Friday, January 11, 2013
What do you do when they cry?
I've had students come to my office hours to quibble over 1 point on a homework grade. I don't respond to grade-grubbing emails, so the truly focused ones have started stalking my open door in order to earn a few more points.
Medical Mary was an adult student who had dropped out of school to overcome cancer. Her resolution upon beating cancer and returning to school was to get 100% on everything. She was in her second term when she got to me, claiming that so far she had been successful on her 100% goal. That seems suspicious to me, but she does have As on her card (we have A- and B+ at our school, but no A+).
Anyway, when she was averaging a 94%A with me, she flipped out. She came to my office hours, told me the whole story. I told her this was very good and her complaints exceedingly minor. She asked me to revise her 9/10 into a 10/10 for a homework. I declined; she hadn't gotten the answer totally right, so I wasn't going to give her a perfect score. Besides, her nonsense 6/10 homework grade was much more egregious -- shouldn't we talk about that??
She got really quiet. And then she began to cry. I sympathized. She grew into hysterics.
What is it with these people?
Listen, I've cried in front of a professor before. There was the time in grad school when, at the end of my second year, with 65 pages already written, my adviser told me that my master's thesis subject had hit a wall and I needed to start over. I was so surprised and overwhelmed, I choked back the gut reaction of tears. He was very good about it and let me collect myself before we explored new options.
But a point? Trying to achieve an impossible goal of 100% on all college works? And trying to do so by challenging the worthiness of the text, the design of the class, my personal emotional state for not giving in to her crying?
Medical Mary is one of perhaps 10 students who have cried in front of me in the last year, young and old, boys and girls. Over missing class and not being allowed to copy my lecture notes, or about sleeping through an exam, or about attendance grades, homework grades, online requirements, final calculations, whatever.
What are you supposed to do? Because what I want to do is to dock them more points under the entry of "Emotional Maturity -- not mature enough to handle college." How do you handle your crying snowflakes?