Undergrads are a funny breed. When congregating amongst themselves there is much posturing, and they seem to be comfortable with one another, joining forces against their evil TAs and professors who all hate them. (I heard part of a phone conversation while on campus yesterday that transpired as such, “… Yeah and my TA who like totally hates me ….” I was walking the opposite way so couldn’t catch the tail ends.)

But when they need help they become the most deflated insecure creatures alive. Sitting in my office hour with the door open I can always tell when one is coming for help. There are three tell-tale signs:

1) The faint smell of urine-soaked denim.
2) I only have 2 minutes left to my hour.
3) Someone passes the door and peers in while trying to look as cool as possible with a facial expression of utter confusion. This person continues exactly four steps (every time) past the door, stops, turns around, and walks as silently as they can into the office.

I can only surmise that the “hallway shuffle” is either the latest dance move, or a feeble attempt to buy an extra 3 seconds for composure. But the second they walk in it’s all over. I know they’re coming and I’ve got my game face on.

I like to break them down with the belief that their bloated egos can only hinder academic and intellectual growth. Floating around with an ego problem can give one a false sense of security. One day they will be dealt a problem that they cannot handle or don’t yet have the skills to tackle because they have not been thinking critically enough about things, and they will be crushed. And just like with chicken pox, the older you are when it happens, the worse it is. They can thank me later.