Posted by September Blue Wednesday, 22 October 2008

I share an office, so people who need to talk to their students will usually end up doing it with a few TAs present. Annoying, but, you know. Mostly we don't pay too much attention to what someone else's student is talking about; this time, because my friend is teaching the creepiest student alive, I did.

Not that I knew she was teaching the creepiest student alive. I knew she was teaching a student that seemed to have some problems beyond a more typical glowering-bratty-teenager model - this student had, for example, suggested during a discussion that the death penalty should be brought back and extended to cover a wide range of crimes, and shrugged off someone else's 'What if innocent people end up getting executed?' with 'Doesn't matter - people are shit and there's too many of them anyway' - but hey, sullen misanthropy is something students have grown out of before, I'm sure. And mostly we all assumed he was putting it on as an act.

Having heard this kid speak now, I am fairly sure he's not.

And the thing is, he didn't even say anything disturbing in that meeting. No threats, nothing like that. He was polite and attentive. I wish I could put into words just what was so disturbing about him, but I don't think I can beyond saying that he held a conversation like he was talking to ELIZA. This wasn't shyness, or social awkwardness, or autism failing to pick up on social cues - this was a blankness. I didn't even look up from my own work, and it still made my skin creep.

My friend's half-course has finished, so she's not teaching him any more. Other people still are. The student support people are 'keeping an eye on him', which seems epically ineffective as a tactic - but what else could they do, really?

I don't even know what this kid looked like. Maybe I'll see him in a newspaper one day.