“Ooh, Ooh, Ooh, Mr. Kotter – If I Try to Answer Every Question Will I Get a Better Grade?”

Let’s discuss the Horshack principle from a teacher’s point of view. If you’ve never seen an episode of Welcome Back Kotter, you may not know the character, Horshack, played by Ron Palillo – an overly eager, front row student who couldn’t stop raising his hand. Imagine a version of Anthony Weiner with no control over his body parts. Wait – Horshack is Anthony Weiner! Clearly these two have been separated at birth.

 

What do you think I’m thinking when I get a Horshack in my class? Here’s what my air bubble says. “I love students who raise their hand.”

 

In fact, regardless of how ridiculous a comment, I can almost always find a way to work it into the lesson.  At this point, it has become a personal challenge to tackle even the most off beat comments and make them worthwhile.  Case in point. You talk about Miley Cyrus’s tongue and I give a lecture on marketing teen celebrities.

 

But the question we really want to answer is whether this classroom interaction results in a higher grade.  My answer – it depends on the teacher. Some teachers, and for good reason, dislike random comments, excessive hand raising and students that try to dominate the classroom.  Most teachers prefer quality-over-quantity and will attempt to reward thoughtful insight
delivered strategically over the semester.

 

Here’s my recommendation. If you’re constantly striking a Horshack pose (see photo above) and your teacher consistently ignores you, do your GPA a favor and give your hand a rest. 

  • Charles Mimran

    I agree with the overall message of this article, that when it comes to raising your hand in class it should be quality over quantity. Recently in one of m classes, a fellow student kept raising his hand but was not saying anything of substance. It seemed as though he was taking away more from the class than contributing. From now on in class I am definitely going o keep this article in mind.

  • Charles Mimran

    I agree with the overall message of this article, that when it comes to raising your hand in class it should be quality over quantity. Recently in one of m classes, a fellow student kept raising his hand but was not saying anything of substance. It seemed as though he was taking away more from the class than contributing. From now on in class I am definitely going o keep this article in mind.

  • Trevor Borgelt

    I agree with what the message is saying about how some students will try to make a comment for everything the teacher has to say, and after a while this may get somewhat annoying. Last semester there was a student in one of my classes who with every comment the teacher or even another student made this student made it his job to have some sort of comment for the subject that was brought up. After a while all the students started to dislike the student because of all the ob sured comments he would make, and you could tell that after a while the teacher even became annoyed. But like the article said it depends on the teacher weather or not they want to give more grading points to students who are like that.

  • Maria Landi

    First, I just want to say that I never watched that show, but in the picture Horshack looks just as annoying as he sounds…
    Now back to the main point… Asking questions is a great way to establish a relationship with your professor. However, asking questions that don’t make so much sense all the time, can bring attention to you in a negative way. If the relationship is all that you are looking for, there are other ways to achieve that. You can find a few examples right here at the blog under the post about getting a Teacher Recommendation.
    On the other hand if you have a million questions that would help you understand the material, just go ahead and ask every single time. My Economy Professor says that if you have a question stick in your head you should just go ahead and say it aloud, because chances are that 25% of the class are thinking the same thing.
    I really think that everything you do in excess can’t be good for you or others around you. We just have to find the balance between the questions that you ask just to be noticed, and the ones that would really be helpful to you.

  • Kathryn Horowitz

    Students who just keep raising their hand in class can drive me nuts at times. If you are making silly comments, please keep it to yourself. We all go to school not to hear about a comment that makes no sense to what the professor is talking about in their lecture. I want to be able to hear the professor be able to speak at times. To me raising your hand is a great way to ask a question your not sure about. When students raise their hands to make a silly comment that’s what throws the whole class off. Some professors although can’t teach a class without an “active” participating class. Meaning, the professor won’t teach unless there is at least someone raising their hand to speak. There should be a balance between raising your hand in class and keeping unreasonable comments to yourself.

  • Daniela Usurin

    Too bad you did not get to see the weekly show. John Travolta in his early days of television was good entertainment. But this is not my main point. I took a Marketing class and we had to break up in groups-the professor decided how. Of course the annoying student always sat in the middle of the first row. He was rude, annoying and did not contribute much with his interruptions. Finally the time to make the team presentations came and we had to sign up for our turn. As you guessed by now, the annoying student had to ask lots of questions to the teams making their presentation. He was relentless, and just plain annoying to the point that he started to anger everyone in the class. And then one day, his turn came to make the presentation, almost at the end of the list. He and his partners did a good job, but when they ended the entire class raised their hands and it was relentless, non-stop questioning, group effort. This was classic Collective Behavior 101. We spared his teammates. He was angry, defensive and did not like a taste of his own medicine. Finally, the professor had to stop the bloodbath, but not before he was broken and defeated. He let the rest of the team presentations go without a single question. Then someone had the courage to ask him why he was so relentless with his questions and his answer was simple. His business professor told him to always question what is being said. I guess: “Don’t believe everything you hear,” applies here. He took it to the extreme, and did not quite get the jest of the message. So next time someone raises their hand, try to think where they are coming from: are they trying to show they are paying attention and want the teacher’s attention? Are they bored and want to interrupt because they want a break?, or are they simply students who failed to listen to the subtleties of the message in the lesson plan? You are now learning that when you get to your real jobs in the near future, you are going to run into these perennial annoying co-workers, and you are going to run for the hills…….