I am a graduate student in math in my final year, and for several years have been teaching at my department as a lecturer. This semester, in the same lecture hall there is another lecture that starts 20 minutes after my class ends. It's taught by another instructor from my department. I usually have many students coming to office hours and there are also students asking questions immediately after lecture. Due to other activities, I cannot have office hours right after the lecture this semester and can only stay for about 15 minutes to answer questions.

Many times in the past I had a similar situation and never had any issues with it. This semester the instructor who is teaching right after often arrives 20-15 minutes before her class starts and tells me immediately that I have to go with my students somewhere else.

I make sure to leave the blackboard clean and take all my stuff away from the instructor's desk before she arrives, but I do believe that I have a right to stay in the classroom after my lecture for at least 5-10 minutes. There is no vacant classroom around, and I don't have time to go with students to my office, which is in a different building.

Last time the instructor told me in front of my students that I don't understand "simple things" and that I am "playing games". When I was talking to one of my students, she stood very close to us and clearly demonstrated that she wanted us out. I tried to explain her that I couldn't go anywhere else due to my time constraints, but she didn't want to listen to me. I really don't understand what "simple" things she meant and what "games" I am playing.

We leave the board clean. She doesn't need to set up a projector. She can still talk to her students before her class starts, if she wants to (even though it seems like her students don't ask her any questions before their class). So, I don't see how I cause any disruption.

I had met this woman many times before this semester, but we never talked. I didn't see her talking to other instructors/students much, and she seems to be quite reserved and a bit neurotic. She doesn't want to have any conversation with me regarding the issue.

I felt really offended after last class when she said those things to me in front of my students. What would you do in my case?

Added later: There are no official rules regarding classroom occupancy between classes. Instructors are supposed to use common sense and be reasonable. For me using 50% of the break time seems reasonable to answer questions after lecture seems reasonable. I agree that for some people it may not.

I don't block the entrance to the classroom. A few students from the next class who come earlier always go ahead and take their seats as soon as my students start leaving the room. I also had one of the students from the next class listening to my explanation to one of those after-class questions and asking me further questions before their class (which is the same class as I am teaching, just a different section). Maybe the instructor got jealous, I don't know.

The entrance to the classroom is from its front (not back), so I do stay in the front. But it is a big lecture hall, and there is a plenty of space in front of the room (the board itself consists of 8 huge panels).

Also, during my career as a grad.student who is also teaching for the department, I have had several observations from experienced professors who are considered to be great teachers at the department and are in charge of undergraduate teaching policy. In my evaluations the fact that there are always several students approaching me with questions after class considered as very positive, meaning that students find me approachable.

Thank you everyone for answers.

  • 14
    What about simply talking to your students in the hallway? Commented Mar 6, 2015 at 6:15

14 Answers 14


You should first find out what is the standard convention for when you have to vacate the room. Since the other instructor is in your department, you can take this up at the department level: talk to your advisor and/or a trusted faculty mentor about it.

In my experience though this is often left a little fungible and people need to be reasonable about it. In my opinion it is reasonable to expect to have access to the room five minutes before your class begins. Ideally the previous instructor will have vacated the room at that point; if not, s/he should be occupying the room in a way which doesn't interfere with your own use of it. (For instance, a lot of times students will not enter a room if an instructor is still writing on the blackboard. It can be annoying to come to your class a few minutes before you want to start and find everyone waiting out in the hall.)

In the absence of a clear directive about how to split the time, it seems reasonable for the departing instructor to take half of the time, as long as they leave at least five minutes for the other instructor. In your case 20 minutes is a very nice cushion (in my university it's 15 minutes), to the extent that I find it a little strange that the other instructor is arriving 15-20 minutes early. What is she doing with that time? Do more than a few students arrive that early? If you are using the time to talk to your students and she's using the time for nothing, then I think you are morally in the right and should push back on it a bit. You should be able to stay for the first half of the 20 minute break.

