Thursday, February 23, 2017

Out of the no-cry zone

"I haven't made a student cry all year," said my colleague, and I said, "I could give you lessons."

I really don't intend to make students cry--and if I did, I'd be much more systematic, setting up specific quotas for each class (two weepers per week in freshman classes, for instance, and at least one full-blown existential crisis per semester for each student in the capstone). But think of the costs of mopping up all those emotional traumas--the tissues alone!

And besides, there are tears enough in the world; I don't feel any need to contribute to the deluge. 

But it happens.

My job occasionally requires me to give students bad news--about their writing skills, the consequences of plagiarism, the odds that they'll be able to pass my class--and many respond stoically while others turn on the waterworks. I can work with a student who cries and then calms down and gets back to work on the problem, but a student who wants to cry her way to a better grade makes me want to scream.

And then I get the occasional super-sensitive student who cannot accept constructive criticism on drafts, who interprets the mildest critique as a personal attack worthy of a toddler-sized tantrum. I want to tell them not to cry over split infinitives but instead to realize that detailed attention to a draft is a rare and valuable gift, but it's hard to be heard through all the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. 

I'd love to declare my office a no-cry zone, but sometimes tears are a perfectly appropriate response--like when a student drives me to tears. (I wonder if they're trying to reach a quota? Is someone giving extra credit for making professors cry?)

 

2 comments:

nicoleandmaggie said...

I've found that if you give them chocolate right before the tears, it keeps tears from happening.

Bev said...

Excellent plan, except that I can't keep chocolate in my office. (Because I would eat it all.)