Speaking Out

I find myself in a very interesting situation.  I just noticed it during last night’s class.  I have very easily and quickly slipped into the “quiet girl” role I used to play in school.  I never said anything and I never asked any questions.  And I’m doing it again.  It’s just worrisome because part of our grade is based on participation, not just attendance, and talking equals participation.

I’m apprehensive about asking questions normally, but last night’s lecture kind of sealed the deal that I would just keep my mouth shut and figure it out on my own.  A student asked a question about what the professor was talking about.  And the professor basically jumped down his throat saying that he needs to figure it out on his own.  And while I understand, it’s ultimately up to me to learn the material, if I ask a question, it’s probably because I don’t understand and need clarification.  I think that’s normally why people ask questions.  But this professors’ reply makes me want to ask or answer anything.  I will just sit in my chair, listen, and hopefully take good notes.  The student was angry after class, and rightfully so, but he kept his anger until we were out of earshot.

But this made me think–Would I have responded any differently had I been the one to ask the question?  I’m not sure.  I probably would have sunk down in my seat and hid my tears.  And I wonder how I can be so intimidated in a certain situation, but I can be intimidating in others.  I can speak my mind with my husband, friends, family (well, for the most part), and even the occasional stranger.  But put me in a situation where I’m slightly uneasy and I can barely say hello.

I would like to think that I would have some courage to stand up to this professor and tell him that’s not a particularly appropriate response to a student’s question.  I am paying the school a tuition.  The school takes that tuition (along with other monies) and pays the professor a salary for providing a service–teaching specific classes.  I am taking that class, therefore I am paying for that service and should not have issues like this come up.

I work in customer service.  I deal with customers.  When they have questions, I patiently explain the issue to them.  I can’t tell them to figure it out for themselves when they have the paper work in front of them and I’ve already explained it once.  I understand that teaching is different, but even when I taught I never spoke like that to a student.  It’s just frustrating and defeating to have a teacher like that.

I also started speaking with some of the other students before class started.  It was good.  I thought I was the only one who was lost during the lectures (and reading) and had difficulty keeping up with the reading, but I’m not.  It made me feel better that current undergraduate students (who are majoring in this subject) are having difficulties.  Almost a sense of relief.  At least I’m not alone.  I also felt a little relief during the lecture when I realized I had taken notes on the reading about what the professor was saying.  I felt validated that I was doing the right thing and need to keep going it.