Friday, February 27, 2009

Recommendations Are Possibly Not So Bad

In other recommendation letters news, I wrote a recommendation for my friend Lala the other day. Lala wants to go to the Summer Arts Institute and she needed a recommendation, so I did it for her. Unless the application specifies that I return it to the family sealed or send it directly to the institution involved, I usually just give the letter to the child. I did this for Lala.

Lala told me the next day that her parents loved the letter so much that they photocopied it and put it on their fridge. In turn, I had to admit that I carry around a letter of recommendation from a college professor of mine in my wallet, on a daily basis, even today. It makes me feel better when I feel blue.

This week I've been thinking about how we sometimes don't tell people how much we appreciate them, how highly we think of them. Teachers at my school tend not to be very...well, affectionate is not the right word, quite, but...there is much more emphasis on keeping kids humble than on making them feel good. Now I know the perils of artificially high self-esteem, and certainly there are kids (I'm looking at you, G) who need to be gently reminded from time to time that they are perhaps not God's gift to New York City. But kids need genuine positive reinforcement that is founded on, you know, facts. Kids should be praised when they do well, and treated with kindness in general.

There is also a lack of building each other up as colleagues. I feel like I make an effort to compliment my colleagues, thank them, and try to call others' attention to good things they are doing. I have a colleague who's sort of perpetually kind of in trouble, and I always make a point to acknowledge good ideas I've stolen from him if someone compliments me on something of his that I'm doing. And it's kind of sad when you don't feel that energy returned.

I guess my point, without getting too specific about recent events and possibly giving myself away, is that eventually it's going to be too late to tell someone how you really feel. And that, as annoying as writing those letters can get, I'm glad to have the opportunity to give something concrete to kids that shows how highly I think of them. I'd like to write a "recommendation" letter for each of my students at the end of this year.