Friday, May 12, 2006

"Teacher Appreciation" takes on a whole new meaning today...

Recently, I wrote about my son's experiences with his kindergarten teacher. A teacher who is known to be one of the best at our school, but who didn't seem to ever take the time to get to know or to inspire my child this year. In that entry, I mentioned a neighbor who raved about this teacher and whose son loved her last year. During an open house, I watched as my son's teacher lit up when this boy entered her room to say hello to her, something I have never seen her do for my child throughout this whole year. That's when it hit me that she just didn't not connect with my child at all.

Well, now things are becoming a little more clear for me. You see, the road to teacher love can be paved with good intentions, hard work, and good behavior in class. But, it may also be true that it can be paved with dollar signs. You heard me right. Cold hard cash can also make a teacher's heart grow fonder...or so it might seem!

Today at our morning bus stop, I mentioned to this neighbor that I was stumped to think of what I should get this teacher for the end-of-the-year gift. Previously, we've always gone in on a gift card, so that my son's preschool teachers could buy something substantial and nice from the whole class.

This year, we're on our own. Now, my mother was a teacher. And, year after year, I'd watch her come home for the summer with arms full of the same little things--most of which did not mean very much to her at all. The candles, she hated and has always hated because she's not really a "scent" person. The flowers were never good in our house because we had two cats who loved to eat them and then get sick. The chocolates, sometimes were a hit, but most often she'd get something like chocolate-covered cherries which she really hated. (It was OK, because my Dad and I would take those of her hands!)

It wasn't that she wasn't appreciative that someone thought of her, but more often than not it seemed as if people spent very little time finding out what she would like or what would be a considerate gift of her. And, I really hate that. I pride myself in being a very considerate gift giver.

I didn't want to be that way this year, even if my son's teacher has not been the most nurturing of sorts. I appreciate the teaching profession and feel like they are not compensated nearly enough for the hours they put in and the important role they have in our children's lives. So, when chatting with my neighbor, I was shocked to learn what she'd gotten this teacher the previous year.

"Oh, we just loved Mrs. ABC! Yes, last year I got she and my other son's teacher $100 worth of things in a gift basket! I got a $50 gift card to a spa, coffee shop coupons, candles, a little cute purse, and put it all in a huge basket for her! She loved it!"

As stood with my mouth agape, I managed to mumble something about being used to going in for a gift card.

"Oh, yes. We went in on that too a little. She got so much last year from our class that she went out and bought a Coach purse with it! Isn't that WONDERFUL?"
I paused and didn't quite know what to say. I know that this neighbor used to be a Kindergarten teacher, so she feels a special kinship I'm sure with teachers in general. But, $100 at the end of the year? For each teacher? Is this REALLY the going rate?

When I realized this fact and the fact that this person also gave her a large Christmas gift that year and is hiring this same teacher this summer to teach her youngest child swim lessons at a pretty high fee, I will admit some very petty thoughts popped in my head. Perhaps that bubbly greeting we witnessed at the open house was one of being "bought off?"

Was this really what it took to succeed at getting your child attention in our school? Between this and the overly active parents at our school who spend almost as much time volunteering, sending money and donations, and other things to our school as they do at church or for charities, I once again felt like I'd missed some sort of memo on school etiquette in suburbia. Could someone fill me in on what that memo said please? I'm very confused!

It was then that momentarily I let myself feel a sort of pressure to get something more than I'd planned. Maybe that $20 Starbucks card wasn't enough? What if word of mouth goes around the teacher's break room as to who goes "cheap" and who really dishes out?

Before I'd even gotten back to my house, I'd already given myself a mental slap on the hand. This teacher has NOT made my son blossom this year as she had with our neighbor's son. While I found her teaching just fine, there was definitely something missing there for us.

But, in my neighborhood full of one-uppers and people who have to do more than the last person, I can now see how this has all gotten so out of hand. One person spends $100 and then brags about it. So, the next person hears that and feels they must do the same or more. What comes next, buying the teacher a new car or sending them to the Bahamas? Please!

So, I have decided...I am taking a stand and drawing a line. I will NOT fall prey to this. I will do what I feel is a nice thank you and walk away, hoping for a teacher next year that takes more time to really get to know my child. There may not be dollar signs shining in his eyes, but there are a whole lot of amazing thoughts and brilliant ideas. I just hope the next teacher sees that just as I do...


Anonymous Nicole said...

I think you're being completely reasonable. A $100 gift is simply too much - inappropriate! Do what makes sense to you and leave it at that.

10:49 PM, May 12, 2006  
Blogger shelligirl said...

That is just absolutely ridiculous! I am serious. Do not, whatever you do, give in to that suburban pressure. If you read White Trash Mom, she calls those types of moms "Muffia". I am sure other people have, too, but that is the first place that I have ever heard it.

11:14 PM, May 12, 2006  
Anonymous andrew said...

What a blechy situation. I agree with your solution--don't buy into it. That sort of dysfunction couldn't possibly lead anywhere healthy.

12:23 PM, May 13, 2006  
Blogger Vanessa said...

Suburban life is a very expensive nightmare. Go with your instincts and do not fall in the trap or pretty soon you'll have to take out a loan to satisfy these greedy bitches.

4:39 PM, May 13, 2006  
Anonymous Heather said...

If your sons teacher was treating this gift giving goddess of a child, with more attenion and affection than your son, then she shouldn't be teaching. That is not the reason teachers should be inspired to make our children blossom .Its just wrong. And its sickening AND yes I have witnessed too, and it is really out of control.

8:26 PM, May 13, 2006  
Blogger Student Teacher said...

I would be surprised if the school board permits teachers to accept gifts from individual students that are so expensive. You should contact your local school board and find out what the policy is, and let them know that some teachers in your area might need a gentle reminder as the end of the year approaches. You don't have to mention anyone's names in particular.

I worked in a private language school and got a lot of gifts from my students, but they were adults and it was a for-profit school. I felt really uncomfortable when I received large gifts (some that cost upwards of $250)... but I was obliged to accept them because my school wanted us to look appreciative. It was especially bad because I knew the students were already paying $50 per hour for lessons!

10:15 PM, May 13, 2006  
Blogger Nicole said...

That is just plain wrong. There really should be laws to keep people from "lobbying" teachers! You pay your taxes. If I were you I wouldn't give her a darn thing.

1:32 PM, May 14, 2006  
Blogger Grandma K said...

Teachers are not supposed to take expensive gifts from students. I taught for 29 years in surburban schools. I treasured the cards/notes with heart felt comments in them more than anything. I still have them and look at them from time to time. They still bring joy. You shouldn't join your neighbor nor should you feel pressured to do so. Would you like to look at my Christmas mug collection though?

2:49 PM, May 14, 2006  
Blogger Carol said...

I cannot believe how out of hand this has all become at your school. I am so thankful you are going to be reasonable...I got worried for a minute there!

6:27 PM, May 14, 2006  
Anonymous Theresa said...

Good for you for not playing along! I think that's silly, to spend so much on a teacher!

8:28 AM, May 15, 2006  
Blogger Masked Mom said...

I sure hope that isn't the key to success 'cuz it's definitely not in my budget and even if it were, I would like to think I wouldn't be suckered in either. You're completely right in not get drawn into it. If that teacher's respect, attention and affection can be bought, it's probably not worth a penny.

5:11 PM, May 15, 2006  
Blogger Suburban Turmoil said...

I like the Starbucks card idea. Just about anyone would like that. Just make sure she drinks coffee. :)

10:33 AM, May 18, 2006  
Blogger wikifay said...

I am a Kindergarten teacher and I prefer not to recieve gifts. This year I have recieved a few items, but they all stay in the classroom. I share candy gifts with the kids. I leave floral arrangements in the classroom until they wilt. I display the Dollar Tree items in the classroom. I do not want to feel "obligated" in any way. By the way Vanessa, I am not a "greedy bitch".

6:46 PM, May 21, 2006  
Blogger Crazy MomCat said...

Wikifay, thanks for your perspective. I have to clarify for Vanessa here though. I read her comment to be more referring to some of the status-conscious neighbors I'd talked about in my entry and not about teachers. I don't think of my son's teacher as greedy, by any means. Teaching is one of the most underpaid professions, I really believe. Thanks for stopping by!

1:04 AM, May 22, 2006  

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