Heroes and Gifts

Presents for teachers

I don’t really “do” heroes, if I were to compile a list of my heroes it wouldn’t be long, but it would include Martin Lewis, of Money Saving Expert fame – he talks sense, knows his numbers and genuinely tries to make the world better place for everyone. He’s been in the news and across social media of late sharing his thoughts on gifts for teachers. (In essence, don’t feel obliged to buy them. If you really do want to give a gift to a teacher club together to give a class gift) As a teacher, I’m always grateful for any gifts I recieve, but certainly don’t expect them, or prioritise those that do give me gifts.

But this post is not about whether or not gifts should be given to teachers, but a true tale from my past when I was young teacher, a couple of years into my career.

Like pretty much all teachers, in addition to teaching my subject (maths) I was also the tutor to a number of students – they registered with me first thing each morning, I was a point of contact between parent and school and I did my best to look after the overall academic progress and pastoral needs of those in my tutor group. I had taken them on the year before, as fresh faced Year 7s, new into secondary education, and, for continuity, I had hung on to them for another year. So, by the end of the Autumn term of Year 8 I knew them pretty well, the (loveable) rogues from the well-behaved, the academic high fliers and those that found their studies more of challenge. I knew them, they knew me, and, on the whole we all got along well, most of the time.

As November turned to December, the days got shorter and the weather got colder, one of my “loveable rogues” approached me with his customary big beaming smile on his face.

“Sir” he said (things were still rather formal back then) “sir, I’ve asked my mum for five bottles of wine to bring in for Christmas gifts for teachers. I’m going to give one to you, and one to Miss Jones [his English teacher] ‘cos I like her. And I’m going to keep the other three for me.”

I was touched that Tom* felt I was worthy of a gift, and also a little touched but perhaps a bit more concerned that he was happy to share his plan with me. Anyway, later that day I picked up the phone:

“Good afternoon, Mrs Smith* I hope you are well. I’m Tom’s tutor at school. … Yes, I’m well, thank you, no nothing to worry about, no he’s not in trouble. I just wanted to give you a quick call to suggest that if you are sending Tom into school with any gifts for his teachers, chocolates may be a better choice than wine. … No, no problem at all. Merry Christmas.”

Later that week, I raised a wry smile as Tom – ever so slightly grudgingly – handed me a beautifully wrapped box of chocolates as my Christmas gift.

*not Tom’s real name. Although more than 25 years have passed since this story, and countless students have filed through my classroom, I still remember Tom – I’m not sure I ever taught him anything, but as a beginner teacher, Tom and his antics taught me a whole lot about my chosen profession.

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