Uh oh. Look at the time! It’s already 10:00 a.m., and you’ve spent your entire morning perusing Confessions instead of reading the Hobbes text for your UW seminar. Sad! Not to worry—whether you’re overworked or overWAPed, we’ve put together the top 10 non-opinions you can boldly proclaim in order to rake in those participation points.
1. “I just think this is pretty problematic . . .”
Boom. Start with the basics. They wanted critical thinking? You gave it to them. But remember: NEVER reveal what it is that so repulses you about the author’s point of view. I mean, their faulty logic and outdated morals should be obvious, no? If not, this institution has A LOT of work to do. Hmph!
2. “To bounce off of that point…”
Woah! We’ve actually got some pretty neat ideas in the room! Now make them yours. Just rephrase whatever your fellow classmate said and end it with a hurried “Well, I don’t know, at least that’s what I got out of the reading!” So humble they’ll never know what hit ‘em.
3. “Yeah, no, I just wanted to say that I completely agree with what they said.”
Even better! Just agree with someone who did the reading but don’t contribute anything further. Hey, you participated didn’t you?
4. “I read this incredible passage on page 94, but I was actually wondering what YOU guys thought about it.”
Except you didn’t read that incredible passage on page 94. To execute this technique properly, frantically look through your copy of the text as the class begins. You obviously just can’t decide which of the many profound things you read should be shared first! Then, defeated in your attempt to find the perfect quote, settle on a page and discreetly skim it while others discuss. When you finally share your passage, make sure you nod (or snap!) in agreement with every response. It’s so great to be in a room with so many like-minded people.
5. “This actually made me think of a reading from another class in which…”
Just because you didn’t do THIS reading doesn’t mean you haven’t read other things in college! Right? Right?? This non-opinion is perfect because the more unrelated your outside reading is to the discussion, the better. Just latch on to a word mentioned in the discussion that also exists in a text you skimmed for another class and start your filibuster. The second someone interjects into your snowballing tangent, retreat and look off into the distance as you say, “Ok but there is definitely something here that connects these two exhibits . . . I just don’t know what.” After all, that’s up to your classmates to figure out!
6. “Thank you so much for that question, Professor. You know, hearing it really made me think of a few myself . . .”
Tsk tsk, you came to class with a LOT to unpack and this discussion just isn’t heading in the right direction. Don’t worry, you can still turn those tables, lean back in your chair, and channel your best pseudo-intellectual alter-ego.
7. “Sorry! I just wanted to go back to what we were talking about earlier for a second.”
You spent the passing-period skimming the first two pages of the text and you are NOT going to let your only chance to participate in today’s discussion pass you by. Bring the conversation to a screeching halt and dazzle everyone with how well you were able to wrap your head around that opening paragraph.
8. “Yeah, that passage just made me feel so _________.”
Why did you feel that way? Who knows? Certainly not you! (BONUS! Swap out “passage” for “painting”/“aria” and you’ve got a thoughtful contribution to any Art/Music Hum class).
9. When in doubt, pull out the thesaurus.
Wow! Look at how articulate you are! Just because you have nothing to contribute doesn’t mean you can’t find an excuse to drop a “robust” or an “apocryphal” in every now and then.
10. “So sorry! I forgot to unmute myself!”
You silly goose! I can’t believe this happens every time you get cold-called! Laugh off your “mistake” and take some time to talk about how crazy(!1!) this transition to online classes has been! If you can nail the perfect “aw shucks” smile you’ll have at least 5 extra seconds to cobble together a beautifully-crafted non-response (see suggestions 1-9).