I met my third Xangan today, Sunjun. He actually goes to the school where I teach, and probably takes classes from people I know. o-mi-god! He had dropped by and left me a note quite a while ago–a year ago? Two? I forget. But we finally met. Hope he wasn’t too disappointed. If I knew he was coming, I would have wrapped myself in nori seaweed so he’d recognize me right away. As it was, he pretty much recognized me, and I him. He came just before class, so we didn’t get a chance to talk much. Not that I’d give him too much advice on which courses to avoid… Of course, I would tell him to NEVER take a literature class from the O-man. He’d be bored out of his head.
Today, Monday, I got a long distance phone call from a former student asking for a letter of recommendation. You know, I thought I would be free from this once they graduated, but … * sigh * Oh well… I’m pretty strict about writing letters of rec, however. I require that a student had already completed one class with me, three weeks advanced notification, a copy of their transcripts, a copy of the statement of purpose, and a copy of a previous paper–if possible, one that I have already commented on. I have had students accuse me of just making things difficult just so they won’t ask me. Indeed, I don’t want just any student tramping into my office demanding a letter of recommendation. I have guidelines for eligibility on my website at school and direct all inquiries there, and amazingly enough only half of them end up coming to my office–which is another requirement. Getting a letter of recommendation is a privilege, not a right, so a student should ask politely and properly in my office, not after class as an “oh, by the way.” Nor by e-mail. Which is why this student called me from afar–like, what? 9000 miles? How far is Hawaii?
This is not to toot my own horn, but this student told me that her advisor suggested she contact me to get a letter similar to the one I wrote for her to get into grad school. Yes, my letter apparently left an impression. You know, I do things like comment on the students overall ability as reflected in the transcripts. I write about the interests of the student so that it dove-tails with the statement of purpose. I make reference to a paper the student wrote for me, so the reader is impressed by the fact that it was so good that I remembered it months later–although we all know now I had it in my hand when I wrote the letter. You know, I don’t just write letters of recommendation. I craft them, tailor them, to the individual student. So how about a little appreciation, dudes…
Of course, it doesn’t always work. A few years ago, one student was not even selected to be interviewed to the JET program. How pathetic is that?!? Not even an interview? How odd, I thought. Fortunately, she had a back up plan. I had written another letter for her–actually it was the same letter altered just slightly. So instead of going on the JET program, she went to Cambridge University in England on scholarship to study more Japanese stuff. Go figure. She wasn’t good enough for JET, but good enough for Cambridge? If you ask me, JET did her a favor.
Anyway, so when I ask students for these different things for a recommendation, I don’t do it for my health–just in case you may be reading this… which, by the way…
Today, Monday, I also found out a student in my Lit class, reads this blog regularly, a student I am just starting to become familiar with–in that teacher-student kind of way, of course. Oh gawd, I thought all the students who read my blog had graduated. Crap. I can’t go back to writing what I really think. Hahahahha. just kidding.
I also received a message on my Facebook Wall from another student who recently told me she wouldn’t be able to take my Lit class next semester. I told her how sad that made me, and she responded:
Alright, I might be committing academic suicide, but I don’t care. I am taking your class! I will work something out, even if I have to beg the S**** Center!
Aaaaah, the pressure, the pressure…. Back to grading.