Denied a Student Recommendation, did I handle it OK?

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by beccmo, Jan 21, 2010.

  1. beccmo

    beccmo Comrade

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2007
    Messages:
    490
    Likes Received:
    12

    Jan 21, 2010

    This is the time of year when students begin to ask for letters of recommendation for various reasons. Normally this is no problem for me. For the first time ever I turned a student down, since it is a matter of professional integrity that I be honest in such a letter. Given that, I asked the student what he would write if he were me. He smiled and admitted he could have a better attitude and work ethic in class. I suggested he ask his math teacher for the recommendation (it was for a science/math based internship).

    For some reason, high school seems to be the first time many students are faced with the reality that there can be consequences for their behavior. Hopefully this student will recognize that there is a lesson to be learned here.

    Has anyone else declined to write a letter of recommendation? Could I have handled this differently?
     
  2.  
  3. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2007
    Messages:
    6,776
    Likes Received:
    151

    Jan 21, 2010

    You handled it correctly, in my opinion. A Letter of recommendation is putting your name on a person, and if you don't feel you can recommend him, then it would be dishonest of you to write the letter. Good for you.
     
  4. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2007
    Messages:
    5,621
    Likes Received:
    4

    Jan 21, 2010

    I think you handled it just fine. Good job in a sticky situaiton!
     
  5. MsMar

    MsMar Fanatic

    Joined:
    May 16, 2007
    Messages:
    2,771
    Likes Received:
    52

    Jan 21, 2010

    I think you handled it quite well.

    I teach an elective so I'm not asked that often unless the student is applying to culinary school. I did get asked to write one regular one this year though but I was happy to do it. I really like your response that you gave the student and will keep it in mind if I ever should need it.
     
  6. HMM

    HMM Cohort

    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2004
    Messages:
    694
    Likes Received:
    1

    Jan 21, 2010

    I have once. A student asked for a letter since she was applying for medical school. I thought she was a nice student but she did poorly in my class (a low level class). I told her she should try to ask a professor that taught one of her classes that was in her major.
     
  7. Mr. A

    Mr. A Rookie

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2009
    Messages:
    91
    Likes Received:
    0

    Jan 21, 2010

    I've never declined to do them, and after you read what I write below, you'll see why...

    You'll do a lot fewer of these (and you'll have to decline fewer) if you tell them, "I'll gladly write you a letter of evaluation. Sometimes these letters sound like letters of recommendation; sometimes not so much."

     
  8. Mr. A

    Mr. A Rookie

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2009
    Messages:
    91
    Likes Received:
    0

    Jan 21, 2010

    Oh and by the way you handled it fine.
     
  9. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2006
    Messages:
    27,534
    Likes Received:
    6

    Jan 22, 2010

    I've never declined it.

    But, like you, I've told the kids that I would have to be totally honest.

    Once or twice, that has been enough to encourage them to ask someone else.
     
  10. Ms. I

    Ms. I Maven

    Joined:
    May 13, 2004
    Messages:
    5,810
    Likes Received:
    132

    Jan 22, 2010

    If you felt that this student didn't deserve a letter of rec, then I'm sure you used good judgment. Personally, I'm never in the position to have to write letters of rec for students, but I wouldn't be too, too harsh, especially if they're HS seniors. I feel they deserve an equal chance...unless they were a total goof-off or had a horrendous attitude & were given plenty of chances to straighten up. If their personality was good & I saw their hard effort, but they didn't get the greatest grades, I'd give them a break because there are & should be people who deserve the chance to succeed who don't always have the best grades or test scores.

    I was never the straight A type all the time & I even admit that I wished I had a few more B's in my overall academic career, but I always took school seriously & the last educational accomplishment I completed was graduating magna cum laude w/ an MA, so life to me isn't always about the 4.0+ GPAs & the greatest test scores.
     
  11. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

    Joined:
    May 8, 2008
    Messages:
    8,270
    Likes Received:
    1,403

    Jan 22, 2010

    I still remember my mother regretting agreeing to complete a recommendation for one of my classmates (she taught at my high school). She must have sat at the kitchen table for an hour, staring at the blank page. She finally turned to me and exclaimed, "What do I say? That the kid looks good in a suit? That's pretty much it!" As I knew the student, I had to agree with her. To this day I don't know why she agreed to write the letter.
     
  12. silverspoon65

    silverspoon65 Enthusiast

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2007
    Messages:
    2,403
    Likes Received:
    1

    Jan 25, 2010

    I have passed it off on another teacher and the kid got the hint. I have said something like "Oh, this school is going to want you to have a science teacher give you a recommendation. Is there anyone in that dept you can ask?"
     
