Many young women in a college classroom are afraid to speak up in class. This may come from being shy, having low self confidence, or just simply not understanding the class material. While it seems like it isn’t a big deal to not speak up, it can hurt your GPA and your chances at opportunities! Many professors will dock points for lack of participation, and some can even mark you absent if they don’t remember you being there, because you didn’t say anything. Don’t give up! You can break out of your shell and get that grade!
For this section we will presume you are a good student that does their homework and reading. More than likely there is one thing you did not totally understand. A lot of professors in a lecture will ask what the group thought of the reading, this is the perfect time to ask your question! You can even write down the question ahead of time to ask during class. This way it starts off the discussion and you get your voice out there.
Most people will think “I don’t want to ask a dumb question” but more than likely if it is something you don’t understand, there are other people who don’t understand it also. You could also be helping out other students who are also afraid to ask questions. Professors are there to answer questions, that is part of their job, so asking a question is helping them do their job. This makes the learning material a discussion instead of a lecture, which makes class more interesting as well. If you are truly terrified of asking the question in front of the whole class, you can also email it to your professor. This way it is showing you did the homework/reading and that you are engaged in learning the materials.
Participating in Discussions and Debates
Discussions and debates are even harder than asking questions because it is turning the table and asking you to answer the question, and it may not have one correct answer. This can be nerve-wrecking, what if you don’t understand enough of a topic to discuss? What if that super political person from the debate team mocks you? Well these are all very possible things. You have every right to speak you mind as them.
As a student you are learning in many different ways, and discussion is part of that! Debates and discussions are opinions backed up with fact. You may not know everything that they are talking about, but you also probably have information they didn’t know, and that is worth sharing.
This is training you to participate in discussions in the work force, so the earlier you learn to speak up the more practice you will have in a learning and practice environment.
Impress the Professor
The number one way to connect with your professors is to speak up in class. While talking to them after class or during their office hours is also helpful, they will notice more the comments you made during class, and how that helped other students connect to the ideas. This will help when you need a letter of recommendation or are looking for internships. Some professors will notice what you said in class and use that information to help you find opportunities, after all, professors are there to help you gain connections.
Remember Your Importance
Speaking up in class is important for the grade and the opportunities, but the most important thing to remember is that your education is important, and so is your voice. Speaking up in class can help you later when you need to speak up for yourself and your beliefs. You have every right to speak your mind in class, you got into this school for a reason, you are in this class for a reason. You are equal to your classmates, and have just as much to say as the girl in class that talks all the time. Remembering this will help you stay confident and know that you and your ideas are just as important as everyone else in your class. You can even disagree with professor! Not everything they say is fact, and if you don’t agree you can speak up! Showing a different perspective can even make you seem more intelligent. As long as you speak in a respectful manner then there is no reason for anyone to not listen to you.
When Speaking in Class
Remember that speaking in class is also practice for public speaking, like with speeches and presentations. So here as some tips of public speaking:
Make Eye Contact – by making eye contact with the person you are speaking to, people will connect with your ideas, even look around the room if you can! Some lecture halls are more difficult to make eye contact in if you aren’t presenting, but try your best. This will make you easier to understand and get your point across in a friendlier way. But don’t hold eye contact with someone for longer than 5 seconds.
Speak Up – Make sure you are loud enough! People need to hear your ideas! Otherwise your ideas won’t go anywhere and no one will care what you have to say.
Think Before You Speak – Quality over quantity. Saying one thoughtful thing is better than rambling on all class. But don’t hold off all class and miss your opportunity!
Speak up and you will stand out and thrive!
Michaela Bulkley is a third year Theatre Major and advocate for the arts as a tool of social expression. You can find her on Twitter!