Four years ago, I taught Advanced English I, and last year, I taught most of those same students in IB English 3. I've gotten close with several students, and have a cartload of letters of recommendation to complete. The deadline for many of them is December 1, and, really, they take a long time, especially when you really like the kid. This is Daffy's. Pearl's - perhaps to be posted tomorrow - was also a doozy. Both left me with tears in my eyes; these are great kids that are moving on, and I'll miss them. A handful of this group, I hope, maintains contact with me for the rest of their lives.
I have two more letters of rec to finish before tomorrow afternoon. They take me at least an hour each to finish, and today - attempting to complete them while readying tomorrow's start to the Fences unit - they kept me at school until after 8pm. The Journalism teacher came down, asked me why the hell I was still there, and I made myself walk out with him. We were the last two cars in the parking lot. But I didn't feel like I worked hard. Maybe because I have a stack of grading that I just haven't gotten to yet.
I hope I've anonymized this enough. I've changed some wording here and there in the final copy:
To whom it may concern:
I am full of pride as I recommend an outstanding student and person, Daffy Duck, to your learning institution. Daffy is one of the most memorable students to cross my path during the seven years I have been teaching English at Daffy Duck High School, and I am confident that his dedication, insightfulness, and skills in writing and speaking will greatly benefit your institution should he be accepted.
I have known Daffy for four years, teaching him in two advanced courses (English I Honors and IB English III). Through this time, I have had the pleasure of getting to know this young man as both a student and a person. Daffy is a sensitive soul – an old soul, if you will – and this sensitivity informs his approach both in the hallways and the classroom. He is perceptive and reflective far beyond his years, and these traits are meshed with strong academic skills and work ethic, to produce a student who is a pleasure to have in a classroom.
As a ninth grader, Daffy was a perceptive young man who worked hard and produced good work for me. He received outstanding grades – in the upper 10% of his class – throughout the course, but he made his mark on my memory in several other ways. At 14, Daffy was driven but modest. He had taken the SAT in middle school, he told me, and wanted extra work to improve his critical thinking skills. Throughout the year, his question to me was always, “Was that too literal?” and, often, it was. But Daffy’s drive and attention to detail eventually won out, and he started being able to construct effective thesis statements and start saying interesting things about the literature we read.
After the ninth grade, I continued to keep close tabs on Daffy’s success; he’s one of those kids that a teacher really roots for, because he is what Daffy Duck school is all about – a hard-working smart kid with some roughness around the edges, and a student who will be a first generation student at a major university. As expected, Daffy did well in English II Honors. At the end of the course, both that teacher and I recommended Daffy for International Baccalaureate English III, a rigorous course that incorporates several externally-assessed oral and written assessments. Over the summer, I was surprised to find that I would be teaching that advanced course, and of course looked forward to Daffy being on my class list again. The course was demanding, but Daffy did well; despite added pressures in his life (his mother charges him rent, forcing him to get a job, at which he sometimes works 30-40 hours a week), he came through every time with high-quality essays and presentations. The IB program rigorously assesses both oral and written work, and Daffy works hard at both. He consistently comes off as engaging and genuine in both his writing and speaking – a somewhat rare trait for a 16-year old when talking about literature. The IB English is taught only at the Higher Level at Daffy Duck school, and students are required to work very hard, and even with Daffy’s stressful schedule, he was always a pleasure to have in the classroom.
Writing a letter of recommendation for Daffy Duck is a difficult task. Not because I will struggle with things to write (on the contrary, it will be difficult to keep this to one page), but because my task is to make it known to a college - any college, in fact (I'm that confident in Daffy's potential to be a scholar) - that it would be very lucky to have this young man enroll. There is a consistent undercurrent of respect and genuine esteem for this young man throughout the faculty of Daffy Duck School; we will all miss him. And I could go on and on about this student’s accomplishments – a canvasser for the Maryland Democratic Party, member of the National Honor Society, President of the Model UN – but know this most of all: Daffy Duck is a student with extraordinary potential. He is extremely hard-working and honest, and he combines it with a genuine intellectual curiosity rare for a high school student. I look forward to watching him continue to grow and become a productive member of society, and recommend him without reservation to your university. Please contact me at XXX if you have any questions.
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