Classroom Etiquette

I've been teaching (professionally and in the kink world) for a while now and have started noticing some behavior that I consider very disrespectful in classes. Presenters are giving up their time (frequently for little or no money) to pass on something that they are excited and knowledgeable about. Giving them respect is the least an attendee can do during a class. This list is going to come from my perspective as a rigger that teaches rope classes and comes from my experiences both in taking classes and in the classes that I've given. It is not an exhaustive list but something that I may add to over time.

Arrive on time.

Please. Classes and intensives are usually scheduled down to the minute and I know that I tend to pack as much learning as I can into the time that I've been given. If people are running late, even just 15 minutes can really throw off the timing of what I'm going to do. It is rude to the presenter and your classmates to show up fashionably late, barring any serious emergency. If you do come in late, after the presenter has started, choose a spot quickly and take a seat. Wait until there is free practice time or a break to ask the instructor what you missed. They have already covered the material once and it will seriously annoy the attendees if you ask them to start over due to your tardiness.

Plan to stay for the entire class.

There is a reason for the order of the information in a class. It frequently builds on itself. Many times, in my classes, we don't reach the take-home message of the class until near the end because we are building the foundational knowledge first. Walking out early means that you're missing vital information, frequently the 'why' of what you're doing. If you absolutely must leave early, it is polite to notify the presenter before the class starts and to choose a space near the door so as not to disrupt the class when you leave. This is not the time to say long winded goodbyes or to pack your things noisily.

Have the requested prerequisites.

Prerequisites are annoying. I promise, I know. I hate having to pass up a class that sounds amazing because I don't have the prereqs. It sucks. A lot. But instructors don't use prereqs lightly. They exist to make sure that everyone attending the class will be able to get as much as possible from the class. When you show up to a class without the prereqs and then ask about things that are on that list, you are taking valuable time from the point of the class and holding everyone up that came to the class prepared. If there is a class that you're dying to go to and you know you don't have the prerequisite skills, you can email the presenter. Frequently they'll be able to explain in detail why you need to know what is on that list. They also may give you permission to observe the class. Without the prerequisite skills, you can still learn things from observing. However, if you're observing, please be respectful and don't ask about prerequisite skills unless it's during a practice time and the instructor appears to have a minute to answer.

Bring the right materials.

Kink is an expensive hobby. As a just-out-of-college professional, I get it. However, when an instructor wants you to bring specific things, there is a reason for it. If you don't have exactly what they asked for but have something close, feel free to email them before the class and ask if what you have will work. Sometimes they'll say yes, other times they'll say no. If they say no and you don't understand why, ask them. Usually they will have a good explanation. If you don't have what you need and a substitute won't work, ask the presenter if they'll have borrowable materials. If that doesn't work, ask your friends. If none of these methods work and you're set on taking the class, ask about observing.

If you need a partner, pair up beforehand.

Most people come to a class with a partner already. If you come without a partner, you could easily end up in the awkward situation of not having someone. Many presenters will try to help pair up un-partnered people before the class but it doesn't always work out. If you go to a class that calls for a partner without a partner, be prepared to be sitting and observing for the majority of the class. This stuff we do is intimate, not everyone is comfortable with letting someone they just met practice on them. Please be aware of relationships and boundaries. If you don't have a partner and want to go to the class, check the RSVP list. See if any friends are going. See if they need a partner. If they don't, ask if they know of anyone that is going that wants a partner. In this case, asking the presenter isn't likely to get you very far. Frequently the presenter will only know a couple of people in the class, if any and will not know the dynamics of the people attending. Asking the event organizer is also a possibility but not a guarantee of finding someone.

Do what the instructor says, how they say to do it.

At least once, preferably more than once. You have chosen to attend this class to learn. You believe that the presenter can pass on knowledge to you that can help you grow in the chosen skill. As such, try things the presenter's way. It might feel weird. It might not end up working for you. But you aren't going to know if you don't try. Usually the presenter will have a reason why they ask you to do something their way. If they don't outright state the 'why', ask at an appropriate time. I, for one, am always happy to explain why I do things the way I do. And I try to remember to explain it as I teach, but sometimes I get so excited about what I'm doing that I forget.

Ask questions.

