Denied a Student Recommendation, did I handle it OK?

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

  1. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Sep 21, 2011

    If you don't have anything nice to say about a student, gently suggest that student talk with another teacher. If the student asks why, explain what the deficits are in the class that would impede a less than stellar recommendation.
     
  2. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    Sep 21, 2011

    I have not denied a student recommendation (haven't been asked to write one :D) but the 11th grade English teacher told a senior last yer to never even ask him for a letter of recommendation. He plagiarized twice in his class. I would definitely NOT write a letter in that case.

    Unless the kid is terrible attitude and behavior wise, I plan on writing the letters. I didn't do as well in high school. I got a lot of Bs, a few Cs, and a few As. I went off to college and never got anything lower than a B. I graduated with a 3.89. I know some of our seniors are just completely burned out and can be goof offs but they are good kids and they do get serious when needed.
     
  3. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    I've only had to deny writing a recommendation once, and this was for National Honor Society. The student in question had failed my class first marking period but I had allowed her to go back and complete enough work for a C. She was far behind on her work in the second marking period when she asked for the recommendation. I pointed out that she didn't show the required trait of scholarship in my class but had obviously done well enough with other teachers to ask them for what she wanted. She understood my reasoning and took it seriously enough to yank up her grades high enough to earn a B for the class.
     
  4. Mrs. K.

    Mrs. K. Enthusiast

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    I have, once. The student told me--not asked--via an email that she needed a letter of recommendation for a scholarship within the next three days. She was an uninterested, B- student. I told her that I could not, in good conscience, recommend her as a scholar, and suggested she try another teacher. I got a nasty email from her father in response. I have a feeling she wasn't able to get a letter from any of her teachers.
     
  5. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Sep 21, 2011

    I have never refused to write a letter.

    But I do refuse to lie.

    So if all I can say about a kid is basically that he attended my class, then what I DON'T say will speak volumes. In those very rare cases, I'm up front with the kid: I tell him that I will not lie on his behalf, remind him of his conduct and/or grades in my class, and suggest he try another teacher.

    If I'm the best he can do-- and this has never ever happened-- then I'll write a very bland letter.

    But keep in mind, what's keeping him from a college acceptance is NOT my behavior, it's his own.
     
  6. ScubaSteve

    ScubaSteve Rookie

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    Sep 22, 2011

    Denied one for ASB once, and had no problem doing it. You were spot on. Just lay out the facts with a smile, and invite him or her to ask another teacher.
     
  7. Auter12

    Auter12 Comrade

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    Sep 22, 2011

    I think in many these posts, we've failed to consider the student. I'm going to go out there on a limb and say that most juniors and seniors know who they would get a good recommendation from. The OP mentioned that the student was asked what he would write... He knew that it would not necessarily be all positive. It was probably a shot in the dark that he asked, hoping he would at least get something. Students know if they actually "deserve" (loosely) a recommendation.
    Also, as for recommendation to higher education, I do not believe that it is my obligation to ensure students are able to get into universities - to that extent (education-wise, yes) You can get a higher education from community colleges, trade schools, etc. that do not require letters, and if they need one, go to a teacher in the subject that is sought after.
    Although I would probably not deny a letter, it may not always be of recommendation (more evaluation). Such a letter would probably not end up in a resume packet anyway, so is it not kind of a waste of our time to agree to writing a letter (of evaluation)? Just throwing that one out there.
     
  8. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Sep 22, 2011

    Seriously??

    I think that when it comes to letters of recommendation, the only thing we DO consider is the student. If you're suggesting that we're not considering the student, what ARE we considering?
     
  9. Auter12

    Auter12 Comrade

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    Sep 22, 2011

    For better clarification here: the students' abilities to judge who she/he should ask for the recommendation. These are high schoolers we are talking about. Most of them have a realistic idea of how they performed in a classroom (whether it is for behavior, or grades). The students i have talked to abut recommendations only ask teachers they know will give a good letter. Would you ask for a letter of rec. From an employer you did not perform well for? Probably not. From the OP that student completely understood.
     
  10. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    If we're talking about introspective and self-aware students, this is true. However, I've met plenty of students in my day who don't fit either description.
     
  11. Auter12

    Auter12 Comrade

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    Yes, and those are the students who ask any/every teacher. That is when we would have to direct them to another teacher, deny writing a letter, or explain to them what may/may not be in the letter. Obviously every situation is different, and consideration should be taken with all of them, but GENERALLY, the students should not be surprised if they ask and get a letter that's not ideal or get denied.

    I think we also have an obligation to be realistic with students, esp. in HS. A sugar-coated letter might be nice, but how will that really help in the job market or beyond HS? Nobody sugar coats my performance evaluations. (of course I've never had any criticisms before! Lol;) )
     
  12. linswin23

    linswin23 Cohort

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    Sep 22, 2011

    I've never had to write one yet, but I honestly don't think I could turn a kid down. I'd tell them that I'd be honest in the letter, however.
     
