Letter of Recommendation vs. Verbal Reference

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Early spring semester is a really good time to start taking action on choosing folks for references and letters of recommendations.

Who you choose to serve as a reference is completely up to you (well, and the people you’re asking)! In general, you want to pick 3-4 people who can speak about your professionalism, work ethic, capabilities in the classroom, skills/qualities, character, etc. Plan on choosing those who have seen you in action – such as your mentor teacher, a student’s parent; people in supervisory positions – a principal or former supervisor from a part-time or summer job; as well as MSU faculty – especially those who have seen you in action with a study abroad or cohort program. They do not have to all be from the teaching profession. Some of the best references can be from something you did outside of your teacher prep training.

So who do you ask to serve as a reference and who do ask to write you a letter of recommendation? That again is up to you. But keep in mind, a letter is written and a reference often is spoken (via phone call). Choose someone who you believe will write well for the letter of rec and someone who can speak well to serve as a reference. My best advice is to share your most updated resume with anyone who is writing a letter or serving as a reference for you. They will need a little reminder of all your wonderful achievements.

A few final thoughts:

  • Your references should be communicated with ahead of time so they know they may be contacted on your behalf. It is not cool to get blindsided by a school district calling to ask about you! No one likes to feel unprepared.
  • Have a list of references (with contact information – job title, where they work, phone number, email – and relationship to you) ready to go in case a school district asks for it. Give this document the same header, font, and style as your resume so it becomes a useful “third page” of your resume packet.
  • Not all school districts will ask for a list of reference, but it’s always good to have them handy in case you are asked to provide this.
  • Generic letters of recommendation may be shared as a part of your portfolio.
  • Be aware that some positions may ask for a very specific letter of rec, focusing on certain details or experiences in which a “generic” letter may not work. You may be asking some of your networks to provide multiple letters. Make sure you have an excellent relationship with them!
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