I used to sit in the back of the classroom struggling to comprehend what the teacher wanted from me. Sometimes assignments would be pretty clear to me. Other times, it was as if the teacher was speaking a foreign language. Of course, I could have just asked these teachers to clarify these confusing assignments….but I didn’t want to look stupid, or get in trouble for not understanding something that I felt I should understand. However, this is where I was wrong.

Eventually, I began to notice a pattern. Whenever I shied away from asking for help, my grades on those assignments reflected my confusion. Alternatively, when I decided to ask for clarification, I did not get in trouble like I thought I would and my grades reflected a clear understanding of the assignment.

It turned out that the thing I was afraid of the most, being viewed as stupid, was the opposite of the reaction I received whenever I asked for clarification. The fact that I was going out of my way to make sure I fully understood the assignment was something that teachers viewed as intelligent not stupid.

Now, whenever I am confused about an assignment, I ask for clarification. Teachers appreciate my requests or clarification and efforts to understand. Also, the improved grades due to a clear understanding of the assignment boosts my confidence, making it even easier to ask for help the next time.


Alicia MacDougall

Peer Consultant, Antioch Virtual Writing Center


This piece was originally published in the February 2017 VWC Newsletter