Well, it’s the first week back at school, and we all know what that means! Getting to know all our new classmates! I’m sure we’re excited for that…right? No? Okay, maybe not. Actually, not at all, because let’s be honest, we all know just how terrible that is. And the first week is easily the worst. We don’t have any sort of connection with this random group of individuals outside of a common string of five numbers on GOLD, and “did you get the syllabus?” is not a great way to start a friendship. But even more awkward than the barely passable small talk is that oftentimes these bonds are thrust upon us. Nearly every TA I’ve ever had has tried to form (or rather, force), a connection with and among the students with those silly forms of shallow, annoying, and completely terrible conversation starters known as “icebreakers.”
Now, I absolutely hate these. You know icebreakers, those little clumsy forms of coerced interaction that spread through sections like an immunity-defying infectious disease during the first class of the quarter. With each passing year they seem to become more and more prevalent, and they now border on school-wide danger. I keep expecting Student Health to begin sending me emails keeping me posted on the Icebreaker Epidemic that say, “the only cure is staying home during your first section.”
Call me anti-social, call me an introvert, call me a coward, I don’t care. I think icebreakers are worse than ants at a picnic–and I love picnics. That awkward first section in which the TA tries to figure out everyone’s name is maybe the worst part of the class, if not the entire quarter.
Some call them “introduction games,” some call them “section bonding,” but let’s just agree to call it what it really is: torture. Even though most veteran section-attendees can tell just when an icebreaker is coming, it still doesn’t make it any easier. Then you hear your TA announce what we’re going to do after reviewing the syllabus, and all your hopes of a harmless escape and a quarter with an absentee TA are dashed. But once it starts, it gets even worse. You try to count ahead, and figure out if maybe the class will be over before you have to reveal your name, major, and favorite food, but as each successive classmate takes their own turn in the hot seat, that clock only goes slower and your heart only beats faster.
Finally the TA gives you that look. It’s some grotesque cross between an encouraging head nod, an empathetic eyebrow raise, and a we’re-both-in-this-together look of apology. Now it’s your turn, and as you stammer your way through the lines you have been rehearsing all class, and continuously scan the room never knowing exactly where to look, your fellow classmates stare with both judging and sympathetic eyes. But then it’s over. All that working of oneself up into a tizzy disappears as you end with an apologetic, “so…yeah.”
It may be over, but has your terrible minute of being in the section spotlight done any good? Actually, has any icebreaker ever worked? It’s not like anyone has ever really made friends with a stranger after meeting them in a section through a silly introduction ritual. Even if you ever do remember that cute girl’s name, you cannot possibly ever say it because then you would just look like a creep. Frankly, I’m not even entirely sure the TAs pay much attention. I mean why would my Communications TA ever possibly need to know what my favorite magical creature is anyway?
They’re annoying, terrifying, and a tiny bit insulting (I am more than just a name, hometown, and major!). They take up valuable class time–and, worse yet, take up what could have been your valuable free time–and turn students against their fellow classmates rather than toward them. Therefore, I propose that all forms of icebreakers should not just be ended, but downright banned from this school. This heinous policy needs to be done away with for once and for all. I know for some, especially English TAs, this may sound like some sort of collegiate “Modest Proposal”; but we must be swift about this, for the next round of icebreakers are in just 11 short weeks. And, in case anyone was wondering about me: I’m Coleman Gray, I’m a staff writer for The Bottom Line, and I hate icebreakers.