Thursday, 16 July 2009

Teacher's Pet

I do not have fond memories of all the teachers I have had during my various forms of education. As I start typing this blog post, I am very hard pressed to even say I had a favourite, I do not think I did.

There were ones I respected, a few I would listen to, but lots I would look at with disdain and barely acknowledge – such a nice child that I was.

My own mother was my home economics teacher for a short time, and she would most definitely vouch as such.

In early education I suppose it was different, and I can not really recall that far back, but still, I do not have a teaching idol.

The point I am getting to, is that as the end of the school year looms, children arriving with gifts for their teachers has also started.

It seems like a strange practise to me, and at times, a very robotic and for-the-sake-of-it laden process.

Are we rewarding them for doing their job well, or because our children ‘like them’, or simply because everyone else in the class will be buying something?

In our personal situation I find it quite difficult. Max’s nursery is staffed, like I presume many others, with various people, doing different shifts and performing different functions.

Certain employees are designated as key, and also have to monitor the progress of allocated groups of children. But that does not mean they have exclusivity of care, or do not observe and encourage others.

My boy has enjoyed nursery, and made great progress, I am sure in no small part down to them, but I have absolutely no idea who, if anyone, is responsible for this.

He does not really talk about any one of the adult helpers, and if he did, it may be the one that lets him off the hook the most, or allows him to punch his peers in the face, I have no idea. Who could?

I have discussed this with a couple of the other parents, and the responses I have received range from the inevitable “They get paid don’t they?” to the similarly predictable “It’s only £20 you tight git.”

Things have gone well for us here, and I am very grateful that there have been only few minor problems with my son’s pre-schooling, but I am unsure if my gratitude should be made in the form of presents for its current staff.

Typing this out I realise that my boy also deserves reward, and I probably need to recognise his achievements at nursery as a collective too.

So, I’ll add an Optimus Prime to my shopping list already containing six bottles of plonk.

Or do you think a bushel of apples with cut it?



Smitten by Britain said...

I've never liked this practice and I'm in the field of education. I think it sets the teacher up for accusations of bribery or favoritism. I suspect this starts with a mother or two who either genuinely likes the teacher or has made it her mission to get close to the teacher in order to benefit her child. And sometimes the parent is hoping for favors. Sorry, but it's true.

So this parent gives a gift, and then another parent gives a gift and then the rest follow suit out of peer pressure. In my son's entire school career I've only given one teacher a present and it was because he genuinely liked her and I could see how she touched his life. Now, after saying all this, you are at the end of the school year so there is no time left for expecting favors. Besides it's only pre-school. But I don't think you should feel pressured to give her/him one if you don't want to. I think it's just as nice for you to say "thank you."

Thumbelina said...

It is so... appropriate I decide to visit and read today. My thoughts precisely. My (2nd) son finishes primary school today. When I went to school there was none of this present buying for teachers unless there was a specific teacher who hit the mark etc. It came from me, as the child, not my parents. They are, after all, doing the job they are paid for. No that is not tight. It's not.
I was a nurse. I never expected any presents. In fact, our contract stated we could not accept personal presents. Inevitably, there were those patients that I "clicked" with, particularly as I am a psychiatric nurse and my role was often a counselling type role. I sometimes got cards, occasionally chocolates, once or twice (in 25 years) flowers. I remember those, because they were special. They are not lost in the myriads of chocolates. More often, people would buy a tin of something "for the team" - very acceptable to the employer and to me. Even if I got a personal present, it was shared with the team. The only thing I took home was the cards addressed to me and two occasions I got flowers (which made me cry.)

So, I have the same dilemma. I refuse to run with the pack on principle. I refuse to be a tight git where an act of appreciation is warranted. I do what I think is right and appropriate and not over the top. I generally buy nothing expect at milestone times and if my child has a particular special bond, or, if a teacher has been especially supportive to me (like when I was very ill and she kept in touch by phone to tell me of my child's progress and helped me stay part of it all even when I couldn't get to school. That is going the extra mile, above and beyond the call... that deserves recognition.)

So, this year is a milestone year. He leaves the school. They will be getting a tin of chocolates to share with all the staff. The head might get some flowers because she has been especially good. We did not bond with his last teacher. But she did her job. No more. I'm not a hypocrit. No extras there, but extras for the whole team which does not make it so personal.

And as for my boy? He got his trip last weekend but again, I am right with you on this one. A long overdue session bowling and a certain Mcfast food outlet after. I use the terms "fast" and "food" loosely but he likes it.

Sorry for the long comment. Just had to tell you. I guess the short comment is - I agree. Do what is right for you and consider a big tin of chocs for everyone. No favourites, no "you skinflint" comments. Everyone happy. But don't get drawn into spending money at the end of each year for the next 7 years! And christmas... and easter... it never ends! Stand firm! Say no. And when you DO get something for them, it is appreciated all the more.
My two penneth. Or ten penneth.

Jo Beaufoix said...

