Can You Leave If the Teacher Is 15 Minutes Late
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Can You Leave If the Teacher Is 15 Minutes Late?

This question is as old as school itself. Should you bother waiting for your teacher to show up if they are 15 minutes late? After all, you have better things to do than wait for someone to appear.

I find teachers being that late as disrespectful. If it were up to me, I’d just leave after 15 minutes. But I don’t make the rules. Nor I’m here to give you my opinion on the subject.

What matters is the question in the title.

The short answer is: it depends. Most of the times, not really. But where does this legend come from? And does it ever apply?

In this article, you are going to learn if and when you can leave if the teacher is 15 minutes late.

Editor’s note: this article mostly applies to colleges and universities. Before that schooling is compulsory, meaning you can’t leave whenever you want anyway.

The Golden Rule

If you’re unsure if the rule is a thing at your school, start by checking your school’s handbook.

Yes, it is that easy. Most schools’ handbooks have the answer to this very question. If there is no mention about what to do in case your teacher is late, then assume you are not allowed to leave.

Some schools allow students to leave after a certain time. Others don’t. If your school doesn’t allow you to leave, do not, under any circumstance, leave. Even if your teacher is super late.

Some schools are extremely strict with their attendance requirements. If your teacher is annoyed at you, but the handbook states you can leave, you can ignore the teacher. You’re in the clear.

Do not put your education at risk just to earn one hour of free time.

The Second Golden Rule

Check your school’s attendance policies. I mentioned them briefly in the previous section. Some schools force you to attend a minimum amount of threshold over the semester. Consider you could always get sick, or you could have important things to do on another time.

If the school has attendance policies but the teacher isn’t showing up, take it up with your department chair. You shouldn’t just wait passively for things to happen. Take the matter into your own hands. You are paying for your education. Make sure you are getting your money’s worth.

An Example

Let’s say you are forced to attend at least 70% lectures of a certain course. The course is over in a month, and you have attended 80% of the times so far. Would you risk leaving because of a late teacher, even if it was allowed?

It’s risky to leave without accounting for potential turns of events. You should be wary of those. You never know when you’ll have a good reason to skip the lecture.

Should You Actually Leave?

Even if the handbook mentions you can leave when the teacher is late, I’d be wary of doing so.

The reason is that you’re earning a small amount of time, but there’s a big risk. Say you leave after waiting for 15 minutes. The teacher arrives 5 minutes after you’ve left. You just lost 50 minutes of lecture. That’s a significant amount of time.

What have you gained by leaving early? Are 50 minutes of free time really more valuable than 50 minutes of lecture?

Personally, I don’t think they are, but you do you.

But I realize not everyone has the same opportunities. Let’s say it’s the last lecture of the day, and you have to drive a long way before getting home. Under those circumstances, I’d be ok with people leaving if the teacher is late.

Another factor to consider is how often your teacher is late. If they are late often, and attendance is forced, you should contact your school’s administration and let them know about the situation.

If attendance isn’t forced and your teacher seems to not care, you’re probably better off leaving and studying the subject by yourself.

You are paying to attend classes. Make your time worth the money.

Where Does This Legend Come From?

This is one of those unwritten rules that students tell each other for whatever reason. If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say it’s because of how realistic it sounds.

Once upon a time, lectures were 45 minutes long, so it made sense to leave after 15 minutes. A third of the lesson was gone anyway. Add in the time it would take for a teacher to settle down and prepare to actually begin teaching, and you’ll realize it made sense.

But now, with 70 minutes-long lectures? Not anymore.

You’ll still find plenty of students who believe the 15-minutes is an actual rule. It’s just one of those urban legends that happen to be so ingrained in school culture that most people think it’s real.

Some go the extra mile and claim you can leave if the teacher is more than 1/3rd of the lesson late. So, if the lecture is 90 minutes long, you could leave after 30 minutes, while you could leave after 20 minutes if the lesson is 60 minutes long.


Knowing if you’re allowed to leave, and if you have to attend lectures is the main way to know the answer to the question.

Your time matters. Your education matters. You are paying money for it. Being late without informing the people waiting for you is a huge sign of disrespect. Especially nowadays when it’s so easy to do so. You have the internet, phone calls, SMSs, and emails.

If you’re a teacher who is 15 minutes late, please make it a point to tell students about your current situation. A simple “I’ll be there in 5 minutes” is enough to keep them around.

If you’re a student of a teacher who is 15 minutes late, consult your school’s handbook and attendance policies. If it’s explicitly stated you can leave, you can do so guilt-free. If nothing is said about leaving early, assume you aren’t allowed to.

Attendance rate is important too. If you’ve already missed some lectures, you might want to stay in class even though the teacher is late. You never know when you’ll actually need to skip classes.

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