It’s that time of year again. The school gates open and our children stream out, laughing in the hazy heat* of a summer’s day, free for several long, lazy weeks. I remember grabbing my pump bag (PE shoes for those of you not from The Midlands) and running all the way home without a backward glance. I don’t think I even said goodbye to my teachers for the summer never mind giving them a thoughtful gift.
These days the teacher gift seems to be a competitive parental nightmare. When I was teaching I would stagger home in July and again at Christmas weighed down with flowers, maltesers (which I foolishly admitted to liking once, I received so many boxes I can no longer eat them!) bits of china, large cuddly toys etc all gratefully received but slightly overwhelming.
I then wrote thank you letters to each and every child painfully conscious that this probably encouraged them further when many of their families really couldn’t afford a gift and I didn’t need one. It was lovely that they wanted to do this but I got so much more joy from seeing them develop and learn over the year I was privileged to have them. The thank you letters they had made themselves were the things which pulled at my heartstrings and I still have some of them fifteen years on long after the china has gone to charity and the maltesers have been eaten.
Now, as a mother myself I am faced with The Present Dilemma. I have given boxes of biscuits, chocolates, wine and flowers over the years and I have seen bouquets get bigger and bigger as people compete to show their gratitude and stand out from the crowd. I have also seen the less well off parents apologising for their meagre offerings and that is just not right.
I made a decision about five years ago that I wouldn’t join in anymore, knowing that the teachers wouldn’t mind a bit. However, my children did. We decided between us that we would give the whole class a gift as they left it (and again at Christmas) and this has been such fun. We have given adopted animal kits and provided school kits to children in other countries. When Bonus Boy left nursery last year we gave bird feeders for the garden he had enjoyed playing in so much.
Yesterday he trotted into school to say goodbye to his reception teacher clutching in his hand a bunch of the sweet peas he grew from seed in toilet roll tubes and some of the lavender he loves. He wandered around the garden with his scissors and put together a little posy. He thought it was perfect. So did she.
Do you give gifts to teachers? Do you do it out of a sense of duty/obligation? Would you really rather not? Have you found the answer to The Present Dilemma?
*I know it is raining but that doesn’t conjure up the image I wanted. I have used poetic license and shall be singing a sunshine song with Bonus Boy later on to blast away the clouds and bring on Summer!