How to Pretend You Are Paying Attention in Class: A Guide for Getting by When You Couldn’t Care Less
by D. LLean
We’ve all had those classes – those long, boring, what-the-heck-is-going-on classes – where your mind is sailing away long before your body is able to join it. The professor drones on and on about subjects that no longer make sense. But remember, most professors prefer their students to be interested, and you might need this one to write you a letter of recommendation. Staying on his/her good side probably means at feigning interest in the class, so here are some tips for how to look alert and entertained when you’re really, really not paying attention in class:
- Take out paper and a pencil. Always, always, take out paper and a writing tool when you’re in a classroom. Hold the pencil. Look like you want to use it. You don’t have to, but it probably helps to write a little something, even if it’s just self-reminder to pick up eggs at the grocery store after class. Some professors like to believe that what they’re saying is a unique and thought-provoking take on old material, and there’s really no harm in playing to that belief.
- Nod, on occasion. Not overly slow or fast, just enough to give the illusion that you’re thinking: that makes total and complete sense to me, I’m so glad it’s finally crystal clear. The nod is a subtle way of conveying understanding. Tip: don’t look at another classmate and nod. This makes you look like you’re having a conversation and not paying attention.
- Frown when other people are being distracting. There will always be some people who, unlike you, cannot hold their boredom in. They start whispering, signaling each other, etc. The professor will notice and you should too, with a brief but semi-frustrated frown. Remember, this is not a hard frown – the professor doesn’t think you care that much – but enough so it seems like your chain-of-thought was broken and you kind of resent that.
- Raise your hand to answer a question, just as the professor is calling on someone else. This is a more advanced trick, because it demands that you get your timing just right. Too slow, and it’s obvious that you were trying to be late; too fast, however, and your name might be called instead. Raising your hand says, I have an answer for you, so I must have listening to your question. If the professor does circle back and call on you after the other person has answered, try sound disappointed when you announce your answer has already been said.
Use these tips to pretend you’re paying attention in class and you’ll do fine. They will definitely get you by, but if you’re aiming for the stars, try adding a couple of bonus points by saying hello to the professor at the beginning of class, wishing him a nice weekend, and actually paying attention on occasion. Either way, remember these tips and have fun spacing out.