Monday, February 28, 2011

Get Off My Lawn

One day last week I was walking down the hall toward my office, past some offices my colleagues occupy. There were two students standing in front of the office of one of my colleagues, looking at the door carefully, examining it closely, testing the doorknob as quietly as possible, stuff like that. They saw me coming, and one of them said, very quietly, "do you know if he's in there?"

I said, "No. I don't know. Did you try knocking?" They hadn't.

The next day I was eating lunch in my office with the door closed. A student had made arrangements with me to take an exam that afternoon, but I had 15 minutes left before he was due. When he knocked on the door (very quietly) 15 minutes early, I had a mouth full of food, so I was going to wait until I could swallow it before I said, "come in." But I didn't have a chance, because he just opened the door and let himself in. I had to tell him that when you knock on someone's door and they don't say "come in" that means that they haven't given you permission to come in, and you should stay out.

Something similar happened just now. Door closed; student opens it; no knock at all. The guy didn't even knock. He just opened the door to my office. Is it normal for people not to know what the deal with doors is?

--Mr. Zero

33 comments:

Matthew Slater said...

I've even had a student (who I'd never met or see before) open my office door, walk in, sit down in my visitors' chair and start asking me about a course I teach. It's oddly distressing! (Though perhaps I should have been flattered by his enthusiasm!)

Anonymous said...

How annoying; students can be pretty stupid sometimes.

Guess it's time to start using the lock.

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one whose office door can be locked from inside?

Anonymous said...

this post is awesome!

the facebook generation is so socially inept

Anonymous said...

I either have my door fully open, or have it locked. I would advise adopting this practice.

Mr. Zero said...

Obviously the lesson, or whatever, is that you (I) need to lock your (my) door if you don't want people to barge in on you, and that you need to leave your door wide open or else people won't know how to get your attention.

But the sort of point I was making is that there is a clear set of rules surrounding door-related behavior that the students at my school seem unaware of. I find this interesting because I always thought that these were some of the simplest and most basic social skills we teach to small children. I thought you learned this stuff in kindergarten or preschool, not sophomore year in college.

Anonymous said...

Ditto 2:36. I keep my door locked or wide open. A couple of times, I've been in on a weekend with no light on (I have a big window and get lots of natural light), and students will try to open the door to use my office as a study room (or so they said, I think honestly).

zombie said...

I had a shared office in my last teaching post. The doors could only be unlocked with an ID badge, and they couldn't be propped open or they would set off the alarm. (It got bloody hot in there when the sun was shining.) Students had no choice but to knock and wait.

So, I have not seen this behavior, but it does not surprise me. Many students do not seem to have the faintest idea how to behave in school. Or apparently, around doors.

Anonymous said...

I am just so shocked... WHAT?? I get my share of inept emails, but inept door behavior? That's news to me! Maybe where I am people have a privileged door education...
Thank you, though, I really needed a good laugh and this post and accompanying comments were just right.

CTS said...

I often have students other than my own walk into my office and ask for a stapler.

I've also had to point out to a couple of students that, when a faculty member does not respond to a knock, neither trying the door nor banging loudly on it is the right response.

Anonymous said...

Are you suggesting that there being a clear set of rules related to x amounts to more than general awareness on the part of individuals of rules relating to x? It sounds like at this point there's a foggy set of rules for doors, probably soon to be a different set of rules for doors (which might be the empty set).

You're just getting old.

Matthew Slater said...

Leaving the door open doesn't shield us from idiotic door-behavior. Or maybe this is just me. Am I right to be annoyed when students just walk though my open office door (sometimes sitting down) without knocking on it, making eye-contact, or otherwise receiving acknowledgement from me when my door is open? Clearly, this is *less* socially-inept, but I'm still tempted to scold them. . . .

Anyway, it seems like it's fallen to college professors to pick up where kindergarden left off (that doesn't bode well in lots of cases). So perhaps we should leave our doors unlocked just to encourage such "teaching moments". . . .

Anon158 said...

http://tinyurl.com/akzod

Favorite office story ever, courtesy of Acephalous.

Anonymous said...

