After a summer in which we’ve emptied our heads of all relevant material, the first few weeks of school can get pretty… well, awkward. And I’m not just talking about your inability to make pointless small talk or find new friends. Nah, it’s way more weird when your professor asks a question to a lecture hall of 500 people, and you shuffle around uncomfortably until the professor moves on to something else and the Adjustment Bureau wipes the minds of everyone in the room.
At some point during the hour-and-a-half lecture — minus that crucial ten minutes of Berkeley time, of course — the professor is going to want some answers out of your hung over, fried brains. Being smart, he or she is going to see the look on your petrified face that screams, “don’t call on me!” And being the academics they are, they call on you. It’s a constant back and forth game between students and professors. And the object is to knock them out of the game.
Dogs — and other animals in general — take it as a challenge if you stare them in the eye. Since your professor is probably your intellectual superior, we’ll assign them the role of the mental bulldog. No lesser animals have survived a challenge with a dog. The only way to win here is by not playing.
Pretend to be taking notes. Scramble around for a pencil, furiously alternate your eyes from lecture slides to your paper, or whatever else you have to do. Feigning interest in what a professor has to say — even momentarily — will get you into their good graces and they’ll probably forego your humiliation for the time being, as they search for their next victim. It’s an individual game, and sacrificing some of your peers is the best way to boost your chances.
Peruse the source of all knowledge. More commonly known as Wikipedia, it’s something you can glance over in a few seconds and come away with information to deflect the question. Matching them point for point is good enough for now.
Practice your pensive face in the mirror. Gaze into empty space, stroke your imaginary goatee, and scrunch your forehead in mock concentration. Mouth the word “watermelon” over and over, so it looks like you’re trying to form a complex thought that happens to have every vowel sound. This is also pretty handy when trying to look sophisticated in any social situation.
Raise your hand — wait, hear me out — and ask a random question. It doesn’t even matter if the question is thousands of Angstroms away from the topic at hand, just asking it fulfills your figurative participation quota for a few minutes. It’s a good stalling tactic, but not for the faint of heart.
We all know teachers relish the moment where they catch an unsuspecting student off-guard to the extent that the student doesn’t even know the question that was just asked. Don’t be the unfortunate one to give them that satisfaction. Losing is not an option.
Image source: Sean Dreilinger under Creative Commons