When I was a kid I used to give Christmas gifts to some (not all) of my teachers strictly because I liked them. No big whoop. I had only one teacher (science) who specifically requested that we NOT give him anything, and only in latter years have I really come to respect that decision.
I have several relatives and friends who are high school teachers, several of whom have blogs, and they’ve written posts on their favorite gifts of the year (some gag, some real). The haul includes such things as bottles of champagne, Bhuddist T-shirts, books, gift certificates, etc… Now, while I honestly don’t think for a minute that any of the teachers I know would be swayed in the grading of a student paper based on the fact that the student isn’t half-trying in his classwork but gave him that really cool Egyptian ushabti paperweight, I personally feel it’s unprofessional to accept anything from somebody you have authority over, especially considering that usually the source of the money is the kids’ parents. While I know it’s not bribery it just seems… mmmm… gray area to me.
Of course I have to admit I’m awkward on the subject of receiving gifts in general. When I was a supervisor I specifically requested no presents for birthday and Christmas- a couple of employees got me something anyway and I accepted them graciously, but only because we were especially friendly. I am currently leaving my job and, not to be immodest, I’m a pretty damned popular guy at work, and friends gave me a going away party in addition to the official workplace sendoff; I sent out a “please do not bring presents of any kind- and remember: if you fail to comply with this request you’ll make the people who did comply look bad” note to all people who were coming to my going away party because, much as I will miss them, I don’t need a knick-knack to remember them and I know how little some of them make (and it’s the season for preparing Holiday Compensation Packages for relatives you don’t like so money is already tight)*. I just think that acceptance of such gifts puts pressure on people who can’t afford it and there’s always the ethical problem of it and… well, ultimately I just don’t like it.
Anyway, what’s your opinion? Do you think that teachers should accept gifts from students? If not, do you think that schools should have a formal policy barring teachers from accepting gifts from students?
(They complied, but then gave me a “Happy December 12th” Amazon.com gift certificate that they chipped in on with an “in no way meant to be perceived as a going away gift”- I appreciated the sentiment and I even liked the gift but I really do wish they hadn’t done it.)
I taught in only one school where gift-giving was a common practice. One student asked me what I would like for Christmas. I told her that I wanted the biggest, reddest apple that I had ever seen. And that is exactly what I got. When I think of the time and effort that student must have put into finding Gargantuan Apple, it brings tears to my eyes. I had no idea that she would take me that seriously.
She already had beautiful grades. She gave out of the pleasure of giving. And she knew that I knew that.
It was a good moment for both of us. Twenty-six years later, I’ll bet she remembers too.
And I still have the “Season’s Greetings” red and green pencils that my second grade teacher gave me in a little holder back in 1950.
My granddaughter took pleasure in finding a certain book for one of her teachers at Shakespeare & Co. in Paris last April. She’s going to become a teacher herself.
Is this really a something that is “broken”? I can see that it has the potential for being abused, but there is a bonding that goes on between teacher and student.
If you ban teachers from accepting gifts, I think you’re reinforcing the idea that teachers have authority over students and should be removed from them. I think it’s better if students feel like they can actually connect personally with their teachers. I only remember getting a gift for one teacher, and it’s not as if we became close just because I got him something- but why throw up more roadblocks between students and teachers?
This should be left to the judgment of the teacher, with the understanding that it’s unethical to have any gift influence his or her assessment of the student. Formal policy? Perhaps no gifts beyond a certain monetary value. But I have no idea how such a policy can be enforced. From my personal experience, any gifts were clearly out of appreciation from the students and not because of some effort to curry favor.
Gotta go with nivlac here – in my industry, we have “authority” over our contractors, since our decisions can affect whether or not they get business with us or not. Our policy for receiving gifts is that we can accept “tokens,” no more than a small amount ($25 or so, IIRC). Anything more influential and we’d have to turn it down.
Similarly, I can see where a teacher who receives a brand-new iPod from a student might feel awkward about it. But something minor, like a paperweight or a greeting card (or, in one case, a $100 gift certificate from a classroom of 20 students) is IMO harmless enough.
I’m a teacher. If the school banned gift-giving, I’d be okay with that. I tend to worry more about the feelings of students who didn’t give gifts than about the possibility of influencing grades.
I have a hundred students, and in a typical year I get ten or fifteen gifts. They are of small monetary value, trinkets, ornaments, candy, and that sort of thing. I think the most expensive thing I ever got was a book of Robert Frost poetry.
I open the gift at my desk, sincerely thank the child, then put the gift out of sight.
I’m quite sure that gifts don’t affect my grades, because, with a very few exceptions (like the gift from China that my Chinese student brought), I can never remember who brought me which gift by the time I get back to school anyway.
The problem, IMHO, is with the effect on the students, not with the concept of potentially “bribing” the teacher. It can become a contest to see who (or whose parents) can come up with the swankiest gift. Kids whose parents can’t afford much feel left out and self-conscious. If gifts are limited to home-made or small tokens of esteem, they are fine, although most teachers don’t really need another coffee mug that says “I love my teacher” on it. Or another clove-studded orange.
one metal dragon ornament (very welcome to a roleplayer)
two hand carved wooden chess pieces (I had introduced the pupil to Kasparov)
a Pokemon key ring (it flashes and is truly revolting. But I appreciate the spirit behind the gift from a successful school team I ran!)
several boxes of chocolates ( )
I once taught a pupil who had been very unhappy at a previous School. At the end of term, his family thanked me officially for my sympathetic treatment (just doing my job, Ma’am).
The pupil wanted to give me a gift - of a car. I thought about getting a sweet little toy car, but said cheerfully that it wasn’t necessary. My reward was that the pupil was enjoying his education.
Next term a colleague said she admired my principles. At first I was pleased, then I wondered what exactly had so impressed her. It transpired that the pupil came from an extremely wealthy family and this was the intended gift:
… and glee, thanks for taking time off from kicking yourself to share THAT little gem. Hee.
I can’t speak for everyone here, but as an American public schoolteacher we come from an “apple for the teacher” gifting tradition where any gifts we get tend to be monetarily on the cheap, but usually with real thought behind them in terms of a useful purpose and expressing gratitude. Plus, I have never actively solicited gifts from my students (well – I’ll angle for a wallet-sized picture from each of my students after Picture Taking Day) so it’s always a treat to see who, if anyone, wants to give me a present.
That said, I simply wouldn’t be comfortable accepting an expensive gift (I might make an acception if I were in glee’s shoes – like, take the car and take a reeeeeally long sabbatical) so the idea of a formal monetary gift “cap” sounds workable to me.
Gifts are a way of showing a connection between student and teacher. Every Christmas my desk gets buried in plates of cookies, ornaments, mugs, and such as that. None of it influences my grading. If it did, I’d probably flunk the kid who gave me the 74th “Far Side” mug of my career!
But the cookies are nice. I’ve also had classes in past years give me new stools, stopwatches, etc. One year a bunch of students conspired and built me a new lecturn. I still use it to this day.
I don’t think there is a problem in receiving a present from a student.
We as teachers are encouraged more and more to go beyond educating students and to become personally involved with them. What I mean by that is being involved and taking active interest in their lives and their activities and goals. Sharing in a Holiday tradition is no different as long as at the end of the day their evaluation is based on objective reasons