Learning occurs when a student is thinking critically about what a teacher has told them. Asking questions engages the mind about what is going on. When you don't understand something, ask. If you need to see something again, ask. When something isn't working for you or your bottom, ask. The only caveat here is to make sure to ask respectfully and at appropriate times. Try to ask questions when there is a pause. (Write them down in a notebook if you think you'll forget.) Sometimes a presenter won't mind you just shouting out questions as they teach, but in my experience, this isn't the norm. Raise your hand, just like in elementary school. This lets the instructor know that you have something to ask or add. They may take your question right away or may wait a second to get to a decent stopping point but they will take your question.

Don't be offended if the instructor doesn't have the answer you are looking for.

I don't know everything about rope. Nor does any other person in the world. Sometimes I'm not going to have an answer for you. If this happens, a few things can happen. A presenter can make up a BS answer. (This is not a presenter you want to take classes with.) More likely, however, the presenter will either say that they don't know or will suggest that we work through it together. A good teacher, that doesn't know the answer, will often say they'll look into it and get back to you. If this is the route I go, I usually ask the person to email me the question. Please do this. When I teach, I go braindead about some things and need a reminder that I was supposed to look something up or send a friend request. Just remember that presenters are people too and don't have all of the answers but good presenters will at least be able to point you in the right direction to finding the answer you're looking for.

Be respectful while the instructor is speaking.

This should be common knowledge, but is shockingly uncommon. When the instructor is talking, even whispering in the back to your partner can be incredibly distracting. It's even worse when it isn't on topic. If you have a question, please ask it so that everyone can hear. If one person has a question, usually someone else has the same question. It saves me time and energy and frustration when you ask questions up front and so that everyone can hear them. I'm guilty of talking too, so if anyone sees me in a class where I'm doing this, feel free to remind me of my own rule.


You paid (possibly a lot of money) to be at this class. Sitting in the back looking grumpy is not going to make anyone happy. If the techniques are beyond your skill level, actively observe and ask questions as you can. Try to get as much as possible out of the class anyway. As a presenter, nothing is more frustrating than trying to hold a discussion and having no one but myself speaking. I'm not there to show off. I'm there to be a resource for you. I can only do that if you participate.

Please add things to the class. Respectfully.

This is a personal preference of mine and not appropriate in all classes (maybe not even in most classes). If you have a different way of doing things, feel free to suggest them. This comes with caveats though. If you're doing it to show-off or prove that you know more than the instructor, sit your ass back down. I don't want to hear it. If you have something that you really think will add to the discussion or make the instructor think about something in a new way, please do bring it up. I may be wowed by what you have or I may say that I don't do it that way, usually with a reason. Frequently students will bring up things that I've tried before and chosen not to do but are perfectly legitimate ways of doing things. When this happens, I will usually say, I've done it this way before and found that it didn't work for me and this is why. Sometimes I will have to shoot something down entirely, or ask that it not be done that way during the class, frequently for safety reasons. I will always try to explain why. If you don't understand, ask. Make sure to wait for an appropriate time to suggest new things. Bringing them up while the instructor is knee deep in showing a technique is not the right time. Wait for a break. If you bring up a good point, I will likely add it in to the very next segment of the class.

Give honest feedback. Respectfully.

It's useful for me to know what worked and what didn't work in my classes. If you have a criticism though, make it constructive. Explain why it didn't work and even better, offer suggestions on improvement. If an instructor has survey forms, please fill them out thoughtfully. They are useful as we try to make our classes as useful as possible to our students.

Don't immediately go out and start teaching what you just learned.

It takes time to get a skill down. It takes even longer to be able to effectively teach it to someone else. Some instructors don't want you to teach any of their material. Personally, I don't mind, as long as it's being taught the way I taught it (or you aren't saying that I taught it to you). Presenters put their reputations on the line when they teach something. If someone gets hurt doing their thing, they feel responsible, whether they are or not. It's important that if you are teaching something in someone's style that you teach it as they do it, not your own variation on it.

Thank your instructor.

Remember, your instructor may not be getting paid much or anything at all to teach that class. A 'thank you' feels great after they've given up their time and shared their expertise to be there.

I hope this list helps remind some people of respectful behavior. If you have anything to add, write it in the comments. I'm sure there are things I've forgotten. Happy learning!