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Don’t you hate that feeling? You know, the one where you realize how badly your weaknesses have been (or are about to be) exposed in class? I’m talking about when the professor says something that comes off as obvious and agreeable to everyone in the room… except you. And now for an ode to all those great, stressful phrases you hear in class:

“Most of these exams were very good.”

Most. As in everyone’s but yours. No matter how well you think you did on a test, there’s always that moment of sincere doubt when those words are uttered. You think to yourself, “But…but I studied all weekend. I missed the Futurama marathon just to prep for this. I didn’t shower for two days.” Also, have you ever noticed that the professor always looks in your general direction after he or she says something like that? They kind of lower their eyebrows and wipe their lips as they glance at you, making you think about the diabolical semantics behind their subtle expressions. And speaking of exams…

“I’m going to return these alphabetically.”

Anyone with a surname like Woehrle or Zimmerman knows what I’m talking about. As if the professor’s little game of facial charades wasn’t enough, now you have to play the waiting game. In my academic career of having a last name beginning with T, I can assure you that my mental health is not up to snuff. I lay stagnant in the First Circle of Hell as the professor slowly wades through all of those privileged Adams and Andersons. And there’s always like 32 S names right before me.

“Let’s go around the room and read…”

…on the day you forgot your book. This is especially bad for shy people, since you’re going to have to either confess or ask the person next to you if you can borrow their pages. Moments like this make me realize that God has a terrific sense of humor.

“Don’t forget that papers are due on Wednesday.”

Alright, I guess this isn’t that big of a deal. I forgot to check the syllabus last wee…who am I kidding, I didn’t even know we had a syllabus. Well today’s Monday, so I’ve got tonight and all day tomorrow to work on it. Let me just check the page requirements…9 pages. On osmosis. With a minimum of 7 sources. How much do sanitation workers make again?

“[Your name], what do you think the answer is?”

Even if you’re not a daydreamer, chances are you will tune yourself out of the class discussion every now and then, and that’s when you’re getting called on. I’ve yet to come up with a good solution for the Not Paying Attention Conundrum (creative, I know), so I’ve made a list of universal responses you can say that might actually work:

  • “With so much uncertainty in the arts and sciences of the world, I don’t think there’s an objective answer I can give.”
  • “Even if there was an answer, would it matter? What new and innovative material can be drawn from what we already know?”
  • “Who needs answers when we have questions?”
  • “I’m actually incorporating this topic into my essay, so I don’t want to give away any of my ideas.”

What are some stressful phrases you hear in  class?