Sunday, December 18, 2011

All Teachers Want for Christmas

The Holiday season has arrived.  The TU is excited to take some time off to spend with family and friends.  If you are not a despised teacher(which we hope we are not), this time of the year can mean gifts of appreciation from students and parents.  While the end of the year may also bring gifts, this season has special meaning and we find the gesture quite heartwarming.

There's the plate of cookies, the candy in a coffee mug, the ziplock of homemade delights with a small note affixed to it.   One family from our recent past was known for bringing in pineapples and leaving them on your desk.  There is the gift card to the book store or the paperweight.  Some will drop off gift cards to stores and restaurants.   Cookie or hot chocolate mix in a jar, jam and other tasty treats are great.    On occasion I've received cards with lovely messages inside expressing gratitude.  The people that take the time to do this will never know how much such things mean.

This year was pretty lean and I saw precious few gifts of appreciation.  I'm OK with that and my pride blames the poor economy.  I didn't give it any thought until my wife, who is a counselor at a neighboring school, came home with all kinds of edible loot.  I guess it is time for me to step it up.  You know give less homework, give kids better grades who bring me stuff or just generally treat them more favorably.  That was a feeble attempt at humor but if I worked in Alabama it wouldn't be so funny.

I came across a ruling in Alabama recently where the courts handed down a decision upholding a law that public employees(including teachers) could only accept "de minimis" gifts.  I didn't verify the specifics of what I found, but no dollar amounts were mentioned.   Among the first laws passed after elections, the law came about after some state legislators and lobbyists got a little too cozy.   This news prompted me to evaluate how I would do in Alabama.  I went through the list of gifts I've taken in the past and I figure I can avoid the year in jail and $6,000 fine, with a good lawyer anyway.

So students can no longer give their teachers money or gift cards, anything that can be resold, or even a holiday ham or turkey, according to the opinion.   I said to myself..."who gives a ham to a teacher?"  The governor spoke out and wanted to amend the law to exempt teachers.  I hope people listen to him because I really like ham.  I'd quickly abandon morals and professional ethics in exchange for a ham, but only if it was honey cured of course. 

I guess the only thing screwy here is that no legislator thought to try and remedy the predicament that finds classroom teachers spending out of their own pockets for classroom supplies or on their pupils each year.   As a secondary teacher I spend a little money, but not as much as most of the teachers I know in younger grades.   An AL state ethics commission said a gift card could be allowed if someone collected a few dollars each from several students and this could be combined to buy the card. Commission staff members suggested each donation be less than $5.  (At my school soliciting classrooms and students for funds, even for charity, is not really allowed but for different reasons.)

In the end it is just another example of when good ideas end up as misguided legislation affecting people in our schools.  While a minimal issue in this case, it illustrates the point that it is often the unintended consequences of laws that have the greatest impact. Many of these policies and laws just make schools a less desirable place to work.  Fortunately the innate rewards received from a profession like teaching endure and offset the less desirable aspects of our job.  So what do teachers really want for Christmas?   As teachers all we really want is the chance to do our job well, the freedom to practice our craft and for some influential people to listen for a change, as some of what we are complaining about is right.

Surprise end up last on the priority list.

I recently placed a 40" LCD TV,  IPOD shuffle and of course a Christmas Ham on Craigslist.  I won't disclose where I got them :)  Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.


  1. It was a lean year for me as well, but I still appreciate the thoughts behind the gifts I did receive-- but my wife seemed to have quite a year in the gift department too. She's been bragging about it since we got home Friday afternoon. I guess I need to step it up too.

  2. In a strange twist all her students got As...odd huh?

  3. I've found the few posts I've read frightening similar to what I confront in my district. This post made me laugh and I once got an IOU for a kids homework. Can't remember if I ever collected.