Living in the US:  Formal Classroom Culture
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Living in the US: Formal Classroom Culture

Welcome to the University of Southern California. Let’s learn about the U.S. classroom. At the beginning of each semester, the professor
will review his or her syllabus with you. The syllabus is your guide to the course. This is how the professor will introduce classroom
expectations, including classroom etiquette, book lists, campus resources, office hours,
and a schedule for readings, assignments, and exams. Remember that it’s important to ask questions,
even about the syllabus, since these will be the rules of the class. Many professors prefer to be called by their
first name. If you are unsure how to address your professor,
feel free to ask. They will often tell you what they prefer,
early in the semester. But it’s always safe to say, “Professor.” Sometimes, professors will have a hard time
pronouncing names. Feel free to kindly correct them, or share
your preferred name. U.S. classrooms tend to be very interactive. Professors will often ask the class questions,
to help you think through the information. This doesn’t mean that they don’t know the
answer. Professors also like to know how different
people understand the material. So, they may ask the same question to multiple
people in the class. This difference in opinion can help to increase
discussions, and clarify the topic. It is very important to actively participate
in the discussions in a U.S. classroom. Remember to ask questions in class. By raising your hand, your professor will
know to call on you. Classroom topics will make more sense if you
understand them during the lecture. When reading homework for class, remember
to take notes. And write down some questions that you may
want to ask in class. Others may have the same questions that you
do. Many students will use a laptop to take notes
during class. Most professors are okay with this, as long
as you aren’t on outside websites. Usually, it is okay for you to use an audio
recorder to record the lecture. If you are unsure, feel free to ask the instructor
while the syllabus is being reviewed. Or, you can ask before or after class. It’s very common in the classroom for you
to work in groups. Groups — or teams — mirror working in the
real world. This is also a great way to meet your classmates
and practice your language skills. Often, classes will have discussion or “lab
sections” that are led by teaching assistants. Teaching assistants are often graduate students
who know the subject of the class very well. They should be treated with just as much respect
as your professor. In general, it is best to ask all of your
questions about topics during class, so you understand right away. If you didn’t get a question answered during
class, try to talk to your professor at the end of class. Especially if you are confused about requirements
and you need clarification. Be sure to ask if they have time to talk. The professor will typically have office hours
available, when you can ask questions in private. Use these hours to clarify concepts, homework,
or test questions. Or, to let your instructor know about any
personal problems that may be affecting your class performance. You can also use this time to ask your professor
academic or career advice. Professors typically enjoy having you ask
questions, and are interested in your learning process. Conversations can be casual, and may stray
from academic topics to learn more about your interests or hobbies. This is used to make positive impressions,
and help the professor remember you.

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