Friday, March 15, 2013

The Dreaded LOR. (Letter of Recommendation.)

I had her last year in my Intro to Freshman Hamsterology class.  Sullen, angry, often disruptive. Intelligent but troubled, serious problems with authority, saw me as a daddy-figure to rebel against.

I wouldn't say I disliked her, since she kind of reminded me of a younger me, but she made the class a hell of a lot harder than it needed to be for me and her and everyone else.

So this shows up in my mailbox:
"Dear Professor Chiltepin.  I was wondering if you had the time to maybe write me a letter of recommendation. You're the best professor I've ever had, and I learned so much from you.  I'd really appreciate it!"

No indication for what, or when it was needed, but most importantly --



Okay, here goes:

To Whom It May Concern:
Susie attended class regularly and on time.  She participated in discussion and contributed valuable insights.  Her insights would have been more valuable if she had read the assigned reading.
She contributed to other students' education by loudly and regularly explaining "what a joke" higher education was, and flouting the professor's authority at every turn.  She offered helpful advice on everything from the professor's handwriting to his wardrobe.  She was driven in class, even aggressive, even confrontational, even mean.
She exhibited creativity by never following formatting requirements, once turning in an in-class writing assignment on a used napkin.
Someday, I am sure, Susie will grow up.  That hasn't happened yet, though, so if you are looking to hire an adult you may wish to wait before you send Susie down to talk bennies with HR.
Prof. Chiltepin


  1. Perfect. Too bad she didn't leave you an address. :)

  2. Ugh. The first year I taught full time I had to completely bust some student for plagiarizing an essay. Oh, how she snivelled awkwardly in my office. And the next term she asks for a rec letter! I was confused. "I might not be your best bet, here. . ."

  3. Oh my god.

    I once had a student try to turn in an assignment on napkin once too! It was an essay/project sort of thing, so I just looked stunned, shook my head, and said "No" when he tried to hand it to me.

    1. I have never been as angry as a teacher as I was when that happened. Normally, even when I pretend to be angry, I'm really not particularly. I'm a calm person in general. But I was furious. Literally all-I-could-do-not-to-throw-things furious.

      I took the damn thing, said "no" just as you did, and threw it in the trash.

      It's so far beyond disrespectful. It's a deliberate attempt to humiliate me, and you know what? I went to grad school. I've had enough humiliation.

  4. I, too, have had students who were involved in cheating, disruptive behavior and other endeavors very unabashedly ask for recommendations. My response was... "you might want to ask someone with whom you had a more positive experience". I think they think a recommendation is a given, included in the price of tuition.

    1. I just had a cheater ask to be a connection on LinkedIn. I'm sure that this is a precursor to a letter of recommendation. Not a chance in hell!!!

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Replies
    1. Letter of Recommendation.

      A thing I only write for ex-KGB officers.

  6. Stinky is a diligent and talented student.

    I'm sure that in the colder climate of Canuckistan his body odour will be much less pronounced.


  7. I have not had this happen yet! I'll wait for it though! Other than the lovely students I WANT to write letters for, I often get the ones who drove me crazy, asking about every blessed thing, complaining about every grade, challenging every less than 100. I hate those types. Often they do well in my class because I do allow rewrite after rewrite after rewrite, but they are sniveling jerks who need to be told even to breathe or they'd forget, die, and then sue you for not reminding them to do it from beyond the grave. Instead of saying no, I write them a letter which says they will thrive in a supportive enough environment.

  8. That's a great letter, Chiltepin. Like Bella, this hasn't happened to me yet, either, but I do consider it inevitable.

    What HAS happened to me, repeatedly, falls more along the lines of students asking me for a letter for some program that my own background doesn't match. I'll get a student who wants to apply for a grad program in Fine Hamster Fur Weaving, for instance, when my degree was in Rodent Fur Studies. Generally I plead ineptitude to the task, both because I didn't come through one of these programs and because their work in my classes had nothing to do with the actual hamster fur weaving practices they aim to pursue at the graduate level. So far, no one seems to have taken offense when I explain things this way, and I guess they've all followed my advice to seek letters from proffies who have gone through programs more similar to what they want to do.

  9. I get about three requests for LORs a year (summer internships, grad school), but it is always from the top students, so I'm happy to write them.

    Earlier this semester though, a student I taught last year came to my office to ask for one. He hadn't done particularly well in the class, but I said okay, thinking I'd write a noncommittal one. I also asked him to send me a copy of his academic history. I always ask for that, since it gives me a better idea of the person's interests and strengths, and in most cases something good to write about, beyond my limited contact with them. I have yet to hear from him, so maybe he changed his mind.

  10. I actually had a student ask me for (1)a LOR and (2)if he could just list me as a reference on his resume in case employers wanted to ask me about his skills. I said, and I was not tactful about it, "NO". He asked why, and I let him know that I did not, and would not, give a reference to a student who (1) missed 1/3 of his classes with me EACH term he had me, (2) failed each class he had with me once, and (3) did not turn in any assignments in any of my classes. He then said, "I wouldn't give one to someone like that either. But what does that have to do with ME?" I almost spit out my coffee. He was totally deluded. I told him "That IS you, and under no circumstances will I give you a LOR or can you list me as a reference. You would get a very unfavorable report from me."

    The idiot listed me as a reference. 'Nuff said on that!

  11. Of all the requests, one stands out to me. It came from a student I had twice. The first course started at 11:00 a.m. The student was a decent writer, but he could not make it to class or turn in an assignment on time to save his life. It was as if he had his own time zone. I'm not talking coming in a minute or five minutes late; I mean at least 10-15 minutes late, sometimes more, every single 50-minute class, and papers shoved under my door at the end of the work day when he thought I wouldn't be there.

    After earning a D the first time out, he blissfully disappeared from my life, or so I thought. I had a class that didn't make a year later and ended up having to take a night class from an adjunct. When I walked in, there sat Mr. Unique Time Zone, who immediately became visibly ill. He had managed to score a seat in Easy A Adjunct's class the term after our encounter and then signed up with him again for the second half of Hamster Essay Writing. He and his fellow slackers were so disconcerted by seeing me instead of what they'd paid for that they were in the assistant chairperson's office at break demanding I be replaced with their chosen deliverer of grades. They were stuck with me, and most came out actually admitting they'd learned something...except for Mr. Unique Time Zone, who had very distinctive handwriting and said he would "never, under any circumstances" take another class with me. That's an actual choice on our student evals, and one my chair at the time took very seriously as a measure of quality instruction.

    A couple of weeks later, I had an email and three phone calls from Mr. Unique Time Zone demanding a letter of reference so he could transfer to Obscure Cheap State University in the Middle of the Fucking Desert. He didn't even ASK; it was "I need you to do this for me." Well, it never got done, so I have no idea if he ever achieved his sandy scholarly dreams.