I trained as a teacher and twice a year there was the usual giving of presents for Christmas and at the end of the school year. At the beginning of my career I lived with 4 other girls, 3 of them teachers and we’d all come home at the end of the term with a box full of well intentions. Hubbie remembers visiting us all in the early days of our relationship and we had a round table in the corner of the lounge that was heaped with chocolate, 4 teachers x 30 children in each class is a lot of boxes of chocolate. When anyone came to visit they left laden with chocolate as we really struggled to eat all we were given and don’t forget, most of our friends at that time were teachers also so chocolate was the last thing they wanted too!
Over my teaching career I was given, statues, scarves, plants, picture frames, alcohol (lovely!) money boxes to name but a few things all bought in wonderfully wrapped held by, generally, smiley faced children. There were a few who had no idea what mum had bought but that was to be expected. I always opened them in in the lunch time so I could say a little, discreet, thank you and I was always mindful of those who would have brought in something but for various reasons couldn’t. (They would tell me they had wanted to and I would just say a lovely drawing makes a great present…)
As the children got to know me the presents started to change. I am a ‘what you see is what you get’ kind of person and this was the teacher I became. I told them of my living on a boat, (I taught them how to do narrow boat art) I asked advice about a present for Mr ‘L’ as Hubbie came to be known. They gave me some great advice re the advantages of an x-box over a PlayStation so that’s what I bought! They knew I loved a cup of tea at lunch time, that I played the ‘cello (I played to them instead of a story some days) and that I lived with other teachers and this all was slowly sinking in with the children.
During one Winter term we were writing poems about Winter and after a walk around the grounds of the school seeing the wisping smoke rising from chimneys, after looking at the frozen spiders webs and feeling the biting wind on our faces I took a photo of the whole class breathing out to show the mist we had created that you can only do in the depths of winter. I also told the children about me clearing off the ice from my windscreen using an old CD case. One child listened to this and at the end of the term I had an apologetic mum present me with a present that she said ‘J insisted that you’d like this and I’m really sorry if he’s got it wrong….’ I opened up the present wondering what on earth it could be and there, in the wrapping paper, was a red plastic screen scrapper. Never had I been happier with a present…
C bought me a present of a boat and said ‘Sorry, Miss, I couldn’t find a narrow boat’ and I opened up the present of a little sailing boat and I loved it. C had really thought about what I would have liked and this little boat lived in our bathroom for years until one of my sons put it in the bath. (It was an ornament and didn’t float) M gave me a little pig money box with narrow boat art decoration. She said that she had asked her mum if they could go to the local canal centre to buy something for me. Again I still have the money box and it still reminds me of her.
The picture frames I’ve been given all hold photos that are special to me. Oliver looks out from one and a little picture of our wedding is in another but the most wonderful presents were the drawings and cards that I’ve been made some from children that this was especially difficult for them to do.
I now have children and I am on the other side of the fence in terms of end of term presents. I, at first, agonised over what to buy, how much to spend and -would they like it? It took a while for me to reconnect with my own experiences of receiving presents from pupils. I then remembered to ask Oliver (he was our 1st) what he thought his teacher might like and he had a great idea –a yellow whiteboard pen. It took a while to find a yellow one but we did it and he proudly gave his teacher an Oliver original card and a wrapped yellow pen. His teacher unwrapped the present with us and when Oliver said ‘you lost your yellow pen, I thought you’d like another one’, she was visibly moved and said he was right. I have also bought nice photo frames and his last teacher was very happy with hers and said she had found a lovely picture of her son and put it in the frame.
We are in an age of austerity, of make do and mend and going back to basics. Instead of reaching for that well known, large supermarket’s ‘thank you teacher’ offering that cost way more than you really want to spend. Why not make something –a lovely tub of summery lemon curd, a few homemade iced biscuits wrapped in cellophane or just ask your child to do a lovely picture or make a card. I didn’t go into teaching for the end of term presents I wanted to help children learn in a fun way. Maybe this year could be the first year of going back to simple presents or better still, if you feel your child’s teacher has done wonders for your child, has gone that extra mile to help or has inspired your child in some way then why not take 5 mins, find a nice card and write and tell them. A simple ‘thank you’ for me, was the best present of all.