The Comfort of the Classroom

In our first blog post of the 2016-2017 season, Precia Darshan discusses the classroom and the courage needed to ask questions and meet new people.

Despite working in a few office settings, being a student is my primary profession. During my time at Queen’s, I have had the pleasure of joining two faculties: the Faculty of Law and the Smith School of Business. From experiencing the dynamics of both student bodies, I have come to believe that there are some phenomena that are universal across any faculty.

Apart from craving Starbucks in unison, the behaviour of students in classrooms holds an uncanny consistency to it. For one, students often sit in the same spot. Why? Some potential answers: A) They did it the week before. B) All of their friends are around them. C) The professor was visible at most times during the lecture.

Is sitting in the same seat the most conducive to learning? I would posit that you are missing out on meeting your peers who are without exception intelligent and interesting. While I can appreciate the sentiment that you and your classmates may at some point be vying for the same internships and/or jobs, they will also be your champions and foot in the door when you look for a job in the future. It is important to grow your network as vast as possible and to take every opportunity you can to work with diverse people. Queen’s is home to over 22,000 students in 120 different degree programs from over 72 countries. We have a unique opportunity to learn about different cultures, expand the way we think through exposure to divergent opinions and ultimately, become open-minded individuals that are an integral part to fostering a multicultural society.

My second observation of the classroom is from personal experience. 8:30AM arrives too abruptly, as it always does, and we all take our seats. It’s the first or second lecture, so our name tags are still proudly displayed in front of us. It was only minutes ago when the classroom was filled with chatter, or breathy panting from the students who bolted into class. Then it happens… the professor asks a question. No matter the level of difficulty or whether the correct answer is on the board, this hopeful educator is met with bewildered eyes as silence encapsulates the room. Truth be told, someone in the class likely knows the answer. Sometimes many people know the answer, but this initial – if not perpetual – silence always seems to manifest.

I’m not sure when or why we became so afraid to take a chance and answer a question. We continuously hear that making mistakes is the best way to learn, yet deny ourselves the opportunity to ask the smallest point of clarification or respond to the simplest of concepts. There are eight months left in my program and this is possibly the last time I will ever be a student. While it’s tempting to focus on my upcoming job or binge-watch on Netflix, I think we should dare to be different. I intend to practice the habits and hone the attributes that I will take with me throughout my career. I wish to be intellectually curious, bravely motivated and unforgivingly fearless. “The only stupid question is the question that is never asked” (Ramon Bautista). It’s partially the start of a new term that has beckoned this reflection, but it’s also the hope that we will abandon these classroom comforts so we can maximize what we came to Queen’s to do: learn.

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