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TA might as well stand for “Total Asshole.” It seems like every core class you share with 200+ of your classmates has one. Unfortunately, it also seems like the only requirement to gain the position is a mediocre understanding of English grammar and the ability to operate a graphing calculator. Yet somehow, time and time again we find ourselves, and more importantly our grades, at the clutches of someone who can’t even comprehend basic sentence structure.
Every TA is different, and I’ve even seen perfectly American ones royally fuck students over just as often as their more foreign colleagues. I feel like this common denominator of awfulness stems from the fact that these students at one point took this class, managed to do well, and still thought to themselves “Gee, I sure would like to spend more time on this material.” Flawed logic? You bet.
There are many breeds of TA you may encounter and it would serve you well to prepare for each for your collegiate escapades. At my University, and many others I am certain, the vast majority of “Total Assholes” fall into the “I study everyday, barely speak English, and have no friends” category. These TA’s are particularly lethal for a student trying to skate by on a passing grade, as they make it their personal mission to somehow enlighten their underlings without the ability to properly communicate.
In my experiences, I have mastered a maneuver that will not only get you in the good graces of your flawed foreign TA, but will also make it seem as if you’re paying attention as you casually surf the TFM wall in the back of the classroom. This simple technique is the enthusiastic head nod. Any time the TA asks something that vaguely sounds like “Do you understand?” make eye contact, nod your head, and if you’re daring add a “Oh yeah, now I get it.” He won’t bother you any more, and you can consider that 5% participation grade locked up.
A second type of TA that can be particularly troublesome is the dreaded “Revenge TA.” This student shares many of the qualities of a basic TA (lack of social status, over-enthusiasm for schoolwork, eternal blue balls) but the key difference is his hostility in the gradebook. This student was clearly defeated by a former (most likely falling in our first category) TA, and had to work harder than ever to keep that pristine 4.0 intact. Through all of the hardship, this student earned a spiteful respect over the material, and made it his personal mission to royally fuck his students and ensure their A is just as hard to get as his own. Beware of this breed my friends, don’t let his normal American accent and lack of Anime shirts fool you. He may act normal in the classroom, but as soon as you deliver that stat-plot with a one-thousandth decimal error you will know his red pen of fury.
Regardless of the type of TA you encounter, in most if not all cases you will be disappointed with the result. Unfortunately, unlike our other most hated GDIs these people actually hold power over you via the gradebook, so the best you can do is suck it up and snag yourself a Korean-English dictionary. Even that might not be enough.