I do do small prezzies. But our situation is a bit different as there are just 3 main staff in Miss M's nursery and as she has progressed through her year and a half there she has been in each of their groups. She has loved every minute, and as these 3 ladies have all taught Miss E too it feels nice to give them a thank you and also a goodbye from Miss M.

As for Miss E, in Primary, as it probably is all over, she basically has one teacher, so again I will happily buy for her. (She's also Miss M's teacher for next year and she's lovely so I'm dead pleased.)

I wouldn't buy for Secondary School teachers as that is just SO uncool, and you have so many teachers it would be ridiculous. I also had a pretty rough time at Secondary so I can only think of a couple of staff I would smile at, never mind buy prezzies for.

I suppose in Nursery and Primary teachers so often are truly in loco parentis. They wipe noses, give hugs, change clothes, so the relationship between them and your kids is often very rich and full of meaning for the kids.

I only get them small tokens, nothing expensive etc so I don't think bribery comes into it, and I know my mum really appreciated the prezzies she got as a teacher, even the random things like a decorative shoe. (Yes, she was given a decorative shoe.)

In the end it's down to your own and your child's experience. Luckily so far ours have all been good.

Jo Beaufoix said...

Bl**dy hell SPD, that's two essays so far. Sos.

Badass Geek said...

Anyone that lets you get away with occaisionally punching someone in the face sounds like a good find in my book.

Anonymous said...

My sister gets her little girl to make a thank you card for the teacher, all glitter and squiggles and mad signatures you know the type of thing . . . might that work?
Oh, and I agree with you.
Townygirl x

Kevin Spencer said...

When I was younger I don't think I had any favorite teachers because I don't really think any of them were all that great. It wasn't until I was at University that I had a teacher who was really really good. In fact, how I survived those Calculus maths courses is beyond me. If it wasn't for that Transylvanian maths genius of a professor, I would have been in deep poo. Deep.

Hot Cross Mum said...

How about you get the adult helpers to take a short test to see who put the most effort into really getting to know your son. The winner gets the apples with your blessing. The losers will try harder with next year's intake. Everyone's a winner!

Thumbelina said...

I love Hot Cross Mum's idea. Much better than mine. Really. :)

erin said...

Dearest SPD,
My two bits:
The caregivers at your son's school are the most influential people in his life after you. In general, nursery school staff are underpaid because,for the most part,our (and probaby your )society does not acknowlege current research that demonstrates the significant role of secondary caregivers in the social emotional development of our youngsters.
Therefore, I encourage you to give some form of ackowledgement. Whether that be a personal card from your son, a gift from you to the nursery, or a gift to ea. teacher, because a small acknowledgment from you will go along way towards replenishing those teachers' resevoir of warmth and sensitivity - things your soon to be adult son counts on whether he is aware of it yet or not.

Anne aka mum-e said...

One of the mums at my nursery (not me - I am rubbish at those things) organised a collection. We gave £6 each and had a mug fired with a thumb print from each child, for each of the five staff there. They all got flowers too and all the mums agreed not to buy individual presents.
It worked well, I thought.
Other option is to buy a book for the nursery from your son - looks kind and generous but without the whole staff gifting thing. Plus you can write a cute note from him, not you, which always makes it easier.

Single Parent Dad said...

Cheers for all the comments and the advice, I think I am going to go for a tin of chocolates, and get Max to decorate the tin.


rosiescribble said...

IJ has the same teacher next year as she had this year. I've bought him a present, not because everyone else has but to keep him onside and creep around him a little. He needs to like me and think I'm a really nice parent if we have to see each other for another year. It's also bribery because the message is: look after my child or else! And possibly a thank you for doing a job I couldn't do and taking my delightful daughter off my hands for a while each day. I am incredibly grateful in fact. Perhaps I should have bought him more...

Not a soccer mom said...

we got on through 13 years of school and three kids.. and not one gift given out of necessity.
There were a few well deserved tokens.

However.. since you chose to share your experiences here, I say that Max definitely deserves pat on the back at the very least

clareybabble said...

My son's key worker has done an awful lot for him over the year and I've had a lot to do with the staff through helping out here and there plus lots of meetings about his additional needs (nothing severe luckily but still there). So I baked them all a chocolate cake for their lunch and gave a card and present to the key worker. I have no idea what we'll do for his next teachers, we'll see how we feel at the end of next year!

Coding Mamma (Tasha) said...

My sister works in a pre-school nursery and they get bought lots of chocolates and biscuits, which (as they don't get summer holidays) they just eat over the next few weeks, though some get shared out and taken home. She is always grateful for these, but what makes her day/term/year are the self-initiated gifts from the children themselves. The home-made cards specially for her, or biscuits baked and decorated by the children. Things like that. And that's just because those children have come to care a lot for her, not because their parents have prompted them.

So... too late now, I know, but box of chocolates or biscuits for the whole staff to share and only something special if he particularly wants to do something special, I would say.

We did nothing this year as we were off on holiday the last week of term. Oops. Also, should have got addresses/phone numbers of Rosemary's usual playmates so we could invite them to some kind of birthday thing next month. Again, oops. Ah well. She'll be back at both settings next year, so not such a big thing.

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