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Jon Krause for The Chronicle Review

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Jon Krause for The Chronicle Review

Few students are as frustrating to a teacher as those who are bright, literate, and interested—but who don't utter a word in class. I was such a student myself.

There are undoubtedly many reasons for muteness. For me, the major factor was background. I grew up in a semiheated trailer in rural southwest Virginia, not benefiting from niceties like dentistry. I was accepted into the University of Virginia no doubt as a gesture toward the rural poor, but I was wildly out of place. I