Sitting in class the other day, I came to a surprising realization. Over the last year, unbeknownst to me, I had somehow become “that guy” in class. You know who I mean. The guy that sits up front every class period, always the first to raise their hand to offer a $10 answer to a $2 question. In middle school, we called this guy a suck-up or the teacher’s pet. I came to this conclusion after it dawned on me that I was the only student in the class who had spoken all day.
I hadn’t always been this way. Up until this year, my senior year, I was merely an interested student who spoke up only when the situation really called for it. After a question was asked I’d wait a few minutes and if no one else wanted to answer it I would.
As a sociology major, it only seems right that I would spend time analyzing how students regard each other within class. Like most of my fellow students, I didn’t care much for the teacher’s pet, which can be found in just about every classroom.
I couldn’t understand how they could be so socially blind to the fact that they stood out like sore thumbs every time they tried to answer questions or engage the teacher in conversations. I figured it was just another example of people who liked to hear themselves talk.
But this year has changed my perspective on things, and I feel I understand more of the motivation behind the verbose student. My classes have started to affect me on a level that goes beyond the classroom. The material I’m learning about has crept into my thoughts while off campus. I can easily say I am a changed person because of the classes I have had this year and are taking right now. After years of math, science, and general education classes that went in one ear and out the other, I am thrilled to see that my education is actually starting to sink in.
It’s this mindset that inspires me to speak up in class. I have reached an amazing intersection of interest and actual comprehension of a subject, and that fact gets me so excited I feel the need to become actively involved in my education.
Even after four years of college, that feeling of knowing the answer to a teacher’s question is exciting enough to motivate me to raise my hand, regardless of how it makes me look to the rest of the class.
From my new perspective I have also reexamined what kind of student I used to be. As a more passionate student, I look back on how I was and think about all the chances I missed to widen my understanding of what was being taught.
I have become a believer that education can’t be a spectator sport- students have to take a proactive stance on making sure they not only understand what is being taught but can relate it to their own lives, aka the real world.
I look back on my quieter self and think I was robbing myself of a full education simply because I didn’t want to come off as a dork. Even though we are college that doesn’t mean we’ve fully escaped the world of cliques and social status that was so evident in high school; it’s just more subtle here.
We all take note of how others perceive us, especially in the classroom. There were definitely times I would have spoken up but didn’t for worry about how it would shape people’s view of me.
Now, with a mere two months left before graduation, I’ve become a full blown, unabashed sociology nerd. I am no longer going to apologize for loving my classes and for wanting to interact with my teachers. I am willing to take on the labels that come with that attitude. In the end it’s worth it to feel I am getting my full college education experience.
We all know that it’s cool to sit in the back and pretend you don’t really care about what the teacher is saying. It’s even cooler if you can do that and ace all the tests. But at some point you should stop and think about what is best for you, not your reputation.
In 20 years, are you going to remember how cool you looked in class playing games on your phone or are you going to remember what you learned when you spoke up and asked a question?