Teacher gifts! I didn’t get into the profession for them, but they sure are nice! Or at least, I imagine them to be nice!
Teacher gifts are a funny thing. Haywee reminded me today that we got into the wrong age bracket if we wanted teacher gifts, when I was talking about a friend of mine making one of those cool crayon monograms for her son’s teacher. I can imagine that’s true, since buying a gift for one teacher is much more economical than seven teachers.
It also seems to be a socioeconomic thing, and a cultural thing at that. My mom had gifts for our teachers every year, but that’s probably due to the fact that she was a teacher too, and understood. It was never anything crazy expensive – maybe a personalized ornament, or in our later years, a loaf of artisanal cinnamon raisin bread from a local bakery.
The school we attended (and my mom worked at) is 74% Asian and per greatschools.org, only has 11% of students on free or reduced lunch, if that gives you an idea of the crowd. Megan Dub-Yuh recently noted that in Korea, she gets gifts from students and parents all of the time, for non-holidays as well as holidays, and she teaches older students. That was on par with my mom’s experience. She used to bring home a box or two (maybe even three) of gifts from her students. BOXES. Like, as in the kind you get reams of paper out of! I used to go through it all, help her unwrap, and try to cherry pick (you can imagine how well that went over). She used to get mugs, dolls from Asian countries, bath and body products, boxes of See’s Candies, and even a $50 g/c to Nordstrom one time. She hauled. But she’d been teaching since 1976 and was well-loved throughout the school community. Couple that with a good 150 – 180 students and she was bound to clean up.
That sort of experience doesn’t happen in my world. In California, I had a significant number of students from lower income families, and since leaving, I have high numbers of either military or low income families. Throw in the fact that I don’t have large class sizes (in comparison to general education teachers), and you can see why I don’t tend to get gifts. The funny thing about that is that we put more time and effort into your child as their case manager than a general education teacher does, since they only see them 50 minutes a day. SpEd teachers have to build a relationship with a student and their family, in order to better serve them and meet their academic, social, and emotional needs.
No matter though. There’s many things I’d rather have than a gift you felt obliged to purchase. As a teacher, I’d rather have:
- A student with good work ethic – every day.
- A student who keeps trying, even if they need encouragement some days after defeat.
- A student who was taught manners – please, thank you, ma’am, etc.
- A student who comes to school prepared to learn – with a pencil and a willingness to participate.
- A student with respect for authority and rules.
- A student with a positive attitude.
- A heartfelt, genuine sense of appreciation from parents who recognize that we do have their child’s best interests at heart.
That’s what I’d like, not only for the holidays, but for every day. If you can’t spring for seven Starbucks giftcards, no matter. Give me the gift of a well-raised child, and I will be thankful, even when they’re struggling academically and need more than an extra bit of help.