Some say that the gift of teaching is the chance to touch lives, to inspire young minds, to see creativity grow right before your eyes. That stuff is all very good, but I also liked the actual gifts.
I don’t mean to sound greedy, but teaching is a hard job with few tangible perks, and I appreciated those Starbucks cards and candles and store-bought sweets. (Homemade sweets were either much more appreciated than store-bought ones or much less, depending on the gift-giver. For instance, I did not eat the zip-lock bag of fudge given to me by the boy who had previously been caught selling drugs in the bathroom. I’m thinking that was a good call. And I never once accepted pocket candy, no matter who was offering it.)
More than free food and coffee money, though, I enjoyed the surprises.
Having spent a few minutes thinking about it, I would say that the top ten most common gifts given to me by students during my career would be the following (in no particular order because I don’t have that kind of time):
- Homemade cards and drawings
- Sweets (chocolate, cookies, breads, candy)
- Starbucks gift cards
- Candles and candle holders
- Cat-related items (stuffed animals, magnets, posters)
- Objects inscribed with teacher-related quotes (paperweights, ornaments)
- Picture frames
- Bubble bath or lotion
- Books or Barnes & Noble gift cards (because I taught Language Arts)
It was always exciting (and sometimes a little confusing) when a student stepped outside of these norms and gave me something different, like… bubble-gum-scented bars of soap. Or earrings, which would be a nice gift if I had my ears pierced, but I don’t.
I once received a very pretty silver necklace from a boy. And a girl once gave me a $30 gift card to Nordstrom, which bought me almost one whole shirt from the clearance rack. When I got married, some girls went together to buy me a cookie cake. It had their names on it, written in icing, rather than mine.
I’m certainly not the only teacher to receive strange gifts from students. One year, the father of a particularly troublesome boy bought all of the principals at my school alcohol-related tokens of appreciation—a flask, a wine decanter, a game of shot glass checkers. And a unique boy in my friend’s class gave all of his teachers (male and female alike) a gift certificate for a shoulder massage—to be performed by him, of course. He was quite sincere in his offer.
Of all the gifts I received during my thirteen years of teaching seventh grade, there are three that stand out from the rest…
[While you’re waiting for this story to be continued, I’d love to hear about the strangest gifts you’ve ever received. Share in the comments!]