It happens in every one of my classes: at least once a class period, a kid raises his hand and I shudder. I do that because I know that the kid is going to say something asinine, be unpleasant to the professor, or just generally eat up time with a 20-minute question. I call him Annoying Question Kid.

However, I have a theory that most Annoying Question Kids are not aware that they’re being annoying question kids. I think they just see themselves as motivated students. So, for your reading elucidation, I present three tips on how to avoid being–even unintentionally–Annoying Question Kid.

Don’t comment on things you didn’t read: This one happens at least once a week in every one of my classes, and it drives me up the wall. If the professor asks a question about a textbook chapter or journal article that you didn’t read, don’t volunteer yourself to comment on it. The fact that the professor doesn’t call you out on your clearly incorrect answer in class does not mean that you pulled it off–it means that they’re filing it away for later. Additionally, this will make your classmates think you are either dumb or lazy.

Don’t try to prove the professor wrong: I’m not saying that professors are always right, particularly when it comes to matters of interpretation. However, if you want to challenge a professor on a point, there’s a right and a wrong way to do it. The right way is to say, “I understand where you’re coming from, but it seems to me that Aristotle is saying…” followed by textual support for your point. The wrong way is, “Well, isn’t Aristotle really saying that…” followed by something you just made up. Chances are that whatever point you’re making, the professor has thought about it and has already decided against it for some reason. Don’t try to phrase your questions as tricky gotcha questions for professors. They will beat you down, and you will look obnoxious.

Wait until you’ve got something interesting to say: Often, if you did the reading and are good at the subject, you can answer most of the questions that the professor asks. However, try not to raise your hand for every answer you know–it makes you look desperate for acknowledgement. Wait until you have something insightful to say and let your classmates speak when you don’t. You don’t want to talk the most out of the class. Instead, you want to have the highest interesting comment/time speaking ratio in your class.

Speaking up in class is an awesome way to form a relationship with a professor and stand out from the pack. But, by picking when you talk and maintaining a respectful tone when you do, you’ll have a much greater and more positive impact than you would without forethought.