You have to be scary!

You have to be scary!

(For those of you who don’t know) I am a post graduate student and work as a tutor or a teaching assistant at the university. This not only keeps me in touch with the undergraduate subjects but also earns me some much-needed cash. So I recently applied for one such job after getting an inter-departmental email about a vacancy. It was to assist a lecturer for the course titled Statistics in Engineering. The work hours were flexible and the pay was decent, so I decided to go and meet the lecturer in person to discuss my chances.

I went to the right floor in the correct building and checked the name of the door before knocking. After the ‘come in’, I went in and started introducing myself. The lecturer was friendly and offered me some tea which I politely refused. After the introductions and the small talk, I told him that I was interested in working for him as a TA (teaching assistant). He looked at me and then looked past me and said “You are not scary enough.” To say I was surprised would be an understatement. The thoughts in my mind began to race, had I heard him right, had he said ‘scary’, had I come to the wrong place. But then I realized that the lecturer was Eastern European and thought that may be he meant ‘experienced’ when he said ‘scary’ (sarcasm intended). So after reassuring myself that I had not come to audition for a horror-thriller movie, I asked him again.

He said, “The students are very annoying, they ask many questions. I don’t think you are scary enough to handle them. You look too simple and nice!”

Still not sure about what he meant, I told him that I was experienced in doing the job because I had done it before. I had handled classes that were larger than his in size. I also had worked with students from all years, so I was perfect for the job. The more I tried to convince him to give me the job, the more he kept saying that I wasn’t scary! So finally, I gave up and said thank you and good bye and left it at that. The two things that I learnt or I find really interesting are:

Firstly, are we really scared of students asking questions? The job description in the email did not say “Tutor wanted, the scarier the better!” I thought being nice to students and being patient with them, not only helped them to learn new things but also gave us the experience to teach. I am sure this does not happen with all lecturers, but I was amused at the fact of this lecturer trying to scare his students. Surely there are better ways of teaching and learning. I know I am not a scary person, but I never thought it would work against me when I was trying to get a job. Sometimes, things that you think are qualities can also be seen as drawbacks.

The next thing I learnt was, you can’t convince someone when he has made up his mind (or at least I can’t). The more I tried to persuade him the more he said no. He probably had made up his mind once he saw be enter the door. I should have realized that once someone has made a decision, it is difficult to turn back. He thought that his teaching assistant had to be scary, not experienced, not helpful just scary, and I had no choice but to respect that. It was an interesting lesson, but when you try to bang your head against the wall, the only thing that gets hurt is you. (So stop banging your head against the wall and just be scary!)

— Mayuresh

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