolite, I guess: we would chat, pass notes to each other, draw on a piece of paper or just daydream. Yet, no one would ever dream of leaving the class — that is, if you ever wanted to attend the class again. It would be seen as extremely impolite and the professor wouldn’t hesitate to single the poor soul out.
But the atmosphere in class is very relax in Canada. Almost too much for my liking. For example, students eat: not stuffs like cereal bars because they are hungry and after all, it’s been a long day. No, they eat their meal in class. I sat by a women who ate a Subway sandwich during my last class. Weird. A lot of students also bring their laptop and almost none of them use them to take note. I know, I’m sitting in the back and I can see the screen. MSN, cooking recipes, social medias… this has nothing to do with the class, does it? I mean, it’s not like they bother anyone, but why would you show up for class if you don’t plan to listen, since most of the lectures are not compulsory?
Attending university in Canada is slowly turning into a sociological experience for me!