Adulting with Erin: Why you should speak up in class

By Erin Bothwell | August 27, 2017 9:12am
by Brennan Robinson / The Beacon

Pop music has prepared you for college. Don’t deny it. You can’t tell us you haven’t heard a variation of  “Now put your hands up” or  “I throw my hands up in the air sometimes” before. These lyrics are obviously about living your best life by raising your hand and speaking your mind.

Pop musicians (Katy Perry, Usher, Taio Cruz, Backstreet Boys, Rihanna, Miley Cyrus) don’t want you to do drugs — they want you to excel in school so you can get a job and be able to attend their concerts (and in the VIP section, no less). 

Raising your hand and speaking in class makes an impression. Even if you don’t befriend every single person in your class like you’re running a Ms. Congeniality campaign, it’s important your profs. and peers at least realize you’re an intelligent human and not an android in beta. 

Here’s another thing about speaking out in class: your professors will love you for it. And you need at least a few of your profs to love you, because one day in the not-so-distant future you’ll need references and/or advice from an adult who cares about you (but is not your mother). 

Raising your hand is a delicious slippery slope that may lead to attending office hours, going out to coffee with your prof, naming your first child after her, etc. 

Pro-tip: If you don’t have anything profound or meaningful to say (or if maybe, just maybe, you didn’t do the reading), speak first. Shoot your hand up as fast as you possibly can, like you’re competing in the hand-raising Olympics. Why? Because no one expects the first person who contributes to the discussion to say anything life-changing. 

It’s counterintuitive, sure, but your professor will just think you’re a go-getter/learning enthusiast, and your classmates will think you’re a confident, plucky genius. And you? Congrats, even if you only managed to blubber out a few sweet nothings, you just earned your participation points for the day. 

This is called advanced BS-ing, and if you’re crafty enough, you can get away with it. But you won’t know unless you raise your hand and give it the ol’ try. 

If you’re about to fall asleep because your professor is droning on: raise your hand, and while you’re at it — change the subject. Subtly derail your professor from a tedious subject by connecting the topic to something that’s happening in the real world.

You can breathe life into a class by making random, relevant connections to real-world topics. Whoa. Did the sun just come out? No. It was you and your crazy, cool ideas making the room brighter. 

Even if you don’t care about all your classes, you are paying to be there. Maybe you’re on scholarship and have some expenses paid because of your athletic abilities or awesome test scores. Maybe you work part time to cover tuition and pay the bills. 

Whatever you’re using to get through school — time, muscle, money — it’s all currency. So get your money’s worth.  The quantity and quality of the interactions you can have in class are what make colleges like UP special and different from online colleges or huge universities.

As a wise man once rapped, “If you gon’ put your hands in the air. Make 'em stay there.” Your hand should be in the air so often that your professor occasionally ignores you just to try and give other people the opportunity to speak.

“Does anyone who’s not (insert your name) have anything to say? Anyone?” Your professor asks, but if no one else does, it’s you time. Again. Look at you, you’re basically your class celebrity. 

So it’s time to put your musical training to the test. “Throw your hands in the air if you a true player.” Because you are a player. You’re playing the academic system to hack into the professional world and get your dream job. And what’s more player than that?