Letters of recommendation are likely not something a middle school teacher deals with that much. That’s more in the realm for high school teachers, coaches, mentors, employers, and so forth.
Middle school teachers can be a great choice for a letter of recommendation if it has not been too long since you were in middle school, or if the teacher has continued to be part of your life after middle school.
Here are a couple things to consider when in the process of deciding who can write a good letter of recommendation and how to request a letter of recommendation, as well as what a letter of recommendation is and why they’re a valuable resource for you to utilize.
Why a Middle School Teacher Isn’t the Best Fit for Choosing Who to Write a Letter of Recommendation
The reason that a middle school teacher isn’t a good fit for writing a letter of recommendation is because they can’t give the most updated perspective on what the applicant is like. Usually, the need for a letter of recommendation arises in high school, at the earliest, when students need letters of recommendation for applications to college or to apply for a job. And for most jobs a student might acquire in high school, they only need a reference, not a letter of recommendation (meaning, they just put a teacher, coach, or mentor who is a phone call away and can unofficially vouch for the student).
While it’s likely that a middle school teacher won’t say no to a freshman or sophomore student requesting a letter of recommendation, they may think it a little outdated or unhelpful (and they might even say no to someone older than that). But there are always exceptions to these rules, so don’t feel scared to ask just in case—the worst they can say is no, which is not as bad as some may think.
The only legitimate way a middle school teacher could write a letter of recommendation is if another middle school teacher needed a reference for a job or position. Which in that case, it would be more of a colleague to colleague letter of recommendation, rather than a teacher one. Besides that, you are probably better off asking a teacher you’ve had more recently, a coach, or a mentor.
What Is a Letter of Recommendation
A letter of recommendation shows what a resume, transcript, or rank of a person could never grasp fully—it shows the character and quality of the person. It’s written by someone who knows the person well (the closer and the more positive the relationship, the better). It’s usually written by a teacher, employer, colleague, coach, mentor, professor, or anyone else who can vouch for this applicant.
Letters of recommendation are written so that the job or school the applicant is applying for can get a better idea of who this person is beyond what is said about them on their resume. If they are able to get a glimpse of what they are like from the eyes of those who have worked with them for a while and know them well, they can more easily get an idea of what they will be like to work with and if they’re a good fit for their job or school.
They won’t always be positive though, so when choosing the writer of a letter of recommendation for you, make sure you choose wisely. Just because you asked them to write you a letter of recommendation, doesn’t mean they are required to write a good one.
Why You Need a Letter of Recommendation
Letters of recommendation can make all the difference between if someone is considered for a job or school. If the applicant has good letters of recommendation, it can be the thing that tips them over the edge to the admissions office or worker to accept them. But if the letters of recommendation are filled with warnings or other negative attributes the applicant may possess, then it can tip the admissions office to denying the applicant into their work or school.
Grades, skills, awards, and other attributes on a resume are extremely important of course, but if a letter of recommendation shows the admissions office or worker that the applicant is hard to work with or has a toxic personality, those hard skills on a resume will mean nothing.
Because ultimately, what this worker or student produces should not be as important as how they work with their colleagues and classmates. If workers don’t get along, it’s difficult to be productive or effective as a team.
How to Decide Who Writes a Letter of Recommendation
The best way to decide who writes a letter of recommendation is to consider who is 1) your superior (or equal, if you’re asking a colleague) in a job, class, or other position, 2) if you’re close to them, and 3) are on good terms with them. If you can find someone who fills all three of your requirements, you’re almost guaranteed to have a good candidate to write you a letter of recommendation!
If you can’t find someone who fills all three, the next best option to consider would be to find someone who’s your superior and who knows you (or is willing to meet with you so that they can know enough about you to write a letter of recommendation).
However, it’s not preferred to find yourself in this position. So, if you’re in a new job, class, or project, find ways to get to know your superiors and have them get to know you. That way, when the time comes, hopefully you’ve invested enough in your relationship so that they can write you a recommendation that will help you with future school applications or job applications.
How to Request a Letter of Recommendation
The most important thing to consider when requesting a letter of recommendation from a superior or colleague is to approach the topic with respect and humility. Recognize that this is something that will take up time from the superior or colleague, as well as something that puts their name on the line since they are vouching for your character.
A good practice if possible to implement would be to send the superior or colleague directly to the application website or admissions office (some schools or jobs provide this option already). This way, you never see what they write about you, which will help the superior or colleague feel more comfortable sharing their honest opinion and even accepting the task in the first place.