Ten Tins Too Many


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            Monday
marks the beginning of the end. 
The final countdown to Christmas vacation.  I’m sorry, Holiday break.  Er, nope…Winter reprieve?  At any rate, teachers and kids everywhere are looking forward
to a prolonged period of relaxation, which coincidentally begins just before a
major Christian holiday­–one that often involves gift giving. 

            One
of the most iconic images of students adorning their teacher with holiday gifts
is probably the scene in The Christmas Story where the kids line up and hand their teacher small tokens of
appreciation: an apple, an orange, a few small tissue-wrapped tokens.  Only Ralph goes overboard, handing the
astonished teacher a fruit basket bigger than he is, as the voice-over narrator
admits he was hoping a bit of bribery couldn’t hurt earn him an A on his
magnificent theme about his Red Rider BB gun.  Apparently the overpaid under-worked state employees who
make up the ethics board have had too much time on their hands in recent years
and spent it watching the TNT marathon of this Christmas classic.  The problem is they missed the part
about it being fiction (not to mention the scene where Ralphy gets a C- despite
the plethora of pears and pineapples). 
Afraid that teachers across the state might be swayed by lavish gifts of
reindeer coffee mugs and tins of homemade peppermint bark, they have decided to
crack down on the tradition of teacher gifts.  There are now legal documents outlining the protocol for
accepting such items from students. 
Clearly this was tax-dollar money put to good use.

            In
fairness, the rules only prohibit teachers from accepting gifts valued higher
than fifty dollars.  In my first
few years of teaching, when the economy was strong and my students’ parents had
an abundance of cash equaling my abundance of patience (both of which have dipped
off in the years since), I did receive gifts close to this amount, but I
certainly don’t have a problem with this guideline.  Teacher gifts are meant to be small signs of appreciation
for the time and effort we give to other people’s children.  We appreciate the gesture, but we
certainly don’t expect them, nor would most of us feel comfortable accepting a
larger gift.  Where the insanity
starts is in the new requirement that we document all gifts of any value.  Not only does this imply teachers as a
whole can’t be trusted to follow laws and act as professionals, but it’s also
ridiculous.  Some towns are going
as far as requiring teachers to estimate the dollar value of each gift.  Think about it: Dunkin’ Donuts gift
card, five dollars; book for classroom library, thirteen dollars, homemade
cookies…priceless?  What about the
clothespin reindeer ornament?  Do
we value it more if the googly eyes are glued on symmetrically?  How about the hand-dipped
chocolate-covered pretzels we receive from the nose-picker who claims proudly
that ‘he helped’?  Can we subtract
from our gift total the amount of money it would take for us to touch, never-mind eat
one of those puppies?  Let’s get
real; as an educator I clearly didn’t go into my line of work for the lush
perks.  My time would be much
better spent on other types of paperwork, like report cards, comments on
essays, and parent emails–you know, those that actually affect a student’s
learning.

            If
the state ethics board is really concerned about teachers giving special
treatment to certain students, there ought to be a form to fill out for those
students who daily give us gifts: the ones who thank us as they leave our
classroom (though they clearly don’t really love the homework we just
assigned), those who take the time to think about what we’ve taught them and
apply it to new situations, those who not only behave and participate, but are
willing to risk social ostracism to tell their peers to be quiet when we’re
trying to start a lesson.  Give me
a form where I’m asked to value respect, responsibility, and kindness.  I’ll gladly fill that out.  Just don’t expect me to follow any
mandate asking I not favor kids with these values, because I already do.

To the Scrooges
worried about the tins of fudge I’ll likely find on my desk this week: take
them away, auction them on eBay, and buy yourselves a clue.  Teachers spend more waking hours a day
with our school-aged youth than any adult they come in contact with.  We’re
responsible for teaching them values and ethics, and for the most part, we are a
hell of lot better at modeling such behaviors than politicians and lawmakers.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Ten Tins Too Many

  1. Christine

    Bravo!!!! You definitely hit the nail on the head! The questions is: exactly how much are those hand dipped pretzels? $2, $10?

    Like

  2. Drew

    Nice post, well said.

    Like

  3. Lauren's Blog

    minus twenty if they’re booger-ridden!

    Like

  4. Lauren's Blog

    Thanks

    Like

  5. Vicki

    Is the State Ethics Board made-up of the same intellectuals who think ALL students can be on the same level at the same time? Pass the hand dipped pretzels to them; they need all the protein they can get.

    Like

  6. Lauren's Blog

    I love it!  I think we should!

    Like

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