You know that person in tutorial that is so articulate it hurts? They seem to have a rhythm when they speak, they never get lost in a train of thought, and they know how to hold everyone’s attention.
Does that person fill your heart, as it does mine, with equal parts envy and admiration? If so, read on.
For us, tutorial goes a bit like this:
“Should I put up my hand? Oh no, Mr. Perfect is talking now. He’s a tough act to follow; I’ll wait a few minutes. Waiting… Waiting… Oops, now we’re talking about something completely different. Back to the drawing board. Okay…. Okay… Got something… And she just said what I was thinking. No problem, I’ll think of something else. Thinking… Thinking… Blanking… Despairing… Five minutes left. Maybe I’ll talk next week. Oh wait! I have something! Too late now; my voice is weird anyway.”
At least, that’s usually how my internal monologue goes. I’m not very good at articulating my thoughts in tutorial-type settings; they make me feel extremely anxious and shy. I’m constantly afraid that I will forget what I meant to say in the middle of saying it, or that I will say something completely off the mark, or that I will forget how to speak altogether when everyone’s eyes turn to me.
I like to listen to my peers and I often gain really cool insights from their conversations. Sometimes, I like the way the conversation is flowing so much that I would rather not interrupt it with my own awkward contribution. Unfortunately, however, listening is not usually enough; we have to prove that we’re engaging with the tutorial to get full marks. Like it or not, we have to speak.
That is why I would like to share with you, my fellow Mr. Imperfects, the strategies I use to help me speak up in tutorial:
While I’m reading, I usually take note of the things that I find interesting or confusing. These are my tutorial conversation starters. I often put my hand up as soon as tutorial starts so that I can say my piece or pose my question before I forget it or lose my nerve.
Another good way to prepare for tutorial is to discuss the material with a friend before you go. That way, you’ve already rehearsed articulating your thoughts, so speaking might come more naturally in tutorial.
- Dress for success
Because everyone’s eyes will be on me, if I’m feeling good about my self-presentation, I usually feel much more confident about speaking up. This doesn’t have to mean dressing up or anything like that, it could be as simple as wearing your favourite socks. Anything that makes you feel more at ease might make you feel more comfortable speaking up. Keep in mind that this has nothing to do with impressing others; it’s all about making yourself feel confident.
- Don’t hesitate
If you think of a good point, raise your hand straight away. Otherwise, you might start second guessing yourself. Trust me, you are smart and your opinions are valuable, even if you can’t articulate them as well Mr. Perfect over there. If you hesitate, the chance to speak may pass you by; it would be a shame not to share your insights.
- Write things down
Instead of running over what you plan to say again and again in your head—a method guaranteed to make you more anxious—why not just write it down, bullet point style? Chances are, you won’t need to look at the notes you made once you start speaking, but it can be comforting to have them there in case you blank.
- If all else fails, talk to your tutorial leader
If you are having serious problems speaking up, don’t just accept defeat. Talk to your T.A. and try to work out a solution. If you feel more comfortable communicating one-on-one, you could suggest visiting them at their office hours to discuss the week’s material or staying for a quick chat after tutorial. If written communication is more your style, you could suggest sending weekly e-mails with your thoughts or sharing your thoughts in the class discussion board.
Keep in mind that even if you work out an alternative arrangement with your T.A., you should still try to speak up in tutorial. It’s important to work on your public speaking skills. The point is, if your public speaking skills are not where you need them to be yet, but you’re trying your best, you shouldn’t resign yourself to a bad tutorial grade.
How do you feel confident speaking up in tutorial? Are you Mr. Perfect? If so, please share the secret to your magical ways in the comments below.