Monday, October 19, 2009

Confidence in the classroom

A reader wrote recently about wishing for more confidence to speak during class. I had this same issue when I began my PhD program so let me first tell you a little of my own experience with this, and then offer some additional suggestions. I don't often tell my own stories on here, but perhaps it will help to hear someone else's experience.

Shortly after I began my PhD program, I met with my advisor and one of the first things I discussed was my difficulty speaking up in class. One of my realities is that it usually takes me a little time to synthesize information before I am ready to comment and so sometimes by the time I was ready to comment, the class had moved on to a different topic. A second factor was that as I was sitting there in class, thinking I had something to contribute, I would often think "this is obvious, everyone must be thinking it" and so I wouldn't comment.

My advisor suggested that I try to stop worrying about it (because worrying about it was further getting in my way!!!) and trust that when I had something to say, I would say it. This helped me relax a little bit. That was the first step for me in terms of getting more comfortable and able to speak more in class. A few things I learned after that...

1. I'm not one of those people who will have something to say all the time. I am more quiet and reflective than that. I've accepted that about myself and that brings me to number two...

2. It's cool to be known as someone who doesn't say a lot, but when she says something, it's thoughtful.

3. In those moments when I think of something to say and the class has already moved on, I assess where we are and then sometimes suggest "I would like to go back to (insert previous topic)... I was just thinking...(and then you share your thoughts on the earlier topic)." Unless the class is really involved in an intense discussion, it's ok to redirect and ask folks to go with you back to an earlier topic.

4. Prepare a few questions before class. I used to think that all those talkative students were just quick on their feet... some of them come with a list of questions that they developed while doing the readings.

5. When you catch yourself thinking "this is obvious, everyone must be thinking it" -- challenge that assumption... most often, your thoughts and perspective are more original than you think!

Readers.... other ideas on how to feel more confident in the classroom???

Good luck with the work!

1 comment:

  1. Well, I am one of those people who is always speaking up and thinking what I have to say is important. LOL. For me, on one hand, after a few classroom comments, I start to realize that I'm talking too much, and then I'll become kind of embarrassed like "yikes, shut UP Jessi!" If I think about it too much I become convinced that everyone thinks that I think I know everything. On the other hand, I trust myself and believe I DO have something to contribute.

    It's a balance of accepting myself as an extrovert, knowing I have something to share, while also realizing that it is my responsibility as someone who is comfortable having a strong presence, to create space for others who may need more processing time.


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