So, this pussy at the Chronicle writes about how shocking and affecting it is that students cry. Let me respond:
Let me respond in more detail:
Students never just drop by a professor’s office for a friendly chat. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. Normal students who aren’t slightly weird, manic, evangelical, driven to freaky over-friendliness by a burning desire to be academics themselves don’t drop by. Going to a professor’s office is a sign you have a Problem.
Students who make it to your office are already on edge, and people who are on edge are quite likely to react emotionally.
Many of the meetings I have in my office involve tears. Occasionally, there is shouting, or something more outre, like being splattered with pineapple, but tears are the regular staple. Unlike professionals whose jobs are openly about dealing with emotional distress – therapists and the like – professors aren’t trained to deal with tears. No one ever sits a junior professor down and says “look, most students who will come to see you will cry, this is how you deal with it.” The sum total of my training on the subject was a senior colleague who said “I keep the tissues in the drawer, because if they see them on the desk, it’s like permission.”
The way most professors deal with this is a callousness about crying that shocks outside observers, particularly the watering pots who have an expectation that tears are going to be their capstone argument. I’m not saying that most students who cry are trying to manipulate professors into relenting over grades (and yes, it is almost always over grades), but that there is an underlying assumption that if something is bad enough to make you cry, that it must melt the heart of even the crustiest old bastard who makes a living torturing young people by making them learn the periodic table.
Crying doesn’t convince me of the seriousness of your response to the depth of the shit you are in, either. I know exactly how deep you are standing in it; I am the person with the canoe and the paddle.
Crying becomes a stage of the meeting we need to get through before we get to the substantive part; yes, yes, I am ruining your life by giving you an F for cheating, not handing in your essay, forgetting to go to the final and not mentioning this for 6 weeks, or making some incredibly dumbass statement about how Shakespeare must have been writing those sonnets to his son because there was no such thing as homoeroticism before 1970. Now let’s move on and discuss consequences and possible remedies.
If you cry, I won’t openly mock you while you are in the room, but my likely reaction is going to be something other than sympathy. I’ll wait until you leave to put that notch in my desk.
I am not here to make you feel better about yourself, as the student who failed her semester miserably by not handing any work argued, through her tears, when I told her there was no point in letting her sit the final. I don’t deal in feelings. This doesn’t make me mean (other things, admittedly, make me mean; I am not ducking the tag), it makes me your teacher, not your therapist or your mother.
If I let myself be affected by your tears, I am not doing my job. What kind of a professor gives out grades based on how many hankies are expended in his or her office? Okay, a professor of Early Childhood Education, right. But I teach in an actual academic discipline. I have standards.
I didn’t pick my profession thinking that I might one day define myself as a person whose day consists of 3 meetings with people who sobbed their hearts out, and walked away whistling, but here we are. I laugh at my students because if I didn’t… well, you know.