  13. TeachAstro

    TeachAstro Rookie

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    Sep 22, 2011

    Definitely agree with Auter12 that every situation is different and I certainly don't let the students know that I will always write a letter, but recommendations are a ticket to higher educational goals. Even if a student wasn't great in my class it doesn't mean they won't thrive in college, or an internship, or a job. And even if a student ends up doing poorly at a place my letter of recommendation allowed him/her to attend, will that make me feel bad? Absolutely not. I'll say it again, I care more about students having the opportunity to continue their education (and internships/jobs/societies all further education in a way) then any effect on my reputation.
     
  14. clarnet73

    clarnet73 Moderator

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    Sep 22, 2011

    I had a TA in my room last year who was interested in a letter of recommendation to get a job at the sped co-op. To be honest, I was less than impressed with her. I think she had great intentions, but needed a LOT of hand-holding and has a big mouth. I definitely understand that when you work with people without much experience, they need training... but when I've told you the exact same thing for the last 2 weeks, I don't feel that i should have to continue to tell you the same thing when the direction was "every day, I need..."or "would you please make sure.." I shouldn't need to repeat it ad nauseum.

    Sh asked me if I would write her a rec. letter, and I had otld her I'd think about it... I was fully expecting her to ask me again... I think my answer would have been something about not being in my room long enough THIS YEAR (the last month or so of school, when it became too much for two of us)... she didn't ask again, and is apparently hurt that I didn't offer one. I don't really feel bad, because it wouldn't have been glowing...
     
  15. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    But doesn't that mean that the next time you do write an honestly glowing letter, it will be taken less seriously??

    I'm all for giving my kids every opportunity I can, but not to the extent of lying. My word means a lot to me. And so do all those students I can honestly say have a strong work ethic and a good chance of finding success in college. But if I gush on about the non-existant strengths of poor students, at some point my letters will be worthless. Then those students who really do get a strong recommendation from me will be hurt.
     
  16. TeachAstro

    TeachAstro Rookie

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    Sep 22, 2011

    I never implied lying, anywhere. In fact I specifically spoke against lying. There are plenty of positive traits you can discuss and, yes, recommend, that don't include a student's academics. I truthfully and wholeheartedly feel (and so too, I think should all teachers!) that all my students have the capacity to be great and therefore I recommend them.

    And again I don't buy into this notion that institutions are looking at my letter, comparing it to a student's performance on a regular basis, and then pinpointing that lack of success as evidence that I somehow misrepresented them. Not even considering the logistical nature of the thousands of organizations that exist in which students may use recommendations for and the probability that enough of my letters are reaching them and they have the time and manpower to form some stacked consensus, it is completely absurd for schools/internships/jobs to simply equivocate a child's lack of success immediately toward some theoretically dishonest letter.

    I got into the best public school in the country and did poorly, not because some teacher misrepresented me in a letter of recommendation but because I was diagnosed with a brain tumor requiring hospitalization, brain surgery, radiation therapy, hormone replacement, and more doctor/MRI/lab visits than I can possibly remember. Schools and institutions are smart enough to realize that life happens, they weren't somehow duped by a high school teacher.
     
  17. Mrs. K.

    Mrs. K. Enthusiast

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    While it may be true that all students have the capacity to be great, a letter of recommendation can only be based on our experiences with a student. We're not prescient; there's no way we can honestly predict a poorly-performing student's future success. My students in general are quite wonderful, but every year I have a few about whom I could say very little that is positive.

    And if institutions aren't taking our letters seriously, why do they continue to require them?
     
  18. TeachAstro

    TeachAstro Rookie

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    I think that unless teachers are coming to the conclusion that their students are truly stupid (and I don't use that term lightly) and/or completely incapable of achievement (a disturbing thought) then surely they can write something! If a teacher has very few positive things to say maybe they should get to know their students; figure out what's impeding their success. Surely I'm not the only teacher who spends time to get to know students, both the excelling and the failing. I'm not asking teachers to be prescient, I'm asking them to consider potential greatness (improvement, at the least), even when their seems to be none, and not give up on a child because of one's limited time associating with them. I ask that teachers don't refuse to give a student a chance at turning things around.

    And I am not saying that letters of recommendation aren't important. If I thought this was the case I wouldn't be writing them! I'm arguing that writing recs for less-than-academically-stellar students (which many of you seemed to be opposed to) won't somehow make you a bad teacher or looked down on. And if it does... who cares?
     
  19. kcjo13

    kcjo13 Phenom

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    Sep 22, 2011

    If I had a student who didn't excel academically, but I knew tried as hard as he could and was achieving all he was capable of, I'd write the letter. But if a student was under achieving in my class because he was a problem behaviorally, was lazy, or was uninterested, no way. I think that is where we are having a disconnect, Astro. If a student truly deserves a reward such as a scholarship or an internship, then his actions should reflect that deservedness.
     
  20. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Sep 23, 2011

    As I've said, I've never refused a kid a letter. And I have written a few that required a lot of creative juices, since the strenghts I've been able to point out are NOT in the area of academics. So I've highlighted the other things about that kid that I hope will make him or her a success in life-- for example, his persistance or her desire to do well.

    But what I won't say is that that kid who barely squeaked by in my class is a strong student.

    And it's not because someone else will look down on me. It's because I don't lie. My word means something to me.
     

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