It’s that time of year again. Time for student evaluations and for students to ask for letters of reference. I frankly enjoy writing letters of reference. It’s part of my job, and one of the things that is nice about education is watching people go on to achieve their dreams. At least, I hope they’re going to go on and achieve their dreams.
I am disturbed about some parts of the evaluation process. Frankly, I’m not all that thrilled about anonymous evaluations, or anonymous comments in general. While I understand the desire to vent some spleen, (and if you’ve ever had your spleen vented, you know how painful it can be) I really don’t think it’s appropriate in the graduate/professional school setting. I know I do not do everything right the first time, and I welcome constructive feedback.
Part of making it constructive, though, is owning your words. Students have different learing styles. If I know what worked better for some folks, when I get colleagues that are have similar styles I can go to a different string to my bow. I know some students fear retaliation-anonymity never really brings out the best in people.
Be that as it may after the fold are my requestMany students ask me for letters of recommendation. I am happy to provide them. I ask though, that you understand what you’re getting into and I do ask for a little help from you. This makes my task easier and helps me write the best letter of recommendation for you.
1. I do not want any part of anonymous letters. If you ask me for a letter, you will get a copy. I don’t write anything, ever, in a professional context that I would not sign my name to.
2. If I feel I cannot give you a good recommendation, I will tell you to your face.
3. As a corollary, I do appreciate feedback on how to make my class better. That information is useful, and I do modify my classes depending on the feedback I receive. I do ask, though, that you do me the courtesy of doing it face-to-face.
4. When you ask for a letter, I appreciate a note giving me the following information:
a. What position you are applying for
b. What particularly are you trying to emphasize
c. What is your résumé, particularly how well you did in my class
d. An addressed, STAMPED envelope. Make sure the person to whom the letter is going has the name spelled correctly. Make sure you get the name of the program/company/job/university correct. I don’t know them, and this will vastly improve your chances of acceptance.