Category Archives: crying

Fuck you. Fuck all you all.

I nearly went over the edge today. I know you want to hear about it.

So, I am in class, explaining to the class my marking rubric, which I have used for several semesters now, where I let students use the rubric to predict their grades and they get a bonus if they get a bulls-eye.

As a pedagogical exercise, this is designed to show students what I am valuing and how I am marking, and also to get them to do a bit of reflection and self-assessment. Of course, it’s also a way in to having a “what makes a good paper” discussion in class. Generally, it works pretty well, and between 3-6 students a class actually manage to get the bonus.

Today, I explain the bonus and go through the rubric, and then this giant asshole puts his hand up and says “Yes, but how do we know you won’t look at our score and then change yours?”

EXCUSE ME? I looked at him and said “Are you sure you want to be asking that?”, to which he said “Yes, it’s a legitimate question.” A few lesser assholes chimed in. One wanted to suggest that I give the bonus mark if they got within the ballpark: no, because that is way easier – you have to earn the damn bonus. Then Asshole 1 and his buddy start going on about how they think they need a “guarantee” that I will stick to the rubric.

I have to admit, I was at the point of being so angry I wasn’t coherent. “This sounds like you are accusing me of cheating,” I said. “I presented this rubric as a way to help you understand how I am marking.”

Yeah, they understand that, but profs mark differently (DUH, I just gave you MY rubric, you moron), and how do they know I will stick to what I said?

Well, I dunno? Trust? Understanding that I am a professional? I said if they thought it was some kind of trap, they could opt out of the rubric exercise, but no, that wasn’t what they wanted. They wanted, I think, a promise that they could have the bonus. Which I wasn’t going to give.

I suggested that the way they were talking made it sound like they thought I was out to get them, and that their assumption that I would act unprofessionally was unfounded and unflattering, but there were at least 4 of them who insisted that voicing this kind of distrust was not disrespectful.

What it came down to, for them, was that “all profs mark subjectively” and that any moves I was making to make my approach as transparent and objective as possible was somehow suspect. IF YOU REALLY BELIEVE I MARK SUBJECTIVELY, WHY ARE YOU PISSING ME OFF? I screamed, in my head.

Some of it must have shown on my face, because a student in the front row said, “Can we move on?” Which was a nice lifeline. So I tried to move on, but I found myself close to tears of rage. I had to leave the room. I’ve never done that before. Honest to god, I said “I need a minute,” and went out into the hallway.

A couple of the female students came out to see if I was okay. I wasn’t going to cry, but I think they thought I might. I said “I just need a minute so I don’t yell at everyone,” I told them. So I counted to 10, and went back in, and ignored the assholes who were snickering, and pulled up my damn big girl pants, and taught them about editing their papers.

But I feel like I went somewhere new today. Not even Pineapple Boy made me feel this kind of despair.

Cry if you want to.

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.

Alas, no.

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.