I've been wondering about this too since the first time I had a student barge into my office when the door was closed. I think they may see it more like a dentist office. Or a physician's exam room. Knock quietly, then go in.

Anonymous said...

I had some students walk into my office when I had left it for a moment to go to the water fountain (just a few feet away). They took several chairs out and as I was walking back, I spotted them and asked what they were doing. They said they would return them and they saw that the door was open, so they felt free to walk in and take the chairs.

I was too bewildered to do more than say, yes, they should return them.

Anonymous said...

One time when I had my door closed and locked, the janitor decided to unlock my door to come and get my trash. No knock or anything.

That was slightly disconcerting. I kind of abruptly noted that he should generally knock first to see if someone is in the office before just unlocking it and entering.

He did it again the next week. Dork.

Anonymous said...

The janitor has a key and his/her job is to enter your office, most likely during non-working hours or the second shift. Instead of calling this person who works for a living a dork, why don't you realize what is going on. You have several options:

(i) When it gets past 5 p.m. and you know the janitor might be coming, leave your door slightly ajar to alert him/her that someone is inside.

(ii) You could have a sign that say 'EVERYONE KNOCK FIRST'.

(iii) You could become friendly with this PERSON and they will remember your schedule and knock.

OR

(iv) Don't be alarmed when they come in, and just say hello. This person isn't there to disturb you, and I guarantee you they would rather you not be disturbed as well.

it isn't reasonable to ask a janitor to knock on every door when they have the keys to get in after hours, and they open hundreds of doors a night.

Let's be more understanding 6:45.

Anonymous said...

I'm a nursing mom and so I am often either pumping in my office or nursing my baby. I've had to remember to keep my door locked to prevent students and colleagues from walking in, AND to put a "do not disturb" sign on the door to prevent the janitor from walking in.

Anonymous said...

I often have students other than my own walk into my office and ask for a stapler.

Priceless. You should offer them fries or milkshake.

Anonymous said...

I'm shocked by this. Are these all personal offices, or shared offices? I think that the etiquette should be the same, but I can see how people might be more confused in the case of shared offices. (e.g., taking chairs from one shared TA office for use in another seems more likely--though not obviously a smaller etiquette breach--than from a single-occupant office).

Also, at my midwestern university, I've often had students waiting in the hall until office hours start despite my door being ajar (as I generally leave it when I'm inside). And students generally knock, apologize, and ask if it's okay to come in. So, maybe a regional politeness thing? Good fortune on my part? I frighten my students?

Anonymous said...

For a couple generations now, we as a culture have embraced the idea that life is about doing your own thing, and that you can do whatever you want as long as you don't cause physical harm to anyone else. Should we be surprised, then, when our students act accordingly?

word verification: bantrant (n) a cross between banter and ranting. See: this thread!

Anonymous said...

Simple solution, make it a teaching opportunity or hang a sigh:

If the door is wide-open feel free to come in and visit.
If the door is slightly-ajar please knock and wait for permission to enter.
If the door is closed do not disturb.

Violators may be subject to Karmic disturbances in the future; shot, maimed, or tortured; or experience ill-will whilst being evaluated.

Anonymous said...

I hate to sound all old and grouchy while I'm still only in my early thirties, but it does seem that the undergraduates of today have ever less understanding of personal boundaries - and this seems to exemplify it. I often have students walk into my office while I'm seeing another student, and make as if to sit down: the door is open, I'm plainly discussing things with one of their peers, and yet they just wander in without a knock.

My best "personal boundaries" story, though, was about a week ago. When my classes have papers, they're due on the Monday morning; I've told them that I'm willing to answer any questions emailed to me by breakfast time on the preceding Saturday, but after that, they're on their own.

So Friday evening, I'm on a bus... I get a phone call from a student - who, I should add, came to my office hours earlier in the week for help. (It turned out later that she'd dug up my cellphone number from the automatic signature when I'd inadvertently sent the class an email from my non-university address.) I tried answering her questions, but ended up telling her to email it to me.

Her: "So if I email you tonight, will you respond tonight?"

Me: "Er, no. It's Friday night. I'm going out. If you email me by breakfast tomorrow, I'll reply then."

Her: "Okay. So will you be getting up early? When can I expect a reply?"

