Neuendorf: Shush!: Talking in class disrupts education of your peers


Chris Sible/Iowa State Daily

Disruptions in Class

Zachary Neuendorf

You’re sitting in class and the lecture is unfolding. Your mind is finally catching pace with the professor. Your focus is reaching an all time high. Everything is starting to make sense. Then, all of a sudden, the two students three seats down start conversing and giggling like chipmunks about God knows what — probably something to do with last night’s party or tonight’s party or the professor’s purple-stained button-down.

You’re certain they’ll quiet down. After all, they want to understand the material, right?

Sure, their talk might decrescendo to an aggravating whisper that tickles your eardrum like a feather. But by this time, you have lost complete grasp on the material, on the class, and on your life — all because a couple chatterboxes chit-chatted a little too loudly and off-subject.

Of course, this example is a little hyperbolic. Regardless, we’ve all been unlucky enough to be victims of this sort of behavior, and most of us have probably committed such an act, like the hypocrites we are wired to be.

To many, myself included, this issue sounds like a second-grade teacher complaining about her rowdy, talkative bunch of kids. But when our second-grade teachers hushed us, it was more than just a defense of her sanity.

As I’m growing up, I’m learning what it means to value my education — part of that may be a natural matureness taking sail, but also that pretty (massive) price tag on tuition. Either way, it means more.

Education has become tangible, almost like an animal that I have to exercise, feed and keep in check. Even though in second grade, I loved going to school and learning, I still talked out-of-place, because who would it hurt?

Turns out, for many, the biggest damage done comes from the habits those elementary disruptions can create and set in propulsion. Not much has changed for the typical student in those 10-odd years. We still talk during class, but we are sneakier about it.

We whisper, possibly the most annoying decibel level ever; it’s like letting the world know you know you shouldn’t be talking, but trying to cover that guilt by exhaling thunderous breaths with consonants. Also, we utilize our technology by texting, or if feeling particularly retro, passing notes like bashful middle-schoolers. This one is definitely the better of the evils. No outside party gets distracted, penmanship and writing skills are activated, and it’s cute.

So, who gets hurt in the louder modes of distraction? Well, everyone within your voice’s orbit, including yourself. I have no right to tell you how to value your education — you could sleep or solitaire your way through all your classes for all I care, but I do have a right to tell you to respect my education.

When you talk out of place in class, you are simply disrespecting your peers. I’m not proclaiming myself as a saint of silence in the classroom; I’ve talked and disrespected an entire classroom, and in doing so, stole the precious currency of education from my classmates.

Since this is a habit, it’s hard for us to realize we’re doing it. It’s always second nature and rarely intentional. Nonetheless, like nail chewing, nose picking and smoking, this bad habit is meant to be broken.

What’s the cure? I suggest we channel our second-grade teachers and shush ourselves up.