Respect guest speakers; learn from them

Abigail Carlin, Columnist

Having a guest speaker come visit a class is always a valuable experience. Whether it be a local business owner imparting their wisdom on future entrepreneurs, a veteran teacher giving tips to student teachers regarding the job hunt or a community leader talking to political science students about the latest local election, connecting with professionals in the field bridges the gap between the classroom and the reality that awaits us all after graduation. That being said, not everyone will agree (or maybe even like) the guest speaker. There may be differences in philosophy, ethics and/or practice, but no one is forced to have lunch with or befriend a guest speaker. The point of a guest lecturer is to hear an outside perspective and provide a networking opportunity for those who are interested. That being said, having a guest speaker is something that should be taken seriously.

Remember when our teachers would review the rules before taking us to the zoo? Be nice and say thank you to the bus driver, be polite to the zookeepers, do not shout if you have a question, and be sure to respect all the animals and facilities in the zoo. Simple enough. It is not taxing to be kind, especially for an afternoon. The same principle should apply to guest speakers invited into college classrooms. Recently, I had a guest speaker visit one of my classes, and I was absolutely horrified by the way some of my peers treated the speaker. The professional came in to help us prepare for an upcoming internship, and instead of asking relevant questions, a few of my peers challenged and try to throw the speaker off of their game. 

Thankfully, our speaker was patient and was a master of diverting the tangential dialogue. This should not have happened, as my peers know better than to play rhetorical tennis, wasting time with a volley of arbitrary opinions and examples to counter one another in front of the class. Additionally, it made the entire class uncomfortable, which is unfortunate. 

If you find yourself in a lecture with a speaker with whom you do not respect or agree with, pause and write down your questions and save them for the Q&A session. The only questions that should interrupt a lecture are clarification questions, but even those are usually answered in time. Understand that I do not underestimate the value of discourse, but there is a time and a place, and in the middle of a guest speaker’s presentation is not the time to incite an alternative agenda. 

Having a guest lecturer, regardless of whether you agree with their ideas, is a learning experience. It is a time to further reflect on one’s own philosophy and adjust slightly to better prepare for the future they wish to build after graduation. Also, it is a wonderful time to ask questions, so long as they are appropriate and constructive. Leave the arguments and hypothetical illustration/projection for the comment section on Facebook. 

Abigail Carlin is a senior English language arts major. She can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].