Me: "I don't know. I'm not going to promise you that I will be up at seven in order to answer your every question. I'll get to your email when I get to it."

So the call ends. Next day (Saturday), no email from her at breakfast time. But she eventually sends one at 12.42 - closer to lunch. The subject line was (in capitals) - "PLEASE READ AND RESPOND" and the email concluded with "any response - preferably a quick one - would be much appreciated."

As I wasn't hovering over my computer eagerly awaiting late emails, I didn't reply at once. So she resent the email at 2.16.

I still didn't reply. So around 3pm she phoned me. I didn't pick up, so she phoned again right away. I had decided I wasn't going to answer, so ignored it. So she waits two hours, and calls again at around 5. And at nine. And at ten, along with another email (by which time, coincidentally, I was actually in the process of replying to her email).

So, in short - in the space of less than ten hours, she sends me an email, resends it, phones my cellphone five times, and sends a third email. All because I wasn't there to provide immediate help on a Saturday afternoon... I can't imagine trying any such thing when I was an undergraduate - this assumption that I have nothing better to do than hold their hands while they write their papers...!

Anonymous said...

Facebook gen indeed! Is it any surprise, given that rampant exhibitionism and voyeurism on Facebooks and twitters is the norm? Privacy and manners are increasingly passe...

Anonymous said...

Re: the chairs - it is a (very small!) shared office, but these were undergraduate students taking them for use in a study area.

It was clearly a private area, is the point.

Anonymous said...

To the person who didn't agree with my response to the janitor, I apologize for not noting the time the janitor decided to use his key and just walk into my office unannounced. It was 10:00 am, smack dab within working hours.

Anonymous said...

This is not surprising, but I'm not going to blame this on generational differences. Sure, they may come into play, but I think this is more the fault of the university and how it now sells itself and its services to students. It's common to find in promotional materials comments to the effect that the campus is theirs, and that they will have full access to a variety of things. The students are, more so now than ever, encouraged to think of the campus - the entire campus - as serving them. Then you add to this the idea that faculty are available 24/7 because of email (and worse, those faculty who actually are available 24/7, and ruin it for those of us who like to separate professional from personal time), and you get students who don't know that there are spaces on campus that are not for their use.

Anonymous said...

How are they supposed to know better? Their mommies never knock on their bedroom doors in the parental homes where these students will continue to live until well into their forties.

CTS said...

Anon 10:58:

The students are, more so now than ever, encouraged to think of the campus - the entire campus - as serving them.

I think this certainly explains the requests for my stapler. After all, I'm a professor, or something, I have a door open, why shouldn't I supply a stapler?

I like the idea of offering fries and a shake. :-)

Anonymous said...

I'm an East Coast guy living on the West Coast and I often assumed that some of this shit is regional (I never saw anybody feel free to enter a still-full classroom at 9:50:30 when their class starts at 10 until I got out here) but maybe it is a generational thing (not surprising since kids today are horseshit).

I share an office and we always leave the door unlocked because it is a pain in the ass to have to dig for keys every time you take a piss. Students ROUTINELY barged in looking for their TA until we hung a "KNOCK FIRST!" sign on the door. Students seem to do this even when they don't have an appointment and it's not posted office hours.

This is what happens when students think of education as a service industry and have been taught that the customer is always right. Thankfully I have officemates who are much better at shaming undergrads than I.

Anonymous said...

Undergrad here, and I do follow door-knocking ettiquette, but I don't think it's just my over-bearing British politeness: I think it's obvious that you do not just enter someone's room.

Just so you don't lose all hope in my generation; we're not all dunderheads!

Anonymous said...

I'm really surprised--I've never seen students do this at my campus. The housekeeping folks do occasionally open my locked door (and yes, this is during regular hours) without knocking, but they're nice people and they always apologize (as if a quick knock would have been the polite--or safe--thing to do even though all agree they have a duty to enter no matter what).

I have had students refuse to leave my office--I take it that's familiar? I have also had students refuse to leave the department when all staff and faculty are leaving.

Anonymous said...

With regard to the students who don't knock before entering, I think you should work in the nude and see if there's an increase/decrease in this behavior.