  13. school board pr

    school board pr New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2011
    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    0

    Sep 21, 2011

    Depends on what the recommendation was for.....

    If you denied this student a letter of recommendation for continuing his/her education beyond HS then you are wrong. A job recommendation might be different but I didn't catch what the letter was for. As far as a recommendation for continuing education goes I believe you have a duty to provide these to HS seniors. Afterall, if you are not the last step in the educational foundation construction then who is? If it is beyond your capabilities to provide these letters then perhaps you are in the wrong line of work. I saw most of the comments to your question agreed with your decision, however, why on earth would you deny a student a recommendation if he/she was attempting to improve their life outlook by going on to college???? What are you teaching for?
     
  14. teacherintexas

    teacherintexas Maven

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2005
    Messages:
    5,271
    Likes Received:
    726

    Sep 21, 2011

    Exacly. This is the last step before moving on so if a kid with a bad attitude doesn't learn to straighten up in high school, when is he?

    I would not lie in a letter either and to imply that the OP should just make up something untruthful speaks volumes about your own character.
     
  15. TeachAstro

    TeachAstro Rookie

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2009
    Messages:
    46
    Likes Received:
    0

    Sep 21, 2011

    Yea, this is certainly something I've debated with myself. Obviously if I don't think a student "deserved" (a vague term) a letter I would be less than thrilled to write one, but I strongly feel it is a teacher's responsibility to help ensure further success as students and academics. I will always write a letter of recommendation to anyone that asks and they will always be positive (though some less than others). It isn't like a college admission board is going to think Hmm, that teacher gave us a great letter of rec but the student didn't do so hot... I guess we'll ignore their letters.

    Colleges realize letters of rec aren't a glowing standard to follow when it comes to student admittance, and we owe it to our kids to do whatever is possible for them to better themselves.
     
  16. KateL

    KateL Habitué

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2007
    Messages:
    810
    Likes Received:
    2

    Sep 21, 2011

    Re-read the OP. The letter was for an internship.
     
  17. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

    Joined:
    May 13, 2005
    Messages:
    29,486
    Likes Received:
    1,017

    Sep 21, 2011

    I know of colleges that do in fact take recommendations much more seriously than this, and that do in fact value a given source of recommendations less if there's a track record of the recommendations being inflated.

    In any case, it does no favor for anyone to land a student in an academic situation for which the student is woefully underequipped.
     
  18. TeachAstro

    TeachAstro Rookie

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2009
    Messages:
    46
    Likes Received:
    0

    Sep 21, 2011

    I'm not advocating lying on a recommendation. And while I'm sure there are some institutions that put effort into carefully reviewing letters, the idea that a majority of admissions personnel routinely check-up on student performance over the years and then cross check that with a high school teacher's letter of recommendation and actually correlate the two and logging them toward the specific teacher for future reference seems, to say the least, far-fetched. There are thousands of reasons students may not do well in college unrelated to high school success or failure, I'm a living example of that. The idea that poor high school students cannot do well in higher education is not only a dangerous precedent to set as a teacher, but factually false, with innumerable "success" stories.

    The question for me really comes down to, do I care more about my reputation or students having a chance to continue learning?

    I feel it does no favors when we instill restrictions on a student's potential success in furthering their education.
     
  19. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2007
    Messages:
    14,471
    Likes Received:
    2,488

    Sep 21, 2011

    I would never deny a student's request for a recommendation based on the student's academic performance in my class. There are enough ways to be truthful about the student's struggles and challenges without being negative about it.

    I would, however, deny a recommendation based on a student's behavior in my class. If a student was a jerk, slept all the time, swore at me or other students, spit on the floor, and talked back to me every time I spoke to him, he's not going to get a good recommendation from me. I'd advise him to ask someone else for a recommendation. There's no way I could write a recommendation and not mention those things, just as there's no way to put a positive spin on those things. What am I going to say, that he demonstrated great precision and accuracy while spitting on the floor? Give me a break.

    I'm not hindering a student's academic career by choosing not to recommend him for something based on his behaviors in my classroom. He chose those behaviors and he must therefore choose the consequences. I will not be responsible for his choices. I'm not stopping him from asking someone else, though.
     
  20. TeachAstro

    TeachAstro Rookie

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2009
    Messages:
    46
    Likes Received:
    0

    Sep 21, 2011

    You bring up a very interesting scenario, Caesar. I'm happy to have not experienced that... yet!
     
  21. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2007
    Messages:
    14,471
    Likes Received:
    2,488

    Sep 21, 2011

    No one has ever spit on my floor either. I just chose that as an example of a pretty extreme and inappropriate behavior.
     

Share This Page

Members Online Now

  1. waterfall
Total: 319 (members: 2, guests: 286, robots: 31)
test