Participating in Participation

Alessia Bicknese

It’s eight in the morning, your body is lacking caffeine, you barely changed out of your pajamas, you were up all night studying and now, your professor is penalizing you for not “participating” (BSing) in class. My question to all professors (as well as teachers) out there is this: Why on earth do you insist on grading students on class participation, especially when they are passing the class and have exceptional (or acceptable) grades?!
alessia bw
First of all, where do they come up with this calculation? Tell me why I just received a 15/50 for participation? I know for a fact that there is no known grading rubric for speaking up in class. (If there is, email it to me).

It is absolute, complete nonsense. Why am I being called out on in the middle of class? If I had an opinion, then I would raise my hand and state it, but since I did not raise my hand, leave me alone and do not give me a zero for not forcing myself to say something irrelevant. If a student has to force his/herself to say something during class discussion, it is going to be something completely off topic and the professor will end up shutting them down, making the student wonder why the hell he/she even tried. In fact, I’ve raised my hand in class before to put my two sense in, and guess what? I’ve had my professors tell me that my opinion was wrong.

Here is something that professors need to think about. While they’re talking up a storm; students are trying to keep up with them while taking notes and the professor interrupts one innocent, straight A student in the middle of their note taking, to ask what their thoughts are about what was just said in lecture.

Meanwhile, there are 10 other students in the room with their hands raised, but no – the one innocent kid in the room was picked on and now that student’s grade dropped five points because they didn’t have anything to say. YOU CAN’T FORCE ME TO TALK TO YOU IF I HAVE NOTHING TO SAY.

Here’s something else to think about. Has is ever occurred to anyone that maybe some students have social issues? Have a fear of speaking in front of a large group? Has any problem at all? Probably not, because apparently, participation is now 20% of your overall grade! If students aren’t talking, there is a reason. Shocking, right? Whether it is because they have no idea what the hell is going on, or they got into a fight with their significant other before class – leave them alone, stop calling on them. Maybe the students first language is not English and they are not comfortable speaking it in front of a large group of people. It’s the student’s problem if they don’t know what is going on, don’t embarrass them any further. Students often get called on when professors notice they aren’t paying attention. To me, that is extremely frustrating because again, it’s the student’s problem if they aren’t paying attention. Seriously the professor can just say, “hey you, pay attention.”

Oh, and here’s another thing: If they have a question, they will ask! A question won’t come to them just because you called them out in class. In fact, their entire mind will flush out and they will be staring at you asking themselves why the hell you are picking on them. If they are doing their work and getting good grades, why do you so badly want to pick on them? They’re grades are exceptional, they are doing their homework, oh but wait – they didn’t talk in class on Monday. You now get a zero for participation. Oh! And guess what? Your GPA went down two points because of it! Thanks professor!

Listen professors, if you are trying to test us by picking on us during class discussion, then just quiz us and screw us over that way instead of mortifying us publicly. At least have the decency to do it privately. Why do you insist on flustering your students? Instead of picking on students, just be quiet. That awkward silence will eventually be broken by a student who can’t bear to sit in the uncomfortable silence anymore.

*Note to professors reading this: Please, don’t call on me or my peers in class if my/their hand is clearly not raised. Stop making participation a grade. You are causing more anxiety amongst your students. Try and consider how much you hated it when your teachers and professors called you out in class.

*Disclaimer to my professors: This was not intended to hurt your feelings or to tell you how to do your job. Seriously though, participation should not be graded.