A Risk Worth Taking: Class Participation

By, Nate Cohen

As the fourth period bell rings, a group of tired and unmotivated students shuffle into their seats. The teacher quiets the class down and poses a discussion question. The class grows anxious, and students begin looking around, wondering who will sacrifice themselves for the class discussion. Several more moments pass before the teacher finally moves on. For students at South, this scenario has become a routine occurrence in class, despite it not being beneficial for students. When students choose not to participate, they don’t enjoy class as much, and they lose important skills that will help them down the road. For these reasons, it should be a priority for all students to become more active participants in their classes.

 The most obvious reason to become a more active participant in class is that it increases your ability to learn. According to the National Academy of Sciences, active learning leads to increased performance on exams and can raise grades by five points on average. Additionally, the high level of preparation required to contribute means that active participants are more likely to review material prior to class. This extra time spent studying means less time cramming for tests or assessments the night before. Studying over an extended period is not just less stress-inducing, it has also shown to be more effective. However, class participation doesn’t just mean preparing at home, it also means listening to what your teachers and peers have to say in the moment and having the skills to respond. This requires a deeper level of focus during class time, which also contributes to students grasping the curriculum better. 

But there are more advantages to participation than just a higher grade. Becoming a more active member of your class will also make the class more interesting. While school is intended to be engaging, for many, it is anything but that. For these students, school means endless lectures, tedious amounts of typing, and excessive boredom. But school can be so much more than that: school is an opportunity to discover yourself and the world around you while studying fascinating topics ranging from World History to Physics. A primary reason students find school to be so dull is that they are not engaged in the curriculum, and one of the best ways to become more engaged is to participate. When students contribute in class, it forces them to think critically about what they are learning and make connections. It also gives students an opportunity to interact and bond with their teachers and classmates. All of the sudden, class goes from a place of boredom to an engaging center of knowledge.

Students should also increase their participation because it will serve them well in life. While many students choose not to participate in fear of making a mistake, they fail to remember that mistakes are an important and necessary step towards success. In fact, it is the lack of mistakes that is problematic: without failure, there is nothing to learn from. However, in the cut-throat culture of Great Neck South, it has become common wisdom to stay silent unless truly sure of the answer. Although a fear embarrassment is legitimate, it is important to remember that success requires risk. To be successful in life, you have to be willing to advocate for your own ideas, listen to others, and be willing to get things wrong. There is no better way to master these skills than by participating in class. 

Although becoming a more active participant can certainly be a challenge, it is a challenge that we should all tackle. Tackling this challenge will make us better learners and more successful students. It will spark new interests and give us the skills to succeed in life. The time for excuses is up. It is time to take the risk.