High school student: U R doin' it rite!

Last weekend, I received an e-mail from a high school student asking for help with a research project on a topic clearly in my field.  For those of you taking notes on how to contact complete strangers to ask for their help, here’s how you do it:

Dear Dr. Historiann:

I am a Local High School Student doing a research project on Famous First Lady, and wondered if you might be able to meet with me this week to provide me with a few quotes relative to her ideals, influence during the time period, and overall influence on history/the modern world. It would also be a great help to me if you wouldn’t mind reading the essay, too (either beforehand or during the meeting).  A copy of it is attatched to this message, should this be agreeable to you.  If either this week or the meeting itself don’t work out with your schedule, I completely understand. Thank you for your time!


Sally Sincere

(If you recall, we’ve already covered how not to ask strangers for help, high school edition here and grad school edition here and here.)

And indeed, Sally appended a 10-page research paper to the e-mail, including a very respectable bibliography (and she used endnotes correctly!)  So, convinced that this was not just another “will you complete my homework assignment for me?” e-mail like we all receive on a regular basis, I said that I had some time Friday afternoon too meet with her.  Sally came by to interview me yesterday–although I’m not an expert in the Famous First Lady of course, I learned more about the requirements for this research project and answered her as best I could from my perspective as an early American women’s historian.  And then she and her mother presented me with a lovely flower arrangement!

Now, the flowers are very nice but truly unnecessary.  I was happy to encourage interest in my field in a serious high school student, and pleased to return her courtesy.  But the courteous initial contact and showing me the research she had already done were key.  Good luck, Sally!

0 thoughts on “High school student: U R doin' it rite!

  1. Wow–very impressive. Any way that this student can pass Go and head directly to a tenure-track position? Or at least one of my upper-division undergraduate courses? It’d be nice to have a few more college students to point to and say, “See, here’s how you do it!”

    And don’t fool yourself: flowers are always necessary. Candy, too, if you can get away with it.


  2. Y’all must be raisin’ ’em right, er, rite, out there on the High Plateau! This is a question–how to do it right and thus hopefully get apprenticed into actual intellectual practice–that maybe deserves to move beyond the b’sphere into a dialogue with the K-12 borg. I spent a delightful day in the company of 270 (their count) middle schoolers about a month ago. Some disciplines, anyway, including history, at their national organization levels, are reaching out toward “outreach” to K-12 practitioners. They would probably be receptive to this kind of feedback. Did’ja also tweak Sally a little toward the concept that U don’t have to be “famous” to be a subject of historical curiosity? Rite-on to tha’ mom, too!


  3. My local high school system has a requirement that seniors complete a project in their area of interest, and to do so they work with a mentor in their field. As a result, I have had an experience similar to yours with Sally Sincere that I thoroughly enjoyed.

    Spending time with my mentee was not only fun for me and a nice break from my usual routines, but challenging because she asked smart questions. She did all the work, and the final product required very little tweaking on my part. Better yet, some things she chose not to tweak, so that not only was I not being asked to do her project for her, she was willing to take responsibility for doing the job her way.


  4. Such nice protocol in a high-school student is impressive – but I’d be satisfied if my undergraduates were just able to write this well. “Should this be agreeable to you” indeed!


Let me have it!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s