The Worst Conversations You’ve Had As A Professor

Prodigal Academic, a science professor and blogger, lists the “worst conversations I’ve had as a professor.” They include:

  • telling a student who was stalking his TA to stop doing so
  • the first time dealing with a student who is literally crying over a grade
  • giving personal hygiene advice
  • being confronted with a screamer
  • telling a graduate student they won’t be getting their PhD

I remember the first time a student came to me in tears over a grade on her first-ever college paper. It was rather awkward, but I explained to her that it was because I thought her paper was good that I gave it an A-.

I find conversations in which the student feels compelled to reveal personal information in order to explain his or her performance as a student difficult. I don’t want students to feel like they have to reveal otherwise private details of their lives to me for the sake of, say, explaining why a paper was so poor, and I never ask for them, but I understand my students’ need to try to justify themselves. When I see that’s where the conversation is headed I tell them that they don’t need to provide me with any such details. Sometimes, I’m sure, this leaves them with the impression that I don’t care about their personal problems, which isn’t necessarily true; I don’t want to shut down a student who is reaching out to me for help. Sometimes it’s hard to find that sweet spot between being a professor who’s respectful of student privacy (when the fact that you’re in charge of their grade is the only reason they’d be sharing some personal information) and being a person who’s compassionate.

What are the worst (awkward, difficult, scary, inappropriate, etc.) conversations you have had as a professor? (In answering, please take steps to protect the identity of those you’re discussing.)

(Link to Prodigal Academic via Inside Higher Ed)

There are 20 comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please enter an e-mail address