Hands up in the air (no, but really)

Caroline Millin

Raise your hand if you think class is boring! I bet you didn’t do it, even if you feel that way, because unless you’re that one kid who always has to answer the professor’s questions, you’re afraid to raise your hand for anything. Everyone has that one course where you show up week after week, sit in silence and feel like you learn nothing. Whose fault is this? Brace yourself, because here comes the truth: it’s your fault.


If everyone tried to participate in class, whether by asking a question, answering a question or bringing up a point, all our courses would be infinitely more interesting. Those kids who are always participating aren’t trying to be kiss-asses, they genuinely hate sitting in boring awkward silence. I am frequently that person, to the point where professors have to explicitly ask someone else to answer the question. This is not something I enjoy and it is actually extremely uncomfortable.


Class participation should not be seen as a challenge. You’re already there taking down the notes, so why not chime in every now and then? But without fail, every time a professor asks a question, it is met with silence or a few people muttering the answer under their breath. And when they ask if anyone has any questions? Crickets again. It’s almost as if students are afraid to actually engage in their learning experience by asking questions or even speaking at all.

The scientific community has well-documented the strong correlation between classroom participation and academic performance. Not only that, but students feel more engaged, confident, and motivated when they participate in class. An Academy of Educational Leadership Journal paper on this subject showed that higher participation led to “to deeper processing and higher order thinking” in students. In general, the paper demonstrates the immense benefits of transitioning from a human Xerox machine to a person who thinks critically and communicates their ideas. Academics improve, motivation increases and you feel better about yourself overall.

But I’m shy.


I know that shyness can be a big barrier for being successful. But classrooms are places for people to learn, and if you have a question that can’t be Googled, you’re never going to find out the answer and your grades will suffer as a result. If you push through your fears and ask a simple question when something is unclear or give an answer when a professor asks for one, that’s your first domino. Everything will keep coming as you feel more connected to the class and you know that your school actually wants to see you learn.


What if it’s a stupid question?

Okay, I won’t lie to you and say there’s no such thing as a stupid question. However, if you’re wondering about it, ask about it. As long as your question is relevant to the course material, you’re good to go. No matter how evil they seem, your professors are there to help you learn and will try their best to give you an answer.

Not only will you be better off with your own grades, but your classmates and professors will subconsciously thank you for making the class less boring and awkward. So please, everyone, listen to the science, and just raise your hand in class.