Can you remember back to the first week of classes? You know, back when everyone had something to say in class…eager to impress Profs with their extensive vocabulary and subject knowledge.
If like me, you do remember these students, you too might be wondering what happened to these eager students?
I have a hypothesis. These student’s confidence was shaken by Profs with their often too blunt responses to a student’s attempt to contribute to an in class discussion.
I think this is a serious problem, if you happen to be thin skinned. I am not and I tend to not really care if what I say in class happens to be totally incorrect. Well, I care that I’m wrong, but it makes me want to find out why I’m wrong. It doesn’t make me rue the day that I ever raised my hand in class.
I realize that everyone is different. Some people find the “hard love” approach of so many Profs at U of T difficult to reconcile. I have this opinion: I paid tuition to sit in class so I will raise my hand and contribute as much as I feel comfortable and if I’m wrong then my Prof can explain to me why I’m wrong if not in class then during their office hours. I’m paying to learn and being completely wrong and making big embarrassing in class mistakes is just part of what learning means to me. (see instructional video below)
This attitude has allowed me to let snarky remarks from Profs slide right off my back. Being in the humanities I have some classes that participation counts for up to 25% of the overall term mark. With the stakes this high you have to be able to recover from an in-class embarrassment and move on.
If you can push yourself to get back into the game in class then when all those papers are due you won’t feel so pressured to get an A+ because you’ll know that you have at least a good chunk of 30% of you overall mark covered with participation.
This is a great mental exercise too! Every time you feel nervous or unsure whether you should raise your hand in class, just think of it as a percentage towards your overall mark. Obviously you want to attempt to contribute something meaningful to the discussion, but your response doesn’t have to be an eloquent diatribe of the subject matter. It could be a clarifying question, and add on to the last comment made, or a connection made to another topic you’ve already covered in class.
I broke out of my shell a few years ago and started raising my hand all the time. Sometimes I get the “let’s hear from someone else comment”. I might seem overly eager to my fellow classmates, but this is the thing. They aren’t marking me, the Prof is. I’m far more concerned with what my Prof thinks about me than what the stranger sitting behind me thinks.