Monday, December 10, 2012

Students Crying In My Office

Every semester, I have students crying in my office about their grades. I find the whole situation very awkward and I am not sure of the best way of handling it. I have asked older colleagues and they express surprise that students would cry in front of me. Because, after all, students do not cry in front of them.

I am not a particularly easy or harsh grader - my average GPA is in line with most faculty. So then why do students feel compelled to cry and tell me all about their personal situations that led up to their bad grades and how they are going to get kicked out of school? Surely, it isn't my class alone that is going to kick them out. They must have failed several other courses leading up to mine. So how is that I get the tears?

I usually handle this on a case by case basis, trying to find a discreet way to get the student out of my office without a scene. Not once have tears convinced me to change someone's grade. I see so much crying from my own two biological children that I am not very swayed by adult tears over grades.

I am interested in learning how others handle the crying student.


EarlyToBed said...

*everyone* (it seems) cries in my office. I don't make a big deal of it. Some people are "more watery" than others. I have a box of tissues and ask if they want to take time to collect themselves or if they don't mind talking while crying.

I figure it's payback time for me for all of the times I have cried in other people's offices.

PUI prof said...

I'm pretty empathetic but still don't budge an inch. I say that they just didn't "get it" to the level that they need it, and focus on the hopefulness of how re-taking my class will improve their understanding enough to use it (its a pre- professional program). In a few cases I am delighted to analyze the grades in front of the student and show that they have a very specific and fixable deficit, then shuttle them off to learning services.

Anonymous said...

im with PUI prof, very empathetic but I will not budge on their grade. i point out where things went bad, often show them that the help was available but they did not utilize it and sometimes we get down to the root (they are super stressed/ not sleeping/ relying too much on coffee/ etc)

Amit said...

I have similar situation. I just show sympathy, patiently listen to all their problems and try to cheer them up. But never change a grade.
I guess they just need someone to pour their heart in front of. There was only one exceptional case where the student started talking about suicide and I quickly got in touch with higher ups to make sure that he gets proper counseling and medical treatment.

Anonymous said...

If it is too much to bear (we all have limits), tell them, "Go get a drink of water, come back and we'll talk about it." The process usually puts a stop to the worst of the crying because even though they feel it is permissible to cry in the office of a (typically young female) professor, they will get themselves together enough to walk in the hallway and will be more composed when they return.