This post is dedicated to the misadventures of being a TA. My most recent stories of the most obnoxious kid I’ve ever taught were getting ridiculous so, after Chris’s prompting, I’m going to include some of his gems here.
I’ll set up the context for ObnoxiousKid first. The guy is loud, he has befriended the other super loud guy in my class who we will call JovialFriend. Not the jock type of obnoxious, and very much not self-aware. The others in the class roll their eyes when he opens his mouth because 90% of the time whatever comes out is deserving of the group eye roll. He misuses words in the style of Michael Scott from The Office, 100% without realizing it’s wrong. You’ll still like him somewhat despite all that, I guess also like Michael Scott, but that doesn’t change the fact that he can make getting work done very difficult.
My tactic for beginning lecture if I say “okay we are going to get started” and students are still chattering away is to just start the lecture and, as the people in the front quiet down, everyone else realizes the background noise is dominated by my voice and gets quiet. Sure I’m only delivering information they care little if anything about, but this has always worked for me until ObnoxiousKid. I was talking for at least 15 seconds while he was still shooting the breeze talking about something on television to JovialFriend, who was adamantly not responding, before I said “OH MY GOD, COULD YOU PLEASE STOP TALKING, HOLY CRAP!” The room erupted in laughter as ObnoxiousKid turned the color of the earthy hematite before him.
Nothing holds back ObnoxiousKid for long though, so naturally the lab midterm came and he told me he didn’t like one of my questions, leading to the following exchange:
Me: “What problem did you have with that question?”
ObnoxiousKid: “Oh…I didn’t mean to offend you, I just don’t think that one is a very good question.”
Me: “No one else seems to share that sentiment with you. Is it possible that your judgement of good and bad questions might be impaired by your not paying attention to half the things I said so far in this course?”
ObnoxiousKid: “haha yeah that’s probably why. I’ll pay better attention after this.”
But alas, ObnoxiousKid has only limited capacity for paying attention, including the world outside academia. For example, one day when I was trying to figure out who was absent:
JovialFriend: oh Scruffy isn’t here
ObnoxiousKid: who is that?
me: the other guy who you talk to all the time while I’m trying to lecture
ObnoxioiusKid: no clue who that is
JovialFriend: he did like every lab with us
ObnoxiousKid: oh that guy, well I have no idea his name, I don’t need to know his name
3 minutes later, after I have started talking about coastal processes and put up a satellite picture of the Galveston Bay…
JovialFriend: Wait, that looks like Houston
me: That’s because it is Houston–there at the top of the bay. This is Galveston Island and this is the Bolivar Peninsula
JovialFriend: whoa, I had no idea Galveston was an island
ObnoxiousKid: wow, that’s really bad, how could you not know that?
me: this from the guy who said he didn’t need to know someone’s name he has been talking to every day for the last month?!
JovialFriend: yeah dude, how could you do that to Scruffy?
me: chill out there, JovialDude, I didn’t say it was okay to not know Galveston is an island either
The time came for learning though, and ObnoxiousKid tried to feign interest when I taught them about groundwater since it’s what I know the most about
ObnoxiousKid: So if there is subsistence, does it go back if they stop using water?
me: no, and the word is subsidence
ObnoxiousKid: right okay…so if they quit draining out the water, then will the subsistence come back or just go away?
me: the word is subSIDence…with a D…subsistence is a type of farming
If I were a bit more southern, that would be the point at which I’d give a resounding “bless his heart” before going on. I think that’s enough though. And I’m now done TAing…for good! What a way to go.