September 22, 2014

Dear Freshmen: Classmates are kind of the worst

Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 8.17.29 AMAfter three long, but wonderful, years at the University of Louisville, I have finally realized that there is a factory somewhere out there chugging out students. They are made in molds that create the same basic types of students over and over again.

Some of these molds need to be updated and revitalized for today’s classroom. When we attend a lecture-style class, we know to expect someone down front to attempt to monopolize the entire class session with his stories, questions and comments. What if he makes it into your smaller classes?

When one student continuously takes control over class time, it prohibits his classmates from participating fully. Those of us who like to be a part of the conversation don’t appreciate this too much. I would like to have the opportunity to ask questions, develop discussion points and be fully involved in each class session.

So, my open letter to all the students out there like this: Stop talking. You will find out that there will be moments in life where knowing when to speak, and when not to, will show your intelligence much more than having an answer to everything. Especially when your answers are not always relevant or correct.

A simple first step may be to simply start raising your hand before speaking. This practice allows the professor to pick students who haven’t participated. A good classroom setting, to me, is one that nurtures a conversation between the texts, the professor and the students . . . plural.

Adversely, there is the mold for students who don’t quite speak enough, if at all. I once had a girl in several of my classes who I was lucky enough to be friends with outside of class, as well. She was amazingly intelligent and gifted, but shy. Her shyness seemed to keep her from fully participating in every class session.

Not only does this negatively affect her participation grade, it also limits the heights to which the conversation can grow. With her assistance in discussion, we could have covered more ground and touched points that she, as a more advanced student, may have found difficult. These points are often the more difficult points for the entire class.

The over-talker can sometimes directly affect the shy student. When he speaks too much and she is too shy to speak at all, we are just being fed the same junk every day from the same student. We should just pay him to speak for an hour.

An open letter to these students may say: Speak up. Your ideas and knowledge could provide the missing pieces for your classmates. My mother always tells me to speak only 20 percent of the time, while listening the other 80. Make sure you’re getting the speaking part in too.

Lastly, I really think we could use some quick action for one last mold of students. In language courses, there are often people who appear to be unprepared to even be in the course. To pair with them are the people who simply don’t prepare for each class session.

The unprepared are some of the worst types of classmates. These people hold the advanced of the class back by forcing discussion to become review instead of forward movement. When I come to class prepared with finished homework and reading, I expect my classmates to be just as prepared as I am. Preparation sets up the ground work for learning and knowledge building.

To these students, I plead: Come prepared or do not come at all. I, and our classmates, should not have to waste my time waiting for you to catch up. Students in upper-level courses should be doing upper-level work. This means having the knowledge base that is required for a course and the dedication to preparation that is required to fully participate and complete the work.

If you are one of these students, these are your goals for the semester. If these students are in your classes, I am so sorry. I understand and also wish we could vote them off the island.


Photo courtesy: Flickr/Claremont Colleges Digital Library


2 thoughts on “Dear Freshmen: Classmates are kind of the worst

  1. I believe you meant to use the word “among,” not “between” in the 5th graf. The sentence should be, “A good classroom setting, to me, is one that nurtures a conversation among the texts, the professor and the students . . . plural.”

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