I have never been a very interesting student to have in class.
Now, I think that without too much immodesty I can speculate that many, perhaps even most, professors have enjoyed having me in their course. I can write a mean paper in most circumstances; my words and ideas, and I with them, come alive upon the page. But rarely does my hand rise above my head.
It is not precisely that I have nothing to say. I am paying intense attention to the conversation (unless I am distracted by the pulchritude of a classmate, which is, historically speaking, a common enough eventuality), and I feel very engaged typically. But my synthesis and critical thought take their sweet time percolating in my noggin. By the time I do have what seems to me an intelligent observation to offer the class, the conversation has usually moved well along.
So what, you ask, is my deal? I’m just slow, I guess. Watching my classmates work up a buzz with counterarguments and on-the-other-hands is thrilling, but it is also discouraging. Try as I might, I just don’t have responses of my own to throw into the ring. The esprit de l’escalier I will come up with late that night will do nothing for either my participation grade or my social integration into the discourse community.
It is possible I could do more: I could read extra voraciously between class meetings. I could pose wide-ranging discussion questions for myself, and craft an engaged and eloquent persona on paper that, with rehearsal, I could then find the courage to enact in the classroom. That might get me in the game. It might result in my deeper engagement in the class; I might even learn more that way. Or it might be a lot of work just so that I can hear my own voice. And ultimately, it might just not be me. So maybe I should just remain attentive, take good notes, read well, write with excellence, and sit back and enjoy the view.