Explanation Wanted

Here’s the situation.  Imagine a student who took only one course with me, a year ago or more.  I didn’t know this student well then–the student’s attendance was spotty, or the student participated infrequently when in class, or the student never talked to me outside of class, or at length, or about anything substantive or personal.  The student’s course grade, B- or C+, was substantially below the class average of B+.  We have no contact during many months or years after the student graduates.  Then one day I receive an email from this student who says my course was their favorite course at BU, they remember it well, and can I write them a recommendation letter for law school or graduate school or a job?

What is this student thinking?  Do they-

  • not remember their mediocre performance in the course?
  • think I do not remember or have no way of recalling their mediocre performance in the course?
  • think, like one of those delusional cat-screech singers on American Idol, that they actually performed at the top of their class?
  • think I have no standards?
  • think I’m a sap?
  • truly have no other class in which they performed better and ask me because they actually enjoyed the class?

Seriously, I am perplexed.  In almost every case I can say something positive in a recommendation letter–and actually mean it when I say it, which is important–but I need raw material to work with.  I need a memorable performance in some component of a course, or insights that come from knowing more about a student than their name, or belief in a student’s work ethic or values . . . or something.

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