Monday, 1 December 2008

Rant of the day - Christmas presents

I received a letter from the parent representative for Dear Daughter's Reception class. Amongst all the Christmas admin was this:-

'Apparently it is tradition that the class buy a Christmas gift for Mrs Teacher and Mrs Classroom Assistant - if you would like me to coordinate this and contribute to a joint gift then please let me have your contribution. £10 has been suggested to me as a suitable guideline. I would plan on buying the gifts during the weekend of 13th Dec and therefore if you want me to go ahead with this please could I have the money by Friday 12th...'

So I replied with the following email:-

I have to say, I was a bit taken aback by the idea of a joint Christmas gift for the teachers. I'm not shooting the messenger, so don't think this is aimed at you! But I would be grateful if you could pass my comments on to whoever mentioned this 'tradition'. I have thought about this a lot. I considered just handing over the money, and swallowing any feelings I had, as I was worried about appearing to be making a fuss about nothing, or seeming to be a bit 'Bah Humbug', which I am not at all! But, on reflection I feel quite strongly about it, and there are a few things I object to:-

It seems to me to go against the essence of what Christmas is about - the pleasure taken in selecting and giving a gift, from one person to another. I am trying to teach Dear Daughter about the pleasure in giving, by letting her make or select Christmas presents for the important people in her life. In the arrangement suggested, the children will have no role in the choosing and presenting of a gift to their teachers. A joint present selected by the parent rep and given to the teachers seems to cut the children out of the process completely and turn it into something else entirely - a gift from the parents to the teachers. It is not that I object to the amount of money, as one could easily spend £5 per teacher on a small gift, (although if every child in the class contributed the suggested £10, it would produce a fund of £170, which seems a little excessive for two Christmas gifts, especially in the current climate!) but it's the fact that it is actually specified as a requested amount that seems a little mercenary! I'm sure that the teachers would prefer one large gift than twenty small ones, but I think it is important to remember what this is actually about. As far as I am concerned, giving a gift to a teacher at Christmas is about the child appreciating the care the teacher has given them, and marking the 'specialness' of the relationship. It should not be about the parents just getting their cheque books out... And, most importantly, deciding whether or not to give a gift should be the decision of the child and parent, and not requested or expected by the school! I have spoken about this with a number of teachers, both currently working and retired, and none of them have ever heard of this practice. They all thought it was pretty appalling, to be honest!

Anyway, all that said, before I received your note Dear Daughter and I had already chosen gifts for Mrs Teacher and Mrs Classroom Assistant, so I won't be contributing to a joint gift this year.

Fellow bloggers, was I wrong??


belle said...

You are not wrong. You are so right! Good on you for sticking to your principles.

When my children were this age, we used to make presents for the teachers. To have received such a letter would have cheapened our efforts.

Anonymous said...

You were not wrong at all. Good on you for actually following through and conveying your thoughts - i would be so easy just to go along with something like that. Surely the children's gifts are not meant to constitute a Christmas bonus for the teachers but, as you say, are meant to allow the children to thank their teachers individually.

claires inner world said...

Thanks so much Belle and Kate - I had that moment after sending the email when I thought, 'Is this just me?!'

Ladybird World Mother said...

Nice one. And can I just say as