How should you do that? As above, I would find out what other people do. If the standard convention is that you can take those 10 minutes, then talk to the department head (or other departmental authority figure; e.g. whoever schedules the teaching) about it and get their support. (You don't need to phrase it as a grievance or even identify the other instructor by name.) Assuming you get backed, then you should pay a visit to the instructor in her office and explain that you looked into the matter, that you have a clear instructional purpose for how to use the time, and that the head (or whoever) has confirmed that this is a standard practice. Definitely do this outside of the classroom so that you two can have the conversation you need to have not in front of the students and so that there is not a direct confrontation to be resolved.

In my opinion it is probably not worth trying to seek redress for your poor treatment by this instructor. We are not obligated to be nice to each other; it's just better if we are. If you respond to the treatment in a professional way and show that you are neither going to get pushed around nor retaliate in any personal or emotional way, then you're basically just rising above. What some random person who you're only going to see for one more semester thinks of you isn't really so important, is it? Especially if you're confident that you're in the right?

  • 22
    I agree with all of this, with one caveat: since the instructor is accusing the OP of "playing games" and "not understanding simple things" in front of the OP's students, it is worthwhile trying to put an actual end to it. Commented Mar 6, 2015 at 15:50
  • +1, there's nothing wrong with you speaking with your students in the classroom as long as it doesn't interfere with her setting up for her class. For her to suggest otherwise doesn't speak much to her character. I'm sure there's plenty of room for you to speak to one or two students in one area and she setup at the blackboard or desk or wherever, afterall, it is a classroom :)
    – MDMoore313
    Commented Mar 6, 2015 at 17:54
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    @Lightness: My thought was that by speaking to the instructor outside of class, they can work out the issue once and for all. With this particular point of contention aside, they need not and probably will not have much interaction in the future. I agree that if the instructor continues to make disparaging remarks in front of the students, that becomes a separate problem to solve. Commented Mar 6, 2015 at 18:47

I would be quite firm about this. The woman is a bully. She comes in demanding you clear out the room, you say "I believe the next lecture is not for another 20 minutes; I need ten minutes here to wrap up. Thank you" with a curt smile. She will have no choice but to comply unless she feels like committing physical assault.

If she kicks up a stink, she can take it to a higher authority (and ultimately, from the sounds of it, get shouted down by them). When they ask you about the situation, then you have an opportunity to also tell them about the inappropriate things she's said about you in front of your students, which is a bonus because then there is no impression that you went complaining about her: you were asked about it.

If you have good reason to believe that she would actually cause a big scene there and then, frankly I'd let it happen — but only after quietly consulting the relevant authorities on the rules of room use, so that you may be absolutely certain as to your position before she makes a total fool out of herself.


If I were in your situation, I would ask the other professor for a reason and explain that I wanted to make an announcement to my students at the next lecture. If the response is "because I want you out" then I would politely explain that I would announce to the students that we could only remain for 10 minutes after class after which time we would all need to be out of the room.

No need to make it confrontational. I find that if you offer to help people solve a problem that helps reduce tension. If this professor doesn't actually have a problem then offering to help solve a problem will be a non-confrontational way of pointing that out.

This worked for me last semester. We only had 15 minutes between classes and my course was taught in a computer lab. Quite often students had questions about projects they were working on and already had their code pulled up on their screen. Unfortunately the students from the following course would be filing in and because their course required them to have access to code on a particular machine (shared drives wouldn't work) they needed particular seats which my students were still occupying.

In my case, the professor after me simply explained why he needed the room and at the next lecture I explained to my students why they needed to exit within 5 minutes of the end of class. Everyone understood, no tension, no confrontation.


I would like to provide two suggestions. The first one directly refers to your discussions with students:

There is no vacant classroom around, and I don't have time to go with students to my office, which is in a different building.

If the questions really need to be answered immediately, you could simply take the discussion outside into the hallway. Surely, most of the students have to or want to leave, anyway, I presume, as they might have to move to different buildings themselves (?)

For anything else, you do not have to "have office hours right after the lecture", and you do not have to "go with students to [your] office". They are adults. Surely, your students can find out where your office is on their own and come there when you are free.

