Column: Asking questions

We’ve all been in this situation: you’re sitting in class and paying attention to what the teacher is saying, when all of a sudden a thought pops into your head and a question forms. You think about raising your hand, but then think of a million reasons not to: it’s not that important, it’s a dumb question or you’ll ask the teacher another time. The moment passes, the teacher continues with the lecture, and you never ask your question.

Why do we hesitate to ask questions in class? For many people, it’s shyness. In fact, 40 percent of Americans are considered shy, and 50 percent are introverts, according to The New York Times.

For all you extroverts out there, shy people struggle to do and say many things that come naturally to you. For example, to a shy person, asking a question in front of a classroom of people is equivalent to giving the State of the Union address. (And that’s OK.) But the hesitation to ask a question can also come from being ridiculed by other classmates in the past.

I recently heard a few students snickering at another student who consistently raises his hand to ask questions in class. The body language and negative words about the student were distracting, and I was saddened that a student was being condemned for an act that should be normal in a classroom — raising his hand. I was pleased when the student continued to ask his question, satisfying his curiosity and choosing not to be discouraged by the snickering of the other students.

This incident got me thinking that maybe many students feel uncomfortable asking questions in class because of the perception that asking questions is uncool. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. Asking a question that relates to the material being presented in class is a sign to the teacher that you’re paying attention to the lesson and that you’re eager to excel in that class. Additionally, because higher learning institutions can be expensive, asking questions is part of getting your money’s worth.

When asking a question in class, state what you know and what you don’t know, and that will help the teacher to answer the question more effectively. In most classes, you can raise your hand to ask a question. However, if you’re uncomfortable asking a question in class or if it’s off-topic, you can email the teacher or schedule a time to meet with the teacher to discuss the topic further.

The phrase “there’s no such thing as a stupid question,” may not always be true, but generally, asking questions leads to greater knowledge and understanding, which is something students should be seeking in college and beyond.

So if you’re a student like me who has been asking the “five ‘w’” questions from the moment you could talk, I encourage you to keep asking them. Last time I checked, curiosity only kills cats.