Monday, May 15, 2006

What gall.

On Thursday last week, just as I was about to leave College for the long weekend, I get a phone call on my office line. Nothing good has ever come out of answering that phone. I've never won anything, been offered anything or been the 9th caller through to the local radio station. And true to form, the phonecall was an ex student telling me, not asking me, that I had to write her a letter of recommendation.

In my mind, I wonder, didn't I spend many weeks of my life at the end of last term writing testimonials that can be easily passed off as reference, recommendation letters? Apparently, that wasn't enough. But I tell her, I don't have her testimonial. She had it and it was the long weekend and I was about to leave school. Gamely, she offers to type the entire thing out and email it to me. Fine. I'll look at it when I have time. Then the girl stipulates that it has got to be ready by Monday. Crap shit. It was Thursday evening, it was the long weekend and she wanted me to get it printed, aligned (her words, not mine), stamped and given to her first thing Monday morning.

Over the weekend, when I did look at it, I realised I couldn't write the reference for her because it was for a Chinese scholarship and I had to write on her ability and attitude toward the language- something I knew absolutely jack shit about. When I told her this, she told me that I had to write it and her Chinese teacher to write it too. And only at that point, she tells me that she needs two letters and not one.

What? In itself, printing two copies isn't very much more hassle than printing just one. But it was the tone and the expectation and the undisguised surprise that I couldn't get it done immediately that really got my heckles up. Do students really think we sit around and twiddle our thumbs the whole day? That we can wait on their needs every second of the day? It seems like it. Such expectations, so misplaced.

I'm not sure if I should have lost it with the girl, but I did. I'm glad she got a scholarship, I'm more than happy to help her get her scholarship, but shouldn't it be my choice to help? Based on some wildly inaccurate and inappropriate methods of shortlisting instead of her insistence and her shoving it into my face with hardly more than a platitudinal pleasantry.

What I really want to know is if these are the same kids that grow up to do this.

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Ondine tossed this thought in at 09:45

4 thoughts...

4 thoughts...

At 1:00 am Blogger dont said...

This really reminds me of the time i need to call up my ex-tutor in college to ask him to write a letter of recommendation for me. Sometimes we ask at the very last minute because we can't decide which tutor to approach.

But don't teachers just cut and paste from our testimonial? Or at least that was what the teachers at my college do.

At 7:25 pm Blogger threez said...

She sounds perfect for (un)civil service!

Don't write it. Very simple. Tell her you can't because you don't know her Mandarin standard at all. Sorry.

At 11:06 pm Blogger Tym said...

You should've just said, "Since you're so considerate and polite about asking me, I will write a testimonial stating that you have exactly these delightful qualities that I have no doubt will endear you to the scholarship committee."


And did she ask her Chinese tutor herself??

dont > Not all tutors recycle testimonials. And it also depends on the kid, how well the teacher knows him/her. When I was a teacher, where appropriate I tailored specific comments to the institution that I was writing to, as far as I could, so as to (hopefully) improve the student's changes of getting in or getting the scholarship or whatever.

At 9:34 am Blogger Ondine said...

Dont- I don't usually tell students to just use their testimonials. I will write one from scratch for the particular course, scholarship and university.

But that is if they ask nicely. Most of them do. Most of them don't think you owe them. That's the difference.

Threez- Yes, it is very (un)civil service, but she will become a moulder of young minds. I'm not sure if my conscience allows me to do that to the young minds.


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