A Letter of Reference

Letter of Reference

Over the years I was often asked by students to write letters of reference for scholarships, jobs and acceptance into programs. I never really enjoyed doing so; however, I was happy to help out. I suppose if I wasn’t asked to provide references I would have been disappointed.

When asking a teacher to provide a reference letter, there are, in fact, two questions that should be posed. The first question is, “If asked to provide me a reference would it be a good one?”. If the answer to that question is, “Yes”, then ask the teacher if s/he would write the letter. I would often tell my students that I was willing to write a reference for anyone, but for some it wouldn’t be complimentary. Twenty-five years ago a student needed a letter of reference. He didn’t ask the first question.

This particular student was somewhat troubled. He was negative, snarky and, at times, rude. It was a grade 11 chemistry class filled with keen and dedicated students. He really stood out as an anomaly. He ended up quitting school before the end of the semester; however, before he left he approached me and asked if I would provide a reference for him. He was applying for acceptance into the army reserve. I said, “Sure. I can provide a reference for you.”

Now, I didn’t want to jam the guy up, but I also did not want to sugar-coat the letter. I figured that time in the military might actually be a good fit for him. Here is the letter, almost word for word:

. . . . . . . .

Canadian Forces Recruiting Centre

123 Prince William St.

Saint John, NB

Dear Sir or Madam:

I am providing this reference for Basil Bloggins of 456 Gunner St, Quispamsis NB. I understand that he is applying for acceptance into the Canadian Forces Army Reserve.

Basil is a student in my Chemistry 11 course and I have known him for two months. I believe that experience in the military would serve him well.

If I can be of any further assistance in this process please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours truly,

. . . . . . .

The good news is, he was accepted.

A few years back, our paths crossed. He told me about his experiences over the years. I asked him how things worked out in the military. He told me he didn’t last too long.

I guess I wasn’t surprised.

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