It’s getting close to the end of the school year and that can only mean one thing. No, not summer vacation or report cards – TEACHER GIFTS! Which leads me to ask, why? Why are we buying presents for people who are getting paid for what they do? This is, after all, their career choice we’re talking about, not a volunteer position. While I know many incredible teachers who do a tremendous job nurturing young minds and hearts, teacher’s gifts have gone wild – for some parents at least.
I recently received an email from a parent at my son’s high school asking me to help provide food for the upcoming teacher/parent interview night. A helpful list was forwarded for people to assign themselves to brownies, fruit trays, cookies etc. so as to provide a pleasing assortment of treats to ensure the teachers make it through the evening. I’m sure that carrot sticks and ranch dip are helpful. Personally, after dealing all day with classes of sullen teens and then their helicopter parents, I think they would much rather have a few cases of beer and a LARGE bottle of vodka.
When my son was in primary school, we had teacher appreciation WEEK. On Monday we brought pastries and baked goods. On Tuesday, each child brought a single flower to gather into a large bouquet of flowers. On Wednesday, a nice light ‘spa’ lunch was served. Thursday saw poems or gratitude cards written. And Friday, a magnificent luncheon was served with a theme such as ‘Hollywood’ or ‘Beach Vacation’ complete with fanciful decorations and more food than the entire school would be able to consume. Those parents who didn’t want to slave over a hot stove could donate cash or volunteer their time to supervise children in the classrooms while the staff enjoyed the opulent spread.
I also wonder whether this may be a thinly veiled attempt by some parents to suck up to their child’s teacher. Why would Mrs. Smith give little Billy a low mark when his mother slaved over the preparation of lobster thermidor for 36 people? That might mean an end to such extravagance and bacchanalia. And what happens to those parents who don’t have the time or extra cash to make nice with the school staff? Does that mean the teachers will think they don’t care about their children’s welfare? You don’t want to be THAT mom. The shade thrown on the blacktop at pickup would be hard to live down. It’s unlikely that providing a fancy dish for the staff room has any effect on grading, but the parental intent is there and that’s what creates all this one-upmanship.
There isn’t an ‘Appreciation Week’ for the guy who checks your oil at the gas station or your gynecologist, or the millions of other jobs out there. I believe everyone deserves to be applauded for doing what they do well, but when parents start pooling their money to give teachers hundreds of dollars of gifts, it seems excessive.
Perhaps, instead of presenting Mrs. Smith with yet another ‘World’s Best Teacher’ coffee mug, what she would appreciate more is parents volunteering their time: in the classroom reading to kids, or helping cut out 30 pumpkin heads for the Halloween party, or even coming along on a field trip to supervise. There are plenty of ways to say thank you – even by just letting the teacher know that they have made a difference. Besides, kind words and compliments are the best gift anyone could ever receive.
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