Friday, November 26, 2010

For The Kids

I know I sounded like a horrible person when I said I didn't want to write recommendations but the truth is, I do write recommendations and I write really good ones.  I do them within two days of being asked, I give the kids multiple copies and even give them a copy to keep in case they need an extra and I am not around.  I read their resumes and their personal statements and I always try to include an anecdote, something special pertaining to them to make their recommendation seem really special.  Many of my recommendations go to the same schools so they have to be unique.  I don't want the people who read them to say, "Not her again.  I can pass this one over as I know exactly what it says.  All of hers say the same thing." 

I was worried about one of the students I said no to.  I asked her if she got another teacher to write it.  She answered, "Yes, thank you.  My pre-calculus teacher wrote me a very good one.  You were right.  She does know me better than you do."

Judy is a tenth grader who was in my geometry class last year.  She struggled but ended up doing very well in the end.  She stopped me last week and asked me to write her a recommendation for a science research program she wants to get into.  Of course I complied immediately.  Wednesday Judy stopped me and was crying.  She only got a 62 on her last trig test and was going to fail trig this marking period.  Failing this class means she cannot get into the program.  Judy has been working hard, meeting with the tutor I arranged for her and is improving.  Although I cannot help her with her grade this semester I can try to reword her recommendation in such a way that the program might be willing to give her a chance, in spite of her grade in math.

Here is the recommendation written on Thanksgiving morning:
To Whom It May Concern:

Judy Smith was a student of mine in geometry. She was always well prepared for class, asked questions and volunteered answers. She questioned what she did not understand and never stopped until she fully understood all the material she had been taught. She was an asset to the class.

Judy has a strong work ethic, the type of behavior needed to succeed in the Science Research Program. Math does not come easy to her but she never wavers in her quest for perfect understanding. She readily gives up her lunch period many times a week to seek extra help. This perseverance will guarantee her success in the class. Perseverance and determination are traits needed for success in science research. Judy also has an inquisitive mind. She works well with others.

Judy is so much more than a number of a piece of paper. Judge her not by one poor grade, but by her character and transcript.  Judy is an all around terrific student, the type of student every teacher desires in their class. I recommend her highly for this program.

If she gets in, I will have accomplished something.  I've got to reminding myself I'm here for the kids I love.

1 comment:

Moriah said...

I don't think it's so terrible to want to tell the truth. If you can't honestly recommend a student, why should you? Praise is a powerful reinforcer, but only if the child recognizes that it is truthful. Building a child up with undeserved praise is setting him up to fail and is really a form of sabotage.

Business people praise a product in hopes that someone will believe the ad and buy it. The marketplace and the bottom line decide whether the praise was justified. Bloomberg wants us to teach as if we were in the business world and we were both the producers and sellers of our merchandise--the kids. Business rules and ethics just cannot be applied to teaching and learning.

I know this goes against the grain, but after, not before, you have given a child a recommendation, ask the child if they would consider writing a recommendation for you--In other words, why would someone want to have you as a teacher. It could come in handy someday.