Posted in Teaching

The Greatest Gifts, Part 1

Ralphie brings his teacher a basket of fruit in A Christmas Story
Ralphie brings his teacher a basket of fruit in A Christmas Story

Yesterday, I shared on my blog some of the gifts I received from students during my teaching career. But I saved the best three for last.

A Girl After My Own Heart, er… Stomach

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “The greatest gift is a portion of yourself.” Either that or BACON.

The year after I got married, I taught a girl who we will call Ramona. Ramona was a cool chick. She wore cute little stylish glasses and made some of her own clothes. She was also very empathetic.

One day, I told her class how frustrated I had been the night before at my new husband. I had driven home from work, skipping yoga or grocery shopping or whatever errand I had intended to do, and opened the door to a house that smelled of delicious, delicious bacon. Mouth watering, stomach growling, I’d smiled at my hubby and said, “You made bacon?!” only to find out that yes, he’d made bacon. And he’d eaten all of it. There was nothing left for his poor starving wife.

bacon

This was before bacon had reached the celebrity status that it’s at today. Back then, it was still a simple, albeit scrumptious, breakfast meat. Still, my story (which I’m sure tied in quite nicely with whatever I was teaching that day?) stirred the appropriate amount of sympathy in my students. Even more than the denial of the greasy crunch itself, they understood my feelings of betrayal. And no one felt my frustration like Ramona.

“He didn’t save you any?!” she gasped.  I shook my head sadly.

The conversation was fun, and I appreciated how my students rallied behind my cause, but then I pretty much forgot the whole thing. So I was completely unprepared when, a couple of days later, Ramona showed up in my classroom before school with… bacon. Homemade, crispy, still-warm bacon, wrapped in aluminum foil and held up in both of her hands like an offering to the gods. I couldn’t believe it.

As you know from my previous post, homemade goodies must be treated with caution. I’ve thrown away many a cookie that looked clean and tasty but which didn’t pass the packaging test. But I will tell you right now with no regrets whatsoever, I ate that foil-wrapped gift. And it was wonderful.

Ramona is the only student I ever taught who gave me bacon.

 

[To read more stories from my teaching career, check out my Teaching Stories page.]

Posted in Teaching

The Thought That Counts

 

PicMonkey CollageTeacherGift2

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.

Top Right Corner: During my last year of teaching a boy gave me this beautiful tile of The Salt Lick. His mom works for the company who makes them, and he chose this one especially for me because he knew I got married there. He probably didn't say more than ten non-school-related words to me all year. Then this.
Top Right Corner: During my last year of teaching a boy gave me this beautiful tile of The Salt Lick. His mom works for the company who makes them, and he chose this one especially for me because he knew I got married there. He probably didn’t say more than ten non-school-related words to me all year. Then this.

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):

  1. Homemade cards and drawings
  2. Sweets (chocolate, cookies, breads, candy)
  3. Starbucks gift cards
  4. Candles and candle holders
  5. Cat-related items (stuffed animals, magnets, posters)
  6. Objects inscribed with teacher-related quotes (paperweights, ornaments)
  7. Picture frames
  8. Mugs
  9. Bubble bath or lotion
  10. Books or Barnes & Noble gift cards (because I taught Language Arts)
This book was a gift. I tried not to take it personally.
This book was a gift. I tried not to take it personally.

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.

Bottom Left Corner: During my second year of teaching, a girl gave me this large witch doll for my birthday, which is on Halloween. I let her class name it. My last name was Kinder back then, and they christened the doll "Kinderella". Kinderella lived in my classroom for rest of my career and now resides in my home. She is currently looking at me.
Bottom Left Corner: During my second year of teaching, a girl gave me this large witch doll for my Halloween birthday. My last name was Kinder then, and her class christened the doll “Kinderella”. Kinderella lived in my classroom for rest of my career and now resides in my home. She is currently looking at me.

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!]