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Can I assume that a reference letter will be a good one if a prof agrees to write it?


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Basically the title. I'm applying for a few teaching focused positions this year, and besides a letter from my advisor, I need one specifically addressing my teaching. I taught with my advisor most of my time in grad school, so I really only have two other options: Prof A, who I TA'd for, in a class where I did almost all of the discussion section planning, which I got great evaluations & an email of praise from the prof for, but where the prof was mostly hands off (never observed lessons or advised on lesson planning); or Prof. B, who I worked much more closely with, but who I think I had some pedagogical disagreements with. Nothing major at all, and students always responded well to everything I did, but I always had a vague feeling--emphasis on the vague--that prof didn't think I was actually very good at the job. 
 
My advisor strongly suggested I ask prof B, not only because I worked more closely with her, but also because she's well-known for her teaching, designing the kinds of courses (interdisciplinary) I'm applying to teach, and if it weren't for that vague feeling, I'd agree that she'd be in a better position to speak to my teaching. A friend suggested that just asking Prof. B couldn't hurt, suggesting that she wouldn't say yes if she didn't think she could write a good letter for me - in which case I could fall back on prof A. This is something I've heard before, but I'm still anxious about the possibility that I might get something tepid--or worse--from her. So I was curious what others' thoughts on this might be! Thanks!
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  • 2 weeks later...

From what I've heard, it can be useful to frame it in a different way, asking them: "would you be able to write a strong letter of reference with regard to xyz," instead of just asking for a letter of reference. This gives them more space to say no if they think their letter would not be strong.

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