Talking in class

Rick Lowe

I was never one to talk out of turn in class. As a kid.

It’s a little different now. The whole system of “raising your hand” feels outdated. Maybe I just have more to say this time around? It depends on the class. I think with more people in the room, you still need to signal that you have something to say. If everyone’s got a good camaraderie going on, you can get a feel for who usually likes to talk and who doesn’t. Fewer people means more opportunities to just blurt out whatever.

A while back, someone took note of the fact that I had built up a reputation as being quiet and reserved during class discussions until right at the end, where my words would carry the longest. That was never intentional, but what I did intend by that behavior was to make sure that I talked so little that when I finally opened up my mouth to speak, everyone paid attention to what the quiet guy had to say. You let your voice be a rare occurrence and people will value it a little more.

There are exceptions to that. I once went off on a bit of a rant during a class where it sounded to me that someone nearby had implied that talent was worthless when it came to creating art. Coming from a musically inclined family, and growing up being taught that talent and skill were the most important things in making music… I disagreed rather strongly. Think about it—if we don’t value the talented and skilled, we suddenly make art meaningless, worthless. To what standards can we hold anyone if no one is valued above anyone else? Why bother doing anything creative, if that’s the case?

Anyway… I could filibuster about that for a while, but I have space constraints here. As far as talking in class goes, I think there’s three kinds of professor: “talk when you have something to say” professors who are mellow and want you to do some of their job for them, “raise your hand or I shall staple your mouth shut” professors who act like we’re all in high school still, and those professors who talk a lot for themselves and then ask you to speak up, only to become frustrated when you don’t because they’ve already said all there is to say.

I suppose I should mention a fourth category for the other kinds of professors. Pot-pourri professors. Pro-pourri, there we go. That being said, I’ve encountered at least one of every single kind of these professors and I have to say that so far, my favorites are that first kind, who ask a question and then just let it hang. Why? Because of their counterparts: the students.

Here’s the three kinds of student: the “Mute,” the “Often Wrong” and the “Always Right.” I think I hover somewhere between Mute and Often Wrong. I tend to let the Always Rights do all the talking for me because that’s what they love best, and why should I take that away from them? There’s always that hipster guy who dresses in a way that makes you raise an eyebrow and has smart alecky comments to make, and that hippie girl who loves to give “deeply spiritual” answers and reminds me of Luna Lovegood—only without the funny. The Always Rights make my life easier by picking up my slack around “talk when you have something to say” profs. I used to be one of them in high school before I got bored of that lifestyle.

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