I was surprised to read Ann Bloom’s column in the Dec. 13 Chieftain, “A Perfect Gift for a Teacher,” because I have worked in several school districts in which it was forbidden for a teacher to accept gifts from students. It was an embarrassing problem for me as a teacher to be given a gift that I was forbidden to accept, and a confusing dilemma to avoid hurting a child’s feelings by refusing it.
There are good reasons for parents to refrain from giving gifts to their child’s teachers. One of the best reasons is that not all children will be able to bring a gift to the teacher. The child whose parents are unable to supply gifts to her teacher may love her teacher as much or more than the other children but be hurt that she cannot give a gift.
A second reason is that all gifts are not the same. Grateful parents want to express their appreciation for their child’s teacher with a special gift. However, children are not immune to making comparison judgements.
Bloom’s suggestions toward nutritious gifts make good sense, but they are still gifts.
An obvious and less honorable gift would be one given with the intent to please the teacher and influence him or her to look upon the child more kindly. I have never known a teacher who would appreciate this kind of gift.
I believe that the most important reason for not giving gifts to teachers is when the gift is given as a substitute for an acceptable salary or for insufficient supplies in the school budget. A lot has been said recently about the amount of personal money teachers spend on classroom supplies for their children.
Unfortunately, Bloom recommends this. I find it somewhat demeaning to give teachers a gift because they have too little money for supplies. A more respectful way to help teachers get supplies would be to request the school board to provide a more generous supply budget for their classrooms.
A child’s homemade card expressing his own feelings for the occasion will be something a teacher will be able to treasure.
The teachers I have known over a 30-year career in education are the most generous people you will know. They thrive on the love of their students, the respect of parents and the community, and the accomplishments of their students.
If they believe their students need another item or school supply, they will see that they get it. That will not change.