My second suggestion is related to whether you may stay around in the lecture room after your class:

It generally seems like the most corteous and natural thing to me that once the class has ended, one should try and leave the room as quickly as possible. Unless otherwise regulated by your organisation, I see no basis for the fundamental belief

I have a right to stay in the classroom after my lecture for at least 5-10 minutes

... unless your departure actually takes that long (e.g. because you have to pack some elaborate experimental setups for a while). At the same time, however, I wouldn't concede the other lecturer any basic right to arrive in the classroom at least 5 - 10 minutes before the next lecture starts, unless some elaborate setup needs to be prepared for that lecture.

In other words: If you are entitled to stay for at least 5 to 10 minutes after your lecture has ended, I would argue that the next lecturer is just as entitled to claim the room for themselves at least 5 to 10 minutes before the next lecture starts.

With that said, it is usually well possible to stay around to answer such questions, though that does neither mean that the room will be reserved for you (the next lecture may already be under preparation), nor are you automatically the "main party" (in that you may block the "lecturer's desk" or any such central device, rather than cluster your discussion in a corner of the room to give the next people space).

  • 10
    Note that the OP did say that they have 20 minutes scheduled between classes, so staying 10 minutes after the lecture still gives the next lecturer 10 minutes before their scheduled start time.
    – reirab
    Commented Mar 6, 2015 at 20:46

What are your university's rules about lecture room bookings? Find them, stick to them, make sure the other instructor does too. Typically, they'd indicate a 5- or 10-minute grace period between bookings which is explicitly for the following lecturer to set up. With a 5-minute grace period (which is what my place has) a room booking for 10.00-11.00 means that we're cleaned up and out by 10.55.

Make sure you know the rules; then let her know what they are, and explain to her why they are what they are.


You don't mention where you and the students stand when having these conversations. Are you up front near the podium, or in a back corner of the room? If it's the latter, then it seems she's perhaps a bit rude and territorial; but if it's the former, she might have a fair point.

She may not look like she's doing anything before class, but you don't know what kinds of thoughts are racing through her mind – perhaps she's mentally prepping, and she's unable to do that effectively with a lot of commotion in the room.

Either way, I agree with the gist of what others have said here. The best course of action is to solve such disputes privately, locally, and cordially. When that seems unlikely, find out what the official rules are and, if you must, (reluctantly) get the department head involved.

You also might quietly mention this conflict with your room scheduler. You could make a request that, if possible, you not be assigned a room where this instructor has a follow-on class. (Sometimes you can't resolve a conflict in the present, but you can avoid it in the future.)

One last recommendation: try to keep a sense of humor about it. Even when you're in the right, being uptight and brewing animosity is rarely a better solution than an amused shrug. The worst case scenario for you here is that you have to move your after-class discussions into the hallway – something that may not be as ideal for you, but something that most instructors have to deal with eventually.


So it seems strange that you can't have office hours right after this lecture, but you can, in fact, spend 15 minutes after the lecture time helping students. It appears you could have 15 minutes of office hours right after this lecture. Perhaps the travel time is excessive, or you have an aversion to setting up office hours of such short periods of time?

An option not already presented in other answers is to end your lecture 5-10 minutes early and encourage students to spend the remaining time working with each other, or asking you questions individually.

This would alleviate the issues you have with limited office time. I don't think it's a great choice, though, as lecture time is also valuable.

I think to root problem is convenience. You find you can support your students better by providing some time at the end of class, which they already attend, to support them rather than expecting them to schedule time out of their day to visit you during normal office hours. You don't seem to suggest you don't have enough office hours, so it appears you are doing this purely as a convenience for your students.

You don't have a right to the classroom outside your lecture hours, save, perhaps, for several minutes before and after to set up the classroom if necessary. Your use of the classroom as an informal office is a convenience.

If your university or college doesn't have rules regarding classroom use between lectures, or preparation/cleanup time, then I'd suggest it's fair for you and your students to vacate the room by the halfway point between your two lectures. This doesn't mean ending your conversations ten minutes after your lecture, but being out of the room.

I suspect that she's only becoming more and more insistent as you are consistently going well over 10 minutes, and perhaps even infringing on her 5 minute preparation time.

Regardless, I believe your best bet in this case is to simply stand firm. If she asks, tell her you and the students will be out ten minutes prior to her lecture start, and then stick to it aggressively so it's something she can count on. She should, then, stop interrupting your activities and passive aggressively intruding on your after-lecture time.

  • 1
    This was closest to my own thoughts, which were to (very slightly) speed up lecture delivery so as to end 5-7 minutes early every class, then explicitly state something like "I see I'm ended 5 minutes early, let's wrap up and be out of here no later than (whatever 5 minutes after class is)." And let the other professor know that is your plan; then stick with it.
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Mar 6, 2015 at 19:17
  • 1
    Note that the OP explicitly said that moving the conversations to his/her office is not practical because it's in another building.
    – reirab
    Commented Mar 6, 2015 at 20:55
  • 2
    @CGCampbell: Bluntly, that’s ridiculous. You’re suggesting that the OP should give up class time so that another instructor can have extra time. Moreover, it’s a math class, so the ‘lecture delivery’ may be nothing of the kind: much of the class may be highly interactive and of unpredictable duration. Commented Mar 7, 2015 at 21:05
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    @Adam: No, it does not seem reasonable. What the OP wants is in my experience perfectly normal, and the other instructor obviously has no more right to the time between classes than the OP, who in any case does not appear to be doing anything that actually interferes with her setting up for her class. Commented Mar 10, 2015 at 20:52
  • 1
    You don't have a right to the classroom outside your lecture hours, save, perhaps, for several minutes before and after to set up the classroom if necessary — Neither does the other instructor.
    – JeffE
    Commented Oct 30, 2015 at 15:37

You should clean up after yourself and get out of the classroom so that the instructor and students who will use the classroom next can get into the room and prepare for their class. Classrooms aren't the place to have these kinds of discussions with students- that's what you've got an office for.

At the very least, you should give the next instructor half of the time between the scheduled end of your class and the start of their class. It seems that you're taking 15 minutes of the 20 minutes between classes, which is excessive.

  • 4
    I find this answer strange. The OP specifically mentions cleaning up the class room, and that he feels 5-10 minutes if the 20-minute gap would be fair. I am not sure where you get the idea that he stays for 15-20 minutes. Commented Mar 6, 2015 at 8:15
  • 3
    "[I] can only stay for about 15 minutes" I also understood it like he takes 15 of the 20 minutes. Commented Mar 6, 2015 at 8:17
  • 4
    In the absence of conflicts (such as the one the poster is facing), I disagree and think that classrooms are a great place to have these kinds of discussions, especially immediately after class -- while you still have the students' attention. I was luckier than OP -- the one time I ran too late, the next instructor was very polite and graciously accepted my apology.
    – Anonymous
    Commented Mar 6, 2015 at 15:01
  • 6
    The OP specifically said that the next instructor arrives 20 minutes early and demands immediate clearance of the room. The OP personally has only 15 minutes, which is why they don't have the follow-up meeting elsewhere but wish to remain in the same room for 5 or 10 minutes, but never gets the chance. This answer is flat-out wrong. Commented Mar 6, 2015 at 15:51
  • 3
    Classrooms aren't the place to have these kinds of discussions with students — [citation needed] Arguably, classrooms are the only appropriate place for these kinds of discussions with students.
    – JeffE
    Commented Oct 30, 2015 at 15:44

I'd agree with the ideas posted by others here, especially about checking with your department about if there are official policies around the issue, and then discussing it with her privately. However, I know the barrier of entry to walking into an argument with someone who may be many levels above you in the university hierarchy - not a fun thing to do. As an easier first option, what about simply sending her an email - something like:

"Hi, I'm the lecturer in Room XXX before your 3:20 lecture, and I'm sorry that I sometimes run late with discussions with my students after class. However, I like to be able to answer questions that have come up during lecture, and due to location and scheduling constraints can't take them to my office after lecture. Since we have a 20 minute gap between our lectures, would it be okay if I used the first 10 minutes of that time to hold discussions with my students, as long as we're cleaned up and out 10 minutes before your lecture starts? Of course, if you ever have special preparation that needs more time, feel free to shoot me an email before my lecture, and I'll be happy to let my students know that we need to be out earlier. Thanks for understanding! I appreciate it so much."

That way, you can avoid a direct argument, or confrontation in front of your students, while still getting to address your concerns to her directly. If she has a valid reason to need you out, you can talk it through - if not, she should have no way to refuse your request. If she does, you can even take her response to your adviser and see what he recommends. If she doesn't respond and then confronts you again, you can simply tell her that you tried to address the issue in private with her but didn't get a response - and she'll look very foolish in front of the students from your class and her class too.


I have a slightly different perspective here, and I want to offer two options.

Option 1: be selfish

Assume the instructor is a neurotic bully. Don't be passive aggressive. Don't get the instructor overruled.

It's not worth it. Use your imagination as to why.

Arrive early to class if you can to answer questions before the start. At the end the lecture tell your students to come to your office hours, then arrive early to the next item on your schedule. Your department would probably rather you get another paper out than spend 15 minutes after every class with students who can't do it themselves or won't use other resources of the school (your office hours, other help rooms, tutors, etc...)

Option 2: be selfless

Ok, so you want to be your students' advocate? Tell the department head and ask for advice on how to handle it, and try to be discrete (that is, don't embarrass her in front of students).

This could be interpreted as the selfish approach, if you consider that it makes you look good to the department head and makes a seemingly unpleasant person seem even moreso.

But it also has risks. What if there are rules on the matter that you have overlooked? Then you appear foolish to your department head. Double-check before you do. Also, your department head would probably rather you have another paper published, and might question your priorities.


Last time the instructor told me in front of my students that I don't understand "simple things" and that I am "playing games".

This is where she lost her argument. You should have simply totally ignored her. Let her make a formal complaint and only respond to such formal complaints. You don't have the duty to respond to insults, or to look up what the guidelines say in response to insults. If you were violating the small print of some guidelines, then it is her job to point that out to you.


I think the logic behind the post is quite confusing. You should tell your students directly that discussion can only happen during office hour, and mention that there is another class afterwards. And you can extend your office hour (in a different day, say) by some period of time or move it if you wish, this can always be discussed with department secretary.

You suggested that:

Many times in the past I had a similar situation and never had any issues with it.

as well as

In my evaluations the fact that there are always several students approaching me with questions after class considered as very positive, meaning that students find me approachable.

and many other reasons claiming your behavior is tolerable and okay by your standards. But these justifications is simply not related to the fact that she finds it uncomfortable because you did not end up the class on time. Since you are aware of that, you should do something concrete to resolve this issue. For example you can cover more background in the lecture time available, and encourage students to come to your office hour for longer 1-1 discussions.

My impression for after class discussions is totally opposite to yours; the fact students coming after you after class usually means you did not explain the material well enough during class or unclear during the grading process. Your course should be in the format like "Calculus III, 2:00-3:00pm, Room 31A, Darwin building". If the description did not mention an extra 15 minutes for afterclass discussion, then it means you do not have it. As what the other instructor does when she comes to your classroom is totally irrelevant. In my experience a student (not even an instructor or dept chair) can knock at your classroom door and friendly to ask you get out without giving any specific reasons. They might need the room for group projects or whatever. The fact you are late should be compelling evidence against you already.

You also suggested that

Last time the instructor told me in front of my students that I don't understand "simple things" and that I am "playing games". When I was talking to one of my students, she stood very close to us and clearly demonstrated that she wanted us out. I tried to explain her that I couldn't go anywhere else due to my time constraints, but she didn't want to listen to me. I really don't understand what "simple" things she meant and what "games" I am playing.

I think you should think from her point of view, that your class should end up on time. The fact that you have time constraints, etc is irrelevant to her. If you think these are legitimate reasons to justify your behavior, to her you were simply being immature and using poor excuses. You may have your disagreement and ask for support from senior faculty in the department as Prof. Clark suggested, but her position is very clear. If she demonstrated you need to get out, then you need to get out even if this is the final exam. Unless you have a student with disability that needs extra time, etc I think there is no point arguing further on this issue.

  • 1
    You didn't explain why the next lecturer has a better claim for that time. She arrives 15+ minutes before her lecture starts, after all. Much of what you write can be turned around: There's no need for her to have to prepare for class just minutes before (or whatever she's doing), this could be done well in advance. It may be inconvenient, but so is extending office hours because he's unable to answer a handful of questions after class. Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 13:55
  • @DanielBeck: She does not need a "better claim" for that time. All she needs is some claim showing him that the class is done already and he should be out. In practice, she does not even need to specify that she is teaching a class. A random student or even a janitor can say the same thing and suggest OP get out. Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 14:18
  • 1
    I still don't get it. What is she doing in there then? It appears she's not just in there to tell him to get out, but do something else (e.g. prepare her lecture). So in this case he should then tell her to get out as well? What is it that makes it alright for her to use the room, but not him? Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 22:02
  • @DanielBeck: The OP did not really specify what she was doing. I think this is another drawback. He specified the other instructor as if someone he imagined with no detail. I do not think it would work out in real life because he would have to put himself in her shoes. For your question, for the first time he could friendly ask her for a few minutes extension and suggest her to get out. But for later occasions keep doing so and disregard the fact that he was late as well is not a workable strategy. Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 22:11
  • 1
    By exactly the same argument: He does not need a "better claim" for that time. All he needs is some claim showing her that her class has not yet started and she should stay out. In practice, he does not even need to specify that he is teaching a class. A random student or even a janitor can say the same thing and suggest that the next professor stay out.
    – JeffE
    Commented Oct 30, 2015 at 15:35

There are a number of good suggestions above.

If I were in your place I would want to understand why she wants / feel she needs the full 20 minutes before her class starts in the classroom without interruption. She might be territorial, she might find lecturing stressful and wants / needs the time to prepare.

You now seem to have a second problem that both you (from the fact that you are posting) and her are upset. At this point I would learn if there is a departmental guideline on when you should be out of the classroom, or if there is no guildline then with the knowledge be non-confrontational, say you don't understand, and ask her to explain why she wants/needs all of the 20 minutes. Be ready for her to be hostile but listen first, then explain why you would like to have time after the class. Again she may be hostile to your explanation.

Once you understand you can decide what to do next.

There is an good book called "Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In" by by Roger Fisher, William L. Ury, and Bruce Patton. Which is a good read.


I must be missing a point but if the schedule is

  • your class is 10:00 - 11:00
  • there is a break between 11:00 and 11:15
  • her class starts at 11:15 - ...

then I fail to understand where the problem is. She comes in, tells you to leave in front of your students, you first respond first nicely (for her not to interrupt you), and if she insists you just tell her to shut the [censored] up.

Is there something I missed?

If she is offended by the fact that you dare to talk to her, tell her to escalate to her boss, ideally on the spot - and turn your back to her. This is a fantastic mechanism as soon as you are right (and have a supportive boss , etc.).

A behavior like hers is either psychopathic, not enough parent supervision when she was growing up or seen in nature by individuals who pee in selected places to mark territory.

Note: an edit for the last paragraph was suggested (and accepted by a vote 2/3) (on the grounds that it is insulting or loaded with assumptions). For me, it is not. If one feels that the answer is wrong and that a bully like her should be approached in a kind or elegant way please, by all means, downvote my answer. Everyone has its own subjective way of dealing with psychopathic, badly brought up or territory-marking people.

  • a downvote on that answer means that this is not the right thing to do with a bully?
    – WoJ
    Commented Oct 29, 2015 at 15:16
  • 1
    Saying "shut the [censored] up" to a colleague (you don't know well) is crossing the line. Unless you have tenure, you should be very careful what you say. A better retort would be "Please next time, don't come in until ten after. You're being too rude and distracting otherwise." Commented Oct 30, 2015 at 8:25
  • 1
    @StephanBranczyk: Saying this to a colleague is, indeed, crossing the line. Saying this to a bully (as described by the OP) is one possible reaction - which you may or may not agree with. There are people who will tiptoe around such people, other will stand up and use similar weapons (yes, this is a war :)). Your retort is elegant, I hope it works fine with such people. Mine is rude and primitive and never failed to have that person actually shut the [censored] up
    – WoJ
    Commented Oct 30, 2015 at 8:29

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