"If you look closer," sang Smokey Robinson, “it’s easy to trace the tracks of my tears.” Clearly he never experienced the flow of tears at the end of a semester.
Whenever midterm and final exams loom, students’ tears during faculty office hours become as commonplace as requests for extra credit and do-overs. Low grades produce desperation and despair. In deciding how to respond, professors first must identify the reasons for the crying because not all tears are equal.
Some students cry because they lack the necessary skills to succeed in the course. Others are dealing with the stresses of life and, particularly if they're young, haven't developed coping mechanisms. There are tears from students who are dealing with the very real traumas of microaggressions, racism, homophobia, rape, and the failure of their institutions to recognize those pressures or listen to their voices. And there are tears that surely produce less empathy — from the grade grubbers crushed by a B or the slackers who simply didn't do the reading but know how to turn on the waterworks.