If I am in class and I don't feel like doing a boring, uninteresting, optional exercise which won't benefit me in any way, how should I deal with an insecure instructor attempting to force me to do it?

If I pull out my laptop or phone and start watching some harmless, audioless videos, that cannot possibly bother anyone. I feel the instructor should spend time helping and overseeing those students actually doing the exercise, and not waste their time on the smart student that doesn't necessarily need to do some cute little exercise in order to understand a simple concept.

Should I leave the class? Do I have a right to stay? For example, at some point during this (for me) useless exercise, the instructor might happen to say something of value that I might have an interest in hearing, so do I not have a right to stay in case that did happen? If so, how should I respond when my instructor tells me that she is bothered by my innocent act and wants me to leave class, an idea which she sadly got from some internet people?

  • 1
    Just curious, how did you find out that the instructor posted the question here, and how did you know with certainity it was your instructor specifically?
    – Ovi
    Feb 4, 2017 at 22:44
  • @Ovi This is a question which mirrors the other one, written from the point of view a student who is hypotetically in that position. Though clearly written with a provocative intent, I don't think it deserves so many downvotes. Feb 4, 2017 at 23:26
  • @MassimoOrtolano your reading is understandable, but incorrect - there was a slew of deleted comments which indicate that the question was not hypothetical and provocative, but aggrieved and tendentious (IMO)
    – Yemon Choi
    Feb 12, 2017 at 13:46
  • This is an excellent question and there is excellent advice in the answers - especially a great way to move forward if in the position of the OP in the answer of Patricia Shanahan.
    – Dirk
    Feb 16, 2017 at 14:03

3 Answers 3


From the tone of the question and your comments, it looks a bit like you are waiting for someone to tell you you are entitled to your behavior and your instructor is wrong. This someone will not be me.

If your situation is covered by the rules at your university (e.g. if instructors are not allowed to ask students to actually work or step out), as it seems implied in some of your comments to previous answers, then your question is pointless. Let me thus assume otherwise.

You should realize that an instructor has a responsibility toward the group of students to ensure a good learning environment. Even if you do not actively disturb the class, being openly doing anything else than working on the course (or related) material is influencing the environment in the classroom. You may feel that this influence is mild or even non-existent, but it is not your call: the instructor is in charge, not you. You thus should, on that principle alone, respect the rules set by your instructor.

Let me add something: I (and probably all academics reading this) have seen a lot of overconfident students that did good at first, did not work, and ultimately failed; or that thought they were brilliant, and might have turned brilliant with some effort, but instead did not confront to the exercises and failed by a long shot. Even in the best case, where you are indeed smart enough not to need any effort to pass your classes, being in class not studying is still wasting your own talent (which is all the more stupid that your talent is great). If the covered material is so simple to you, why don't you ask for more challenging assignments? I know very few instructors who would not put an extra hour designing tough exercises for a student asking for more and acing all tests.


The instructor is literally in charge of what is happening the classroom. She can set the rules because the lecture is for her to teach.

You, on the other hand, as a student have your free will not to attend the classes, leave the classroom in the middle of the lecture, provided that you accept the results.

One thing a student (in your case, I think bachelor's) is surely not qualified, is to decide what should/shouldn't a professor do or if the assignments are interesting/necessary/motivating/good/bad etc. If you find the class uninteresting, do not attend. But attending the lecture and complaining about assignments, and the way professor behaves during the lecture hours is pure sauciness. If she says no laptops, then it means no laptops. End of discussion.


Remember the instructor has no reliable way of knowing whether you are not doing the exercise because it is too easy or because it is too hard. Claiming to not need to do an exercise because it is too easy is a common defensive mechanism of people who want to feel smart without actually having the ability. If you don't do the exercise the instructor has no way of distinguishing your genuine smartness from that effect.

The simple solution is to spend a minute or so doing the over-simple exercise, and leave the completed work prominently on your desk. That way, the instructor can know not to worry about you.

Once you have done the exercise, it would be better to either stay engaged in the class, possibly doing harder exercises from the text book, or to do other school work. A video showing on a laptop can distract those who have the laptop screen in their field of view, even with no audio.


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