When did giving gifts to our children’s teachers become mandatory? And when did it become extravagant?
My whole introduction to the gifting system occurred several years ago when my first child entered kindergarten. I was startled, at first, and then perplexed by the whole process. I was in awe that there even was a process.
About five minutes after the first day of kindergarten commenced, the class mother approached the parents of the children in class looking to take up a collection for the teacher gift. My exact thoughts were, Collection? For what? And you want this now?
The request, though, was stated so efficiently, so matter-of-factly, I felt it left no room for denial. Still, I wanted to ask, “Do I have a choice?”
Since that time I have grown accustomed to the tradition, and I have even been grateful for its convenience. Plus, I can appreciate its practicality. Why have everyone go out and buy 5 million useless, crappy gifts when you can pool the money to buy one big, nice gift?
The problem is it’s not just one gift.
With my second child now in public school and gift giving season in full-on frenzy, I am struck once again at the nature and growing grandeur of the tradition. Something about it simply rubs me the wrong way. It’s not just that I pay the teachers’ salaries and then have to buy them a gift on top of it, and it isn’t just that teachers work 6 months (180 days) out of the year and yet manage to reap a full salary, and it isn’t just that kindergarten teachers in my district work 4 hours/day of the 6 months that schools are in session, but the irksome nature also stems from what appears to me to be extravagance in an offering that was supposed to be a modest show of appreciation.
And, I’m fairly certain the custom originated at a time when teachers received meager salaries. That’s not the case today.
Don’t get me wrong. Teachers are important, and the good ones are invaluable. But that’s what I mean. Shouldn’t parents give gifts to the teachers they find to be exceptional? Isn’t that what the gifts were supposed to mean in the first place?
And while the $10 per student collection the class moms take up isn’t extravagant, $10 times 20 students is. So the class moms divide the $200 gift in half, presenting the teacher with one for the holidays and one at the end of the year. Two gifts? Now we’re giving two gifts?
And then, as my boss, Georgette, a teacher, likes to point out there is teacher appreciation day. (But I don’t mean you, Georgette). She deserves all the gifts she gets.
Plus, the parents practically keep the school operational. They perform lunch duty, class parent duty, library duty (although we have a librarian), arrange school trips, arrange special assemblies, run kindergarten orientation, do class room art projects, organize and run holiday parties. Then there’s the endless fundraising. The bake sales, basket raffles, fair day, car wash, Scholastic book fair, gift card program, legacy gift (legacy gift? To the elementary school?). And don’t forget the collection for the class room supplies, the computers donated to the school by parents, the rugs donated, the books donated and the trees and garden provided, planted and maintained by parents.
I know. I know. We are supposed to do all that. It is for our children. But where is our reward? Oh, yes, our children. Well, I prefer my reward in cold, hard cash.
By the way, I’d like to say I was a teacher for a while at a preschool. I did receive some gifts, but I was fairly astounded when I did. I didn’t expect it, and while the gifts were very nice, they weren’t necessary.
Now, though, I wouldn’t mind getting a $200 gift for all my hard work in bringing these riveting stories to you, the readers. So who wants to start up a collection for me?
(Photo: Flickr: rick)