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)