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During one of my lectures today, I had a question with something he did and raised my hand to ask the question. The lecturer didn’t see me, so my classmate asked me what my question was so I whispered to her what the confusion was.

My lecturer doesn’t like this, and asked me not to do this and to raise my hand if I have a question instead of making noise and being disrupting. I raised my hand but he told me to ask it after class.

When I did so, he told me to stop and informed me that he considered my behavior very rude and would not answer my question. I tried to tell him that I’m sorry and this was how I typically would react when I’m confused with something during lectures and my other professors didn’t mind, but I was very shocked and I’m not sure how well what I was saying came across and the lecturer got more angry, saying “You think this isn’t rude behavior?” And I apologized. Lecturer said he expected me to just apologize and leave and that I should do that, so I did.

I was shaken, and very upset. I didn’t intend to be rude. I’ll admit he had to ask me not to speak with other classmates in the past, sometimes due to me just whispering to a classmate about something unrelated, but often when I have a genuine question with what is going on. So I think he believes I’ve continually been acting rude and he has been trying to politely ask me to stop and it’s getting to be too much. I do admit that I shouldn’t be whispering to my friend if it’s not lecture-related and not at all if my lecturer wishes, but I also struggle understanding the material since it’s really hard to get a question answered.

Previously, he had been mad at me once when I was confused with a result derived in the lecture and said something along the lines of “I didn’t get it what you got but I’ll take it as true.” which offended him, perhaps believing I’m doubting them or something. I feel like that’s insecure, if I’m honest.

I had no idea that whispering at a low volume to a classmate who was trying to answer my question was considered rude, (also considering I’ve never been told this before by any lecturer in the past and I’m in my final year of university) especially when it is very hard to ask my lecturer a question because he doesn’t often look at the students when giving the lecture and only asks if there are any questions once or twice a lecture.

My friend suggested I make a complaint or talk to someone about it, but I’m genuinely scared my lecturer is going to kick me off the module or something, especially if I make him more angry with me. Is he allowed to do this, and if so, would he be justified in doing this? Would I have a strong appeal if so?

I’m not sure how rude I’ve been, is the main thing. How should I act moving forward? The idea of being kicked off the module for this is very scary to me. I’m still quite hurt and shaken at the time of writing this.

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    Culture plays probably a role here. Can you indicate in which country or region you are? When I was a student and the lecturer did not see me raising my hand, I'd call an "Excuse me?!" during an appropriate pause in their talking. However, whispering among students is very annoying during a lecture. The lecturer was right to address this. How they addressed this might not have been ideal, though. – Roland Nov 13 '19 at 13:09
  • I’m in the UK. I acknowledge it can be considered rude, but I felt the reaction wasn’t justified. – genji Nov 13 '19 at 13:10
  • Can you write a note to your neighbor instead? – mkennedy Nov 13 '19 at 18:18
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    Either your lecturer is unreasonable, or you have a blind-spot to your own behaviour (which I suspect since you are surprised they didn't like you saying “I didn’t get it what you got but I’ll take it as true.”, at best that's irritating, sorry). I would just keep my head down from now on. – Jim W says reinstate Monica Nov 13 '19 at 22:00
  • I am a lecturer in the UK. In my School, if a lecturer yelled at a student instead of answering their question (for whatever reason), I am very certain that the lecturer would be asked to leave very soon. – Dmitry Savostyanov Nov 14 '19 at 14:31
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I don't suppose you'll like this answer much, but yes, if you have done this repeatedly and been called on it before and have continued to do it, then (a) you are being rude and (b) she can probably remove you without any consequence to herself. She may, actually, be angry with you beyond reason, but you seem to me to be poking the tiger, which is a bit dangerous.

I'd suggest that you need to behave differently. I hope you will like this part of the answer a bit more. I'm not so happy that the professor isn't more receptive to questions (once or twice a lecture). I can find better ways to teach, but you probably can't change that.

One simple thing you can do, other than keeping quiet in lecture is to sit where your raised hand will be obvious when she does ask for questions.

But, on a deeper level, I'd suggest that you adopt a note taking style that is effective and that, in particular, captures questions you have in the lecture to be able to get answers later, either from the professor or from other students. One simple way to do that is to carry a few note cards with you at all times, but especially during lecture. Write down any question you have on a fresh card. This permits you to annotate the question and write an answer. It also provides a means of later study. You can carry those annotated cards around and review them whenever you have a moment, say waiting in line to buy coffee.

But, in order to "smooth the waters" with this prof it may be enough to just assure that you behave according to her standards, even if they aren't entirely rational. If you offer an apology, don't end it with "but...". However, I think a cooling-off period would probably serve you well.

  • I’m really, really scared of getting in trouble for it - despite how unfair I think that may be. Should I offer an apology via email or just forget it and don’t annoy her moving forward? – genji Nov 13 '19 at 13:24
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    I don't know the personalities, but would think that just a cooling off period would be appropriate. Think mouse v tiger. Don't think about the possible injustice, but about how to avoid further confrontation. If it settles down over a period of weeks an apology might (might) help. – Buffy Nov 13 '19 at 13:28
  • My mother thinks an apology email today or tomorrow is best. Would you personally think that’s a good idea? Or an apology at all (you think it might, might help after some time)? Should I be worried about him marking me intentionally unfavorably on things I hand in? – genji Nov 13 '19 at 13:38
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    You, and maybe your mom, have a better knowledge of the personalities. I can't really judge from a distance. But, an apology needs to be just exactly that and no more. "I'm sorry for my behavior and will strive to do better." If you also try to explain yourself, it will probably fail and make it worse. Oh. And buy those note cards. – Buffy Nov 13 '19 at 13:41
  • Would informing my director of teaching about his/her behavior be a good idea? I still think the lecturer overreacted hugely. – genji Nov 15 '19 at 15:26

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