Thoughts that go through your head before speaking up in discussion

Jasmine Valencia/File

Let’s set the scene.

It’s time for your discussion section, and everyone slowly straggles in just at, or a bit after, Berkeley Time. Maybe you’re lucky enough to be in one of the discussions that’s actually helpful or, at least, has people who are invested enough to make it interesting or compelling. Or maybe you’re in one of those deathly silent discussions with long, gaping pauses between your GSI’s semi-lectures while it feels like no one in the room even wants to be there. And then your GSI asks a question, and there’s another awkward silence as everyone goes still and tries to avoid eye contact.

But maybe this is your time — this is your moment to make that grand commitment. Your mind flashes through the potential of carrying the conversation in this roomful of deadweights. We’re here to learn, after all. Maybe this, here, now, is your time to shine.

Oh my god, was that a question?

Your GSI had been reiterating and emphasizing some key parts of lecture the last few minutes, and you’re jerked back into the present by the sudden silence from what may or may not have been dreamland. It’s gotten just a bit too long to be a natural pause in speech, so it has to be a question. There’s an almost synchronized aversion of eye contact with the sudden all-powerful monster at the front of the room.  

Umm, okay this is getting just the tiniest bit awkward

You would think that, at some point, students would either get used to the Dead Silence Phenomenon or start actively taking steps to prevent it. It’s still relatively early in the semester though, so you’ll develop a healthy classroom culture at some point, right? Until then, you seriously consider taking out your phone as the natural defense mechanism to awkward moments, before realizing the movement would attract far too much attention to yourself. Stay still. Stay absolutely still.

Wait, is someone else going to talk?

Do the rest of y’all not feel this as well? Does this not physically hurt you too? Someone has got to step it up and speak up — in fact, you’re fairly sure that (except for that one kid knocked out in the back and that other one who is apparently surgically glued to their phone) you should all have something reasonably resembling an answer. Maybe it’s time to take that responsibility upon yourself…

But, what if I’m wrong or say something stupid?

You might be embarrassed, but that’s fine. It’s time to hype yourself up. Mentally double- and triple-check what you know, get ready to lift your head up and raise your hand. You got this. Don’t second guess yourself. This is your ti-

And the moment passes. Your GSI waits for a painful half-minute or so, and as has been the case for more than a month now, awkwardly answers their own question before moving on.

Your moment has passed.

Maybe next time?

Contact Jonathan Lai at [email protected].