If you’re like most students at Cornell, you have plenty of larger lectures with 50 or more students, but you also have some smaller classes of 15 or fewer. At the very least, you probably have had a discussion section for a big class. In these instances, there is no longer the comfort of anonymity. Instead, you may learn a little more than you wanted to know about your fellow classmates. By the end of 14 weeks of classes, surely each person has established him/herself as some sort of character. Here are some of the most common types:
In the beginning of the semester, professors are ambitious about learning all their students’ names. They will probably take attendance for the first few weeks just to put faces with names. However, there is always that one person that you have never seen present in class though he or she has not officially dropped the class. For several classes, you are in suspense about The Absentee, and your teacher continues reading his/her name on the attendance sheet in case the person ever decides to show up.
2The Class Cheerleader
Here you have your typical over-eager student. This is the girl who constantly raises her hand, asks about homework deadlines you could easily find on the syllabus, and pesters the professor with tangentially related class information. Sometimes, it’s all you can do to sit patiently and wait for this student to stop her shenanigans, but in reality, you are all lucky to have her there. She will always ask the question no one feels comfortable enough to address, in addition to the ones know the answer to one hundred times over.
3The Timid One
This student is not so hard to figure out. You know he is listening, and you can almost feel his brilliance radiating throughout the classroom. He takes copious notes and hands in his homework well ahead of the deadline, yet you have not once heard his voice by the end of the semester. You don’t even have the chance to say hello because he darts into class at 9:04 for your 9:05 discussion and leaves the minute the professor dismisses you. Oh, well.
This student is getting on your nerves midway through the semester for sure. He eats his lunch quite loudly and messily, and your mouth waters as you watch him eat his quesadilla from Trillium or flatbread from Macs. Plus, he comes into class late nearly every day and slams the door without a care in the world. He interrupts your focus just as you are starting to settle into class.
In a large lecture hall, you can certainly get away with playing on your phone the whole time if you so desire. No one would know or care. You could text, surf the web, or actually take notes on your computer and it all looks the same to your professor. However, in a discussion section or a smaller class, the professor probably notices who is paying attention and who is clearly not. You can’t really hide your phone, so you either don’t use it or choose to be rude. The disengaged student is one who always chooses her phone over the class material.
This student is another one who clearly does not pay attention, but perhaps for a different reason. This student is the one who stares out the window, looks at the professor but with a glaze in his eyes. He is effectively in outer space for most classes, but he means well. You always cringe a bit when the professor calls on this student and his head snaps to attention, having no idea what the professor just said.
This is the student no one really minds. She’s there to absorb the material and get out to her next class when the section ends. She participates, but not too frequently, and she does not bother anyone—even unintentionally—during class.
Try to embrace all that each of these personalities offer to your classroom; there’s no doubt you will learn something from your interactions with these stereotypes in your section. However, even as you’re studying the people around you, don’t forget to pay attention to what your professor or teaching assistant is trying to say.