According to my contract, I am not supposed to accept gifts from students. However, sometimes it is really hard to say no.
On Friday, one of my students handed me a loaf in a snowflake-printed cellophane bag at the end of class. She said “Toast it, butter it, eat it.” How could I refuse? The loaf turned out to be some very yummy cheese bread that is indeed excellent when toasted and buttered.
I have also, in previous years, accepted cookies and homemade apple butter. Once after I wrote a college recommendation, the mother of a student gave me a large assortment of Godiva chocolates. I shared those with the science department, which seemed appropriate. The nice note she had written was about how well she felt her son was prepared for whatever science-y major he was planning to pursue, so it made sense that all the science teachers deserved credit.
A few students have given me gift cards. Those have only come from students whom I have had a special intellectual relationship with. Students who I expect to remember for the rest of my life as being remarkable, and whom I feel lucky to have taught.
Then there was the student whose family gave all their daughters’ teachers a huge bag of pistachios every Christmas. That was two schools prior to the one I teach in now. I don’t remember how many pounds of pistachios was in that bag, but I recall it taking up about 2 gallons of volume. Seriously, this was a HUGE amount of pistachios for a single woman! That same family also had a tradition of gifting their daughters’ teachers with Waterford crystal at the end of the school year. I was expecting a candy dish. I was shocked to be given a cake plate!
The best gift I have ever received from a student, however, was a note written to me by a 9th grader I taught at my previous school. She was prone to shouting and was rude and I did not enjoy teaching her. I tried calling home and her mom immediately started yelling at me, explaining how her daughter came home from school every day screaming about how much she hated me. I tried the old “you have to be able to get along with all kinds of people” but that mother was having none of that. She insisted to me that she did just fine without getting along with anybody. Whew. I was really glad to get off the phone with that woman. And at the end of the year, her horrible daughter wrote me a wonderful note thanking me for treating her the same as I treated everyone in the class even though she behaved so badly towards me, and that she really appreciated that.
So parents, if you want to thank your children’s teachers or remember them this holiday, know that some of the most treasured items are the heartfelt notes from the students themselves. I have every holiday card given me by a student. I have kept the wallet-sized senior photos inscribed to me on the back, and the end-of-the-year thank you notes. All the way back to my student teaching assignment, with the silly poem written by the loudest girl in the class and signed by everyone.
But if you insist on baking, I do like cheese bread! And I like cookies, too!