No matter how often I tell students that grades are, at best, a secondary concern, they generally remain students’ (and parents’) primary focus. What follows is the letter of recommendation I would most like to be able to write for a student (or the letter I would be most proud to have written for one of my own children). Teachers, please share it with your students if you agree. Parents, let schools know these are the real standards you would like for students.
To Whom It May Concern:
I have had the pleasure of working with _____________ over the past year as his/her teacher. Seeing the growth that he/she made through consistent effort and persistence in the face of struggle, I am happy to recommend him/her for the volunteer opportunity/job/internship/other position he/she is seeking. The skills and character he/she demonstrated shows his/her readiness to tackle whatever challenges he/she may face. Class wasn’t only about completing the assignments to him/her. Class was about honing skills, exploring content, and developing into an even better person.
Although he/she received mostly B’s and C’s on tests, projects, and assignments, his/her effort and participation were always exemplary. These tests, projects, and assignments were a genuine challenge for him/her, and the grades—while not inherently impressive—are the result of genuine effort and are something to be proud of. Or maybe he/she got all A’s and was nearly perfect on everything he/she did in class. But an A was never enough, because those A’s were easily attained and he/she knew that real learning and effort were more important than getting a good grade. In other words, grades only begin to tell the story; ultimately, the thing that mattered most was improvement and challenging him/herself to do his/her best.
Even more important than academics were the consistent positive characteristics he/she demonstrated. He/she was prompt and prepared, involved and enthusiastic. He/she took pride in his/her work as could be seen in the careful formatting and neatness of even the most basic assignments. He/she respected the classroom by keeping it neat and orderly; respected others in the classroom by being kind, listening to others’ opinions, and helping others whenever possible; and respected the teacher by listening to instructions, following directions, and even at times challenging the teacher. Or maybe he/she struggled with one or more aspects of character; maybe he/she came in with some bad habits to overcome or a life that presented its own seemingly insurmountable challenges—but made such positive strides so as to make the new and improved student unrecognizable to the one who started the year.
For all these reasons—as well as the uniqueness of the individual, who brought his/her own interests, curiosity, and personality, who is comfortable, but not content, with the person he/she is and is secure enough to allow others to be themselves as well—I wholeheartedly recommend him/her.