It’s the first day back to school. You’re excited for a new year, a fresh start. So, you excitedly enter your first class and are greeted with the ever so helpful syllabus. You begin to flip through, looking at all the assignments you’ll be working on, all the books you’ll get to read, and then you see the dreaded sentence “Class participation is worth 10% of your final grade.” Fuck.
So, what does this mean? It means that you should be raising your hand and participating regularly in class. Some may see this as just being a standard education procedure and wonder why I’m making such a big deal out of this. I’ve seen plenty of articles and hundreds of people say that participating in a classroom is the only way you’ll feel more prepared for the real world and that the more you start to participate the better and more confident you’ll feel. Do you know what I say to all of that? BULL.SHIT.
My personal belief is that we should not be forcing students into class participation. Every student is different and has their own strengths and weaknesses. Some love to participate in class, they do their best work by vocalizing their thoughts and answers. Others learn better by listening to their fellow students and teachers speaking. These students should not be punished just because they learn differently than others.
Some students are shy. I was and still am one of those students. The idea of speaking aloud in class terrifies me because I don’t like attention. Never have, never will. I think it’s unfair that there are people in classes that are texting and even sleeping through the class, but because they make a small point, they are given credit for participating. At the same time, I’m sitting there, taking notes and paying attention to the material, but I am just doing it quietly. But in the end, I won’t be getting any credit for participation. I believe that a student shouldn’t have to worry about failing a class just because they prefer to keep to themselves.
When students are forced to participate, going to class becomes a nightmare. I remember I had a middle school Spanish teacher who pushed students to talk in class. I’d go into this class with high anxiety and was unable to really focus or concentrate which affected my education and my learning style. Instead of learning the material, I would be sitting there thinking about things that I could possibly contribute to the class. But in the end I would be too slow to raise my hand or I would chicken out. Either way I ended up hating myself afterwards because I knew my shyness was the reason for my bad grades. I wished I could be different. Extroverted. Outgoing. Either I would be too slow in raising my hand, or feel too scared to lift it at all. In both occasions I would mentally kick myself afterwards, imagining my plummeting grades, wishing that I could somehow be a more outgoing person.
By rewarding the students who talk the most in class, teachers are failing to notice and reward the students who are good listeners, which is a skill that is equally as important to talking in front of people. Just because someone doesn’t participate doesn’t mean they don’t know the material and doesn’t mean they aren’t good students. If more professors and teachers didn’t grade so harshly on participation it would allow students with shy personalities and social anxiety to have an equal opportunity to learn without increasing their anxiety and decreasing their self worth.
Published by Megan Wong