It’s the first day of class. You head to your lecture hall or classroom or lab a little bit early so that you can get a good seat. When you enter the room, there are several possible seating options. You could sit by the window so you can daydream as you look out at the world. You could sit by the door so you can easily dash to your next class. You could sit in the back so you can doodle or nap or chat with your friends. But there’s somewhere you naturally won’t be inclined to sit: the front row.
Why is the front row this mysterious and avoided place? People will almost always spend time looking for seats in the second (or fourth or seventh or last) row that are already filled instead of sitting in the front, which is empty. What makes the front row so undesirable for students and everyone else in the world?
It all chalks up to psychology. The front row naturally inhibits our ability to hide. When we’re in the front, we can’t do anything except for listen and take notes and nod, or else we’ll get caught checking our phone or spacing out or doing something else we’re not supposed to be doing in class, which is rude to the professor and embarrassing for us. The front row is also where most professors choose a victim…I mean student…to answer a question. Being called on freaks a lot of us out, so we go to the back to avoid it.
I challenged myself to sit in the front row of every class I had, seeking to break that invisible and unspoken “leave the front row empty” rule. I made myself uncomfortable to see if sitting in the front row actually means I get called on more or get forced to pay attention. Here’s what I learned:
You will interact with the professor more
When I sat in the front row, I was physically close to the professor, meaning that I was a very likely candidate to get called on. And this did happen. I was called on quite frequently to answer questions, but I was also one of the first people called on to get my question answered or my voice heard in discussion.
Aside from the academic aspect, by sitting close to the professor, I was able to chat with them before class about their weekend or the upcoming quiz or my future career goals. I feel like I got to know my professors on a more personal level, which really emphasized the reason why I chose my university (to create those connections with faculty).
You will pay attention more
Sitting in the front row completely destroys any hope you could have of sneakily checking your phone or doodling instead of taking notes. And for me, this was great. I tend to get distracted easily, so sitting in the front was a way for me to concentrate on the lecture and be engaged. My notes became more in depth, which helped me ace some of my first quizzes.
You will start a revolution
This sounds a little hyperbolic, but once I started sitting in the front row, other people began to follow me. When other people are in the front row, you get to have meaningful interactions with them since they’re no longer a row behind you. And you’ll build your self confidence for being one of the first people to sit in the scary, scary front row.
The next time you go to class, push yourself out of your comfort zone and sit in the front row. There are benefits to it even though it seems scary!
Also published on Medium.