Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Best Teacher Gifts Ever - (One Costs 44 Cents!)

I have been teaching for nearly 15 years. Not sure how that happened because I am exactly the same age as when I started, give or take about 5 years. But, my first class-kindergarten- is now in collage. I am honored to be "facebook friends" with many of those freshmen so I know it's true.

I have taught every grade from kinder to fifth and have taught the very wealthy and now, the very poor. The gifts have ranged the gamut from Snowman Poop to Tiffany necklaces and a whole lot of candles in between.

Three gifts stand out.

From the Wealthy Public School- a wrapped box of chocolates that were "pre-tasted." I opened the box to find one bite out of each candy! It still makes me chuckle to think of six year old Maroon sneaking those bites without his mom knowing. And, it makes me giggle to think of how horrified his mom would be if she knew! It's a gift that has kept on giving for about nine years now as Maroon is in high school. Admit it, it's funny!

The other gift came from Orange who, in fourth grade, was maybe 50 pounds soaking wet. He was scrappy like the chihuahuas who roam the 'hood starting fights and stopping traffic because they don't realize their size. His life was hard. His mother was chronically sick and let's just say, I'm not sure that her drug cocktail included pharmaceuticals.

Anyway, when Christmas rolled around Orange came in beaming with the joy of gift giving. He handed me a bundle made from two shoe boxes, a wad of duct tape and a whole mess of stickers. "Open it now!"
From Orange Christmas 2005
It's a broken parrot clock. Can you see what I see? Love. That clock sat right there on my vanity for all to admire for nearly a year.

The third gift cost nothing and may have been the one that was the most valuable of all. It's also the one that you can duplicate for your own special teacher!

A letter.

Early in my career Kelly Green's parents wrote a lovely letter to my principal. It's packed up now, but it went something like this:

Dear Principal Smith,

We are writing to let you know how happy we are with our daughter Kelly Green's teacher, Miss Little.
Each day Kelly is learning and we are thrilled with her excitement about school.
We especially appreciate her_____________________ (some specific detail about the classroom.)
We are thrilled that Wealthy Public School has hired a teacher like Miss Little.

The Greens

CC: Superintendent Powers

For the price of two stamps, they may have contributed to my being hired the next year. Let's see, at the time I was making $17,000. That's a pretty generous gift!

Times are very tough for new teachers right now. Budget cuts have slashed jobs and increased class sizes. Competition for teaching jobs is pretty fierce and many wonderful new teachers are without classrooms. This year many thousands of new teachers lost their jobs here in Los Angeles alone. There may be deeper cuts next year. Your letter has power, especially if you send it to those in power.

And, as for those of us who have been around for a few (ahem) years, we like appreciation from the top too.

I haven't saved every teacher gift over the years. (My father did suggest once that it would make a fantastic museum display.) However, my file of cards and letters will be with me forever.


Jennifer@ChesterAndDonkey said...

Oh that clock made my heart melt! How sweet!! I never thought about teachers getting gift after gift, year after year. That makes me chuckle. Can't wait to see what you get this year! :)

laterg8r said...

those chocolates that were pretasted made me smile :D

the letter idea is so good, i will totally do that for a great teacher when my kids finally reach school age - thanks for the suggestion :D

Nutsy Coco said...

The pretasted chocolates is definitely funny and I have no doubt his mother would have been mortified :)

I don't have any kids yet to be thinking about giving gifts to their teachers, but writing a letter is a wonderful idea!

Ruth said...

That is a great idea from the heart.

I used to teach kindergarten and then first grade. Some of the gifts are just too funny. What kids think of.


Bean's Mom said...

This is such a nice post. I love the letter idea...and although my kids aren't in school yet, I'm filing this one away. I was a teacher before I was a mom and I KNOW how great this was to get.
Also, I posted this as a link on my facebook page....hoping to get some other parents with school aged kids inspired to do the same. Teachers need all the extra encouragement they can get.

The Mixing Bowl said...

Thanks for sharing! --Laura

ruthrawls said...

My daughter teaches 2nd grade. Last Christmas I gave her principal a pair of hand-knitted and felted slippers. I got a thank-you card from the principal thanking me both for the slippers and the gift of having my daughter for a teacher!

Lynnelle said...

I wrote emails instead of letters to the site and building principals at Thanksgiving this year about the great things my kindergartner is doing in full inclusion. I sent my letter after a parent sent me a letter thanking me for something that was just second nature in my teaching philosophy. Her letter was very touching and I wanted to pass it on. Happy Holidays!

Holly said...

The chocolates...that's hilarious! The clock makes me want to cry!
My step-mom taught first grade for many years...I should ask her about her memorable teacher gifts.

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