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?)



Anonymous 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.)