Dr. Wallace:

I would like to take part in classroom discussion, but I’m afraid of saying something stupid so I don’t say anything at all. Even when the teacher calls on me to answer a question, I say that I don’t know, but sometimes the answer I was thinking was the correct one.

What can I do to overcome this fear of being laughed at for giving a dumb answer? I’m a C student and I’m sure I could raise my average to a B if I participated in class discussions. I’m in the ninth grade and I hope to get good grades so I can go to college.

— Sandy, Houston, Texas

Sandy: There’s no such thing as a dumb answer. There are only incorrect (or partially correct) ones. As a former educator, I can assure you that the vast majority of teachers appreciate students who are willing to make an educated guess when they aren’t 100 percent certain of the answer. When you simply say, “I don’t know,” you remain a mystery to your teachers.

Class discussion is extremely important to the educational process, and teachers would be at a loss without it. So would your fellow students. By not speaking up, you are depriving them of your unique insights and the chance of learning from you.

Writing to me to express your anxiety was an important first step. Now I suggest that you talk with your teachers and tell them why you don’t participate. I’m sure most will be sympathetic and do their utmost to help you overcome your fear of expressing an opinion. Believe me, your grades won’t suffer if you give an occasional incorrect answer. But by speaking up and fully participating in your classes, you will certainly pull yourself out of the “C rut” you’re in now.

Dr. Wallace: I’m 15 and my boyfriend is 16. I care for him very much and I’m positive he feels the same about me. I’m only allowed to go on a date once every two weeks. I’m not unhappy about the rule because I know that many girls my age are not allowed to date at all.

My boyfriend is a good guy, but he is very social. He likes girls and enjoys their company. Whenever I’m restricted and can’t see him, he will call me if he wants to be with another girl socially. He always asks my permission and I always say yes.

Last Saturday, my cousin saw him at a movie with some other girl. When I questioned him about this, he admitted that a girl from his church asked him to go to the movies and he just forgot to call me for permission because he didn’t initiate the date.

I’m still angry. I feel that he double-crossed me. He doesn’t see it that way and has encouraged me to write to you for your opinion.

— Mindy, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Mindy: Since your boyfriend has always asked for your permission to go out with other girls, I doubt that he was trying to double-cross you this time. Chalk it up to an honest mistake. Don’t allow the lack of a phone call to ruin a good relationship.

I must say that giving permission to date other girls is highly unusual and very generous!

Write to Dr. Wallace at rwallace@galesburg.net.