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!"
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!
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.
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.