It happens all the time. Your teacher, standing before his or her class, throws a metaphorical football deep into the end zone. But instead of the touchdown he was hoping for, the only thing he gets is an incomplete pass.
This football scenario depicts the moment when a teacher hurls a question at his or her students. Most of the time someone quickly raises his or her hand or shouts out an answer in response, but when the question remains unanswered and silence ensues, those are the situations that make me cringe with awkwardness.
I have a policy when it comes to answering questions during class: If I know it, I’ll answer it – sometimes. If I’m not sure about it or get stage fright, I let my peers answer for me. This philosophy is effective 95 percent of the time, because, unlike me, there is a rare breed of students who thrive off this teacher-student exchange.
But what happens when Mr. or Ms. Raise-their-hand-a-lot decides to take the day off? Or even worse, the teacher decides that a mere answer is not sufficient. They look past the sea of raised hands and decide they want to “hear from someone new.”
After a few moments of silence, uneasy tension begins to linger in the room and all of us who usually decide not to participate are suddenly in the lime light. Everyone begins to look around the room, wondering if anyone will step up to the plate. For every additional second that the question remains unanswered, it grows exponentially in importance. Even the simplest of questions now seems monumental.
Even the slackers in the back of the room open their eyes and wonder what’s going on. Lucky for me, someone usually takes one for the team. If no one raises a hand, the teacher gives in to the know-it-all who’s straining his arm in the front row or simply provides the answers. What I hate most of all is when a teacher decides to start calling on random people. Instead
of using names (they don’t know them), they target those wearing distinguishable articles of clothing.
“You in the Phillies hat, what do you think?” they may ask. So I never wear hats to class and in these instances I always pray that I’m wearing some weird pattern or color. If a teacher were to point me out and say, “You, in the mauve shirt,” I’d be so impressed by his or her vast knowledge of color palettes that I’d probably feel obliged to answer.
I know by now you’re thinking that I must be a person who doesn’t care about school, grades or teachers. But just because I don’t answer questions, don’t assume that I’m not paying attention; I probably take better notes than all of the arm-exercisers combined.
And despite my criticism, I do realize the importance of questions in the classroom. Student-teacher interaction is a fundamental tool in education. But the next time a professor decides to tackle a helpless student with a question, I just hope that student isn’t me.
Rachel Madel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.