The silence could have been broken with a pin or a machine gun; each would have been equally loud.
Of the twleve students in that seminar group, none wanted to speak. Had no-one done the work, or were they all just shy?
The teacher presumed the former. “I don’t get paid for getting you good grades. If you don’t do the work, you’re the only ones who’ll suffer,” was the message he spent the next five minutes burning into our brains.
I stared at the notes in front of me. The words I had scrawled with bleary eyes at 3am last night were a harsh black against the glaringly white page. I was almost certain it was the right answer. I knew that this was how a Bill is created in Parliament. But my tongue was held back by a niggling insecurity – and the longer the silence dragged on, the worse the pressure became: the brave student who answered would face judgement from everyone else in the room if they got the answer wrong after so much tension had built up.
I was not that brave, and I did not feel that clever.
One day, I’ll have that confidence. But today was not that day.