Raise my hand and risk being “that girl”?

One aspect of a class that is sure to frustrate me if it’s even a little off is its speed. When the pace of classroom instruction is slow, I start wondering why I took the class in the first place. I go to a pretty selective school, so I expect classes to progress at a good clip, because we’re pretty smart students and can keep up. It is the habit of one or two of my professors, however, to teach too slowly for my taste.

To be fair to my professors, the only reason their class goes slowly is because half the time they are waiting for a response to a question posed to the students when none of the students want to raise their hand to answer. In my Parallel Programming class this semester, there are a total of eight students, and I know each of the other seven personally. I know we all understand the material pretty well, but when the professor asks a question, no one wants to be first to answer. I think the reason is that we all know each other pretty well, so no one wants to look like the one that answers all the questions.

This creates a dilemma for me. The class has slowed down to the point that we probably will not cover all the material the professor intended to at the beginning of the semester. I would rather learn more than less, so I have the choice to either raise my hand more often just to speed up the pace with the risk of being “that girl who answers all the questions,” or I can let things stay as they are and not learn about all the parallel goodies I could.

I’d like to think I have learned something since middle school, when I really was “that girl.” It got to the point where my math teacher once told me to stop talking in class for a day. Even now I’m still tempted to answer more than my fair share, so I try to keep responses to one or two per class period just so I don’t annoy everyone else.

When classes slow down because of lack of participation, I think the professor should do more to speed up the class. If no one raises their hand in five seconds, the professor should just call on someone. After all, there are only eight people in my Parallel class; choosing one of eight shouldn’t be that hard (and it’s not – it can be done in constant time with eight processors!). I don’t feel like I can suggest this to the professor though, because I already remarked once that I thought the pace of the class was a little slow, and for the same reason that I don’t want to look like “that girl,” I don’t want to look like I’m telling him how to teach.

Perhaps I’ll try just answering questions as they come and see what happens. I’m not sure what the professor would think of that. If he thought it was unusual, I could always say something like, “I’m just eager to see what you’ll say next.” He would likely take the hint, but again, I don’t want to actively give the impression that I am dissatisfied with his class. I also don’t think my class would mind; they would probably be amused if I did it consistently for a whole class period. But again, it’s not something I would want to do on more than one occasion so I don’t become annoying.

So maybe I’ll try that. But my ideal solution is for the professor to realize what is going on and not take so long to wait for an unresponsive class to show some consciousness.

  • Winifred

    Classes don’t slow down because of lack of participation. If the time wasted is even noticeable, the professor will just speed up the rest of the lecture a fraction of a percent to make up the time.

  • Carolyn


    I can tell by your IP that you’re in my department. Cute reference in name choice there.

    If Parallel wasn’t actually going slower, all the waiting for the prof to move on sure made it feel like it. I’d rather he just plow on with the lecture than wait for the people who aren’t paying attention to signal that they understand.

  • A Gould

    Suggestion: if you know the other seven students, snag them after class and suggest that you all take turns. (In other words, call on yourselves since the prof isn’t).

    If you were in a larger class, you’d have to talk to the prof. But in that small a group, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s at least a few others wishing someone (else) would put their hand up and get things moving.

    But let’s be honest – it’s dumb for everyone to sit there like bumps killing time. Heck, give them a four-count to jump in first, then raise your hand. (“That one kid” is usually the one whose hand bolts up Jeopardy-style as soon as the question is done. Give the group a couple seconds, then answer it to keep things moving.)

    I’ve been “that guy”, and sometimes the instructor will grab you after class to hint that you need to give the group more time. (Granted, this was in a course where some participants literally needed that much time to figure things out).

  • Sonia

    Well, you know I’d say just be “that girl.” Someone has to man up and answer the questions. Just do it and don’t worry what other people will think about you. If you answer the prof, likely the other students will be relieved that the pressure is off of them. And if it bothers them that you answer questions that they want to answer, then they should just raise their own hands. It’s not *your* fault they’re not willing to participate.

    I also have been told repeatedly by professors that they’re specifically not calling on me in order to give someone else a chance to talk. I have never once viewed that as a negative statement, or as something that other students should hate me for. Nor have I ever thought poorly of another student for raising her hand frequently.

    In short, I agree with A Gould. I don’t shoot my hand up immediately, but if I have something to say, I indicate it by raising my hand like we were all taught to do. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. :o)

  • Papa Sneetch

    What sucks more?

    a) Being “that girl” who learned more that quarter?
    b) Being so afraid of standing out as an exceptional student that you are willing to damage your education?

    Are these classmates going to hire you after graduation? Are they going to recommend that someone else not hire you because “she always answeres all the questions?” Are you worried you won’t get invited to their frankfurter roasts?

    If you were my daughter I would say, “Don’t stop answering. Don’t stop asking. Feed your head now while your brain can still stretch and accommodate all that you can tetris in there. I’ll shut up now and finish up these pancakes. And Carolyn, I’m still proud of you.”


  • Melissa Cartun

    Classes are full of different students. There may be others who feel the pace is just right. It’s hard to make it perfect for everyone.

    You may want to google “pluralistic ignorance” as well. Basically everyone thinks they’re “that person” but none of us really are because we all are.