I’m very specific in my descriptions of students because I have access to analytical tools and keep extensive records. I can go back several years and pull up records to show not only the students’ academic ability but also their work ethic. Students with several notes from teachers about late assignments–still in the records by the way–may not receive the highly anticipated glowing reference they desire. They maintained a decent grade on raw intellect, but the record shows all was not well.
Grade records and attendance delight me, especially when they reveal a pattern of growth in my students. Often these reports highlight a student’s transition to mature responsibility. As if their struggling ship makes the difficult tack to smooth academic sailing, the student finally heard their teachers’ feedback with new insight, embraced it, and acted. Suddenly, the corrective notes change to praise, and the late penalties disappear. What a joy to write specifically of a student who saw his/her need and then acted on it.
A strong and specific reference often opens doors for students to enter programs and career opportunities they never thought possible.
My greatest joy in teaching usually comes years later when I find out my students have used their academic skills in service to those around them. Nurses, doctors, lawyers, artists, actors, professionals and tradesmen alike once sat in my middle school English classes. I thrill to hear stories of their service and care toward others. Those letters pay off when I see the good works my former students lavish on those around them.
Todd has been preaching through the book of Ephesians, focusing carefully on the structure and meaning of the long sentences that Paul uses to identify and encourage the church in Ephesus. At several points, the book talks about our identity “in Christ,” and it is as if He is our reference letter to God the Father. On one level, it provides great comfort, that I am accepted and loved, and in another, it gives me something to “fill up,” so that my performance is closer to the ideal of being “in Christ.” He motivates me to live up to that letter of recommendation and fulfill all it means to live in Him.
I get to use the feedback given me by my ultimate Rabbi, teacher, adjust my course, and use what He equips me with: every spiritual blessing He can lavish on me. Then I get to give it all away, lavishing the good works He created me for on others. What a privilege!
…and that’s the view from My Front Porch.