I’ll raise my hand when I’m good and ready
by Olivia Langenberg
Features and Lists
I’m trapped in Faculty Memorial Hall on a Thursday morning, shifting uncomfortably in my seat every two minutes, unable to stop thinking about breakfast sandwiches. I’m copying down the notes from the PowerPoint, tapping my pen against my chin, and drawing random lines in the margins of my notebook. The professor asks the class a question, and I do everything in my power to slip into the void to remain invisible. The lines in my notebook are suddenly the most interesting thing I’ve ever seen! But then, it happens. A giant spotlight shines down from above and hits me directly in the eye. There’s nowhere to run now. I’ve just been randomly called on even though I’ve done nothing to suggest that I want to answer this question.
As a person who is both easily startled and exceptionally nervous, there are few things school-related that I dislike more than being singled out by a professor. As you can probably imagine, small parts of me crumble off and die when I see participation being 10-15% of my grade when I get a syllabus. This is for a couple reasons. One: I hate the way my voice sounds and every time I speak out loud in front of a bunch of strangers, I imagine them internally laughing at me and making fun of me to their friends after class. Two: I naturally assume I never actually know the right answer, so I have to be absolutely certain that I know it before I ever raise my hand. Three: Why on earth would I ever want 20 random people’s eyes on me at 10am on a Monday? And four: perhaps the most important one, if I didn’t raise my hand, I don’t want to answer the question. Simple as that.
I understand why professors do this. They’re probably half as nervous as I am when they ask a question and no one responds. Quick problem solving would encourage you to just pick on Megan in the front row who happened to be making eye contact with you at the time. But what if Megan actually had no idea what the answer was? Now everyone is twice as uncomfortable, and poor Megan has to stammer out an “Uh, I don’t know..” and deal with the shame of admitting you’re lost in front of the whole class. I’ve also heard from professors before that sometimes they call on people who don’t tend to participate in order to give them a delicate push. Well, here’s the thing, Professor Smith, there’s probably a reason that student doesn’t participate, and I can guarantee that your delicate push was more of a forceful, terrifying shove.
Before anyone comes at me saying that I’m too sensitive or that I need to get past my fear of public speaking, let me tell you this. It’s one thing to be in a conference room with people you work with every day, talking about your job that you presumably know how to do. It’s an entirely different thing to be in a core class with 30 people you’ve never talked to before, being singled out to participate when you don’t want to.
I’m slowly learning how to overcome my anxiety in classes. I’m beginning to participate willingly, and I’m trying to be more confident in my ability to answer questions. However, that process is interrupted every time my name is drawn from a handful of cards, or I’m “randomly” called on to participate. Please, I’m begging. Stop calling on me if I haven’t raised my hand. I will when I’m ready.