Please Don't MANopolize the Class Time: Rules for Respectful Participation in Class
BY DEBBIE YEBOAH
STUDENT AT MCGILL FACULTY OF LAW
Do you like to debate your professors in front of your peers? Does your arm sometimes get tired because of how often you raise it during class? Do you ask very specific questions that are only marginally related to the topic being discussed? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you might be a class time manopolizer.
Though this seems more common among men, anyone can be a class time manopolizer, the effects of which are negative for everyone involved. Class time manopolizers lead to wasted class time, general annoyance, eye-rolling, zoning out, and actual anger building up in my heart.
This is really about being considerate; when it comes to participation in class, the guiding principle is to remember that the class time is for everyone. For those who have trouble putting this principle into practice, here are some general rules to follow:
The One and Done Rule
Sometimes in class, you disagree with the professor on a point. Cool. Disagree away. But in class, limit yourself to one rebuttal. If you have already responded to the professor’s response one time, then regardless of what they say back, it is done. If you are still not satisfied, sort it out on your own damn time. Nobody else in class feels as strongly about this point as you do, so go talk about it in office hours when nobody else is around.
The Two Will Do Rule
There are times when you ask a question in class and the professor answers it in a way that makes no sense to you. In these cases, naturally, you will need to ask a follow-up question. Ask it! But if after the professor’s second response you still don’t understand, then leave it alone. When they inevitably ask “does that answer your question?” just give them that uneasy, tense look that means “not really” and then go see them after class to clarify. In class, two tries on the part of the professor will have to do.
The Three Is Enough Out Of Me Rule
If you have already spoken three separate times in a class, then that’s enough out of you. Unless your fourth comment is going to change my life, don’t say it. Let someone else say it or let the moment pass with nobody saying it. Before you speak again, ask yourself this question: will people be fine if they don’t get to hear this? Just to save you the trouble, the answer is yes. Yes, we will be fine if you don’t say it. So don’t say it.
The 15 Seconds of Fame Rule
Limit yourself to 15 seconds when asking a question or making a comment. If it requires more than 15 seconds to put it into context, then you can bet that it is not sufficiently connected to the topic being discussed in class. Remember that 15 seconds is a generous upper limit - feel free to ask questions that only take 5, 4 or even 3 seconds to ask!
The “We can’t hear here!” Rule
This rule is simple: speak loud enough for people to hear you. Front row people and quiet talkers, I mean you!
Front row people, stop leaning forward and lowering your voice so that only the professor can hear you. It’s like you are ignoring all the rest of us, and frankly, I find it to be a little rude. So don’t be rude, just speak louder.
If you speak often and you know that you have a naturally quiet voice, yet you refuse to make any sort of adjustment when you speak in class, then you are just as rude as the front row forward-leaning whispers! For goodness sake, speak louder! However, if you are a quiet talker because you are shy, then know that I believe that what you say is valuable. The problem is you rob us of the chance to benefit from that value if you do not speak loud enough for us to hear you. So, please make a conscious effort to speak louder. And, when a professor asks you to speak up, do not just say the first few words louder before repeating yourself at the same volume. Please! We want to hear what you have to say.
The best part about class time is that we enrich each other’s learning experience through our questions and comments. We need diversity at law school because, the more diverse the class, the more we can learn from each other. However, for this to work it must be a diversity that we can both see and hear. These rules are aimed at people who speak too much in class, but stopping class time manopolizers is only half the battle - the other half involves filling class time with a diversity of perspectives. Diversity in the classroom requires that some people make room, but it also requires that different people make noise.
So for those of you who do not usually speak in class, especially women and visible minorities, just know that we need you. Our classroom experience will be enriched by your contribution, and class time can only truly be diverse when you add your unique perspective to the mix. For the sake of the student body, I encourage you to speak up.
But when you do, please remember these five simple rules…