Thursday, 22 July 2010

Apple Mac for the teacher

Apple for the teacher is a quaint old cliche, isn't it? But what about Jo Malone candles, fancy bottles of fizz, electronic gadgets, jewellery and posh chocs?

Our kids broke up from their Scottish schools some three weeks ago, but their compatriots in the rest of the UK are just finishing up now. And everywhere I look in the virtual world I see talk of presents for teachers. What to give and what does miss or sir think of it?

I've never given a present to a teacher at the end of term. I went to school for 12 years, so that's 36 term endings, not including nursery or any form of further education. My kids between them have 108 term ends. That's 144 chances to give a pressie to the teacher (not including nursery or sixth year)... unless you're just being purist and going for the biggie in July and that's 21 opportunities. So between 1972 and now - 21 chances over 38 years - I've missed out, nay, not even considered, buying the teacher a gift.

That's not to say the teachers in question weren't worth it - almost without exception, a dedicated and talented bunch, engaged in a thankless (in my case) and underpaid task.

But now it's been drawn to my attention, I see it's everywhere. Other mums tell me it's rife and competitive. Some, wisely, stick to their guns and produce lovingly crafted home-madery each year, other cave in and shell out at the nearest gift emporium. Shop shelves groan with figurines, fridge magnets, mugs, smelly things and other bric-a-brac. World's best teacher is not an exclusive club.

I wonder. Have I just been so engaged on getting out of the school gates for the hols that I haven't noticed? Am I the pupil/mother everyone talks about? "See her, you'll get nowt from her. Her kids'll suffer next term - composite class for them."

How can that work? The teacher you bid farewell to Alice Cooper style is rarely the one you greet shining morning face, creeping like a snail in the autumn. (Get me, heavy metal and Shakespeare references in the same sentence). Surely bribery would be better served with a 'I'm going to love my new teacher, she/he's the best yet' offering.

And can the teachers really be thrilled with the gift-fest. Sure, we can all make use of a decent bottle of plonk or some tasty chocs (even if they are to recycle as emergency gifts). Homemade biccies and jams are ever welcome. But what about the rest. How many mugs, gurning monkeys in porcelain classrooms and badges can anyone find room for?

Are teachers' homes full of this stuff or do they wait until the last school bus has trundled off and sling them in the skip? I'm engaged in the custard-shoving exercise that is also known as decluttering in my house. It's hard enough without regular additional influxes of tat. Maybe they go straight onto ebay... is there a section called 'loot from the chalkface'.

Me, I'm going to pretend none of this has come to my notice. I'm going to pass through gift shops intent on ignoring anything that suggests it might be for teachers and I'm going to keep my sons from looking too.

But in the event that I can't return to the halcyon days of term-end being only sports day and where to put the 'artwork' decisions, can I make a suggestion? It strikes me that spending money I don't want to part with on a gift the recipient probably doesn't want in order not to feel bad or more guilty is ever so slightly crazy. If the wallets and purses have to be opened, wouldn't it be better to put the money into school funds to buy the books and equipment teachers are constantly telling us they need to make their jobs easier? .... either that or they can just have a bloody apple and lump it.


  1. I've never got presents at the end of term! I get the feeling that it's mainly a primary school thing - the only time I've got presents is from GCSE students who've done well and when I left to go on maternity leave! I don't think teachers expect presents - they certainly don't where I work! x

  2. I don't give presents at the end of each term, only at the end of the year, just to say thank you and goodbye because my daughter is moving on to the next teacher. My sister is a teacher and loves the sentiment behind the presents but not all the chocolate so it's passed on to me. I don't think teachers expect presents at all, not at my daughter's school so I don't think it really matters too much at the end of the day.

  3. It's funny isn't it - competitive present buying is fine but come sports day and it's non-competitive all the way. And that is no criticism of the teachers who at the end of a long, hard term deserve an apple or two.

  4. My tame ex-teacher says he only ever got two presents in the whole of his teaching career - something about him (?) or perhaps this generosity to teachers is a recent phenomenon. If you absolutely have to, how about a card or letter? Mxx

  5. Gibbogirlie, I think it is mostly primary. Do you think it's a new thing?

    Rosie, it is nice to say thanks and maybe I should try harder to do so.

    INMA, competitive parents are OK, but not kids apparently.

    M, I wouldn't call him 'tame' if I was you!

  6. Yup definitely a primary thing and yes, I succumbed at the end of each year (though only if son wanted me to, so we maybe missed a couple). Don't bother at secondary school as they have different teachers for each subject.

    If you're feeling guilty, could you not have made use of those lovely ramekin dishes you've been collecting? ;-)

  7. I've done it- but only at the end of the year when the kids have formed a real attachment to the teachers. I refuse to spend money. This year i raided my craft stash to make name banners for the teachers to hang in their classrooms & one for the nursery (after 3 years of fab early years education!). But I am the only one in the playground (at the infants anyway)who has made gifts, its all chocs, candles, smellies, wine...

    I don't feel guilt or competitiveness though but I can't stand the thought of giving a ton of stuff no one really wants. If you dont want to do it, don't I don't think it should be forced

  8. I've never understood this myself! But when the time comes I hope I will stick to my guns and not cave in.

  9. Trish, I like that - ramekin for the teacher. Or even old phone charger for the teacher!

    Clair, well done on the home-made front. Much, much better.

    RebaMc, I'm sure you will.


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