Monday, December 17, 2007

On the fourth day of Christmas...

At this time of year every parent feels the burden and (let's face it, sometimes the irritation) at the prospect of giving the dreaded "teacher gifts" to their sons' or daughters' teachers. Especially when you're my neighbor who has four kids, times the number of teachers each has, times the principal, oh yeah and what about the secretary...yikes.

I can call a spade a spade on this one because I was a teacher once upon a time and, though it probably sounds ungrateful, I didn't need all those coffee mugs and icky-sweet brownies.

My son's school Stone Robinson Elementary School in Albemarle County has come up with a wonderful alternative to gift-giving which is nothing less than genius: teachers post a wish list for items they would like to use in their classroom. Total win-win. You just walk in and check out the bulletin board, buy wisely, and abracadabra, it's done. I encourage you to bring this practice to your PTOs and preschools.

That being said, another idea for thoughtful giving is to ditch the gift altogether and sit down and write a meaningful note to the teacher. I read an article in the Post several years ago which described a new study which found that teachers overwhelmingly prefer a kind note over any gift.

I can vouch for this as a former middle-school teacher. I still have the note that Don Dunn's mom gave me that expressed her appreciation eloquently and sincerely --her son had found a "cool" teacher who helped him discover the joy of reading. I've kept all the heart-felt letters, but I'm down to one Christmas mug and I can't remember who gave it to me.

Whichever you choose, don't underestimate the power of kind words this holiday.


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