Dear Grad: An Exchange

March 23, 2010

Dear Grad Student,

I’ve got to say, so far, I’m impressed.  You were the model TA for syllabus week.  As far the introductory statements for a course go, I’m disgusted by anyone who goes beyond “Hey!  I’m the TA.  Don’t dick around; please take a syllabus.  Get the fuck out.”

So you were a breath of fresh ease.  But now that we’re entering week four and you’ve yet to stroll in within 20 minutes of the class’ start time, I’m forced to pen you this little diatribe.

I know, I know.  An undergrad lecturing a grad student?  It’s like a farmer taking slaughtering lessons from a cow.  But rather than just guiding us onto a conveyor belt and allowing the machine to do the dirty, blood-soaked, visceral work, I wanted to ask that you add your own personal touch to this course, and show the hell up on time.

Do you know what it’s like before you get here?  It’s silent.  Once in awhile, somebody coughs and we all look at them like they just confessed a murder.  The room reaks of “morning smells.”  The mouthy asshole with an opinion on everything sits there examining the syllabus, letting the sounds of it crumpling in his weirdly firm grip echo throughout the chamber.  The girl who inexplicably came in with an eye patch for three weeks sits there crying a little bit, then usually falls asleep in an ocean of drool.  Meanwhile, we’re all pretending the guy who always comes in last doesn’t have a dead pigeon in his back pack, when we all saw him pick it up outside the window and stroke it hungrily.

It’s a scene, is what I’m saying, and we’re all waiting on you.  Not just because we’re so eager to learn (I think you’d agree, it’s like an episode of “The Magic School Bus” in here) but because of the emotional zoo that is unleashed every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning, with all the freakish animals clattering and chewing at the bars of their respective cages.  It can’t be long until one of them gets out and we’re all subjected to a stampede of sheer insanity.  Thanks to your tardiness, I’ve been able to observe these people a little closer, and I understand now why college is where most people develop their mental problems.

You’ve probably got a lot on your plate.  More than I do?  Oh, yes; almost definitely.  If you want to walk out of this lecture hall and go right on back to carefully scrapbooking the pictures from the prof’s weekender in the Poconos, hey man, have at it.  Nobody’s going to fault you for trying to get ahead by suckling with gusto every teat that drops in front of you.  I almost admire your enthusiasm and vigor.  Almost.  But, we all get here, and as the TA, it would make sense if you did, too.

If your mental state reflects at all those of your students, chances are you’re dangerously unstable, and more than likely will have a homicide on your record within the next six months.  But there are plenty of punctual murderers out there, grad student.  And since you’re planning on killing us over the course of the semester, whether via the workload, group projects, and papers, or a much more direct method, with like a chainsaw or a bat with a nail in it or something, the least (literally, the very, least) you could do is show up in time.

If that’s truly impossible, then how about just before Eyepatch starts her morning cry?  There’s an emotional toll involved in witnessing something like that.



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