The lone pilgrim

I don’t think I have ever directly refused to write a recommendation for a student.  Now, though, I have been asked for one by a student whom I don’t think I can recommend.  I’ve written for some very weak students and been able to squeeze out some appreciation for their hard work or the courage it took to speak up in class once in a while or their growth from point a to point b, even if that wasn’t a very great distance.  But about this student I have nothing to say.  He did most of the work and turned most of it in on time, although I had to chase him down for some of it.  Much of the time it was just the minimum necessary to fulfill the assignment’s requirements.  He rarely (maybe never) contributed to discussion unless I explicitly invited his comment, and tended to demur when I did, or give terse, unhelpful responses.  He almost never responded to another student’s idea.  At the same time, he was weirdly arrogant about his writing and his ideas, and would argue with me about my comments on his drafts.

Why is he even asking me? I always treated him kindly, but I was also clear with him about what he needed to do to improve as a writer, and he didn’t do it, and he didn’t take my class particularly seriously.

He was kind of sneaky about the ask, too, emailing me as though he had already asked, instead of hearing me tell another student to bring the appropriate form (“You told us we needed to bring X form; can I bring it tomorrow?”).

I don’t think he would be asking me if he thought he had a better choice, so I’m guessing that he doesn’t have one.  Which is sad.

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Bardiac on September 1, 2015 at 5:16 pm

    That is sad. He probably has no idea, either.


  2. I’ve never directly refused to write for a student, but I have said to some, “Let’s sit down together and figure out what I could say about you. What do you think you did especially well in my course that would distinguish you?” I’ve also said to a couple of students, “It is my obligation to be entirely honest with colleges about students, so I have to tell them about my reservations as well as my praise” … which isn’t actually true, but in one case it was to a student who did quite well in the work of the course but was routinely disrespectful to me and to other students. She got someone else to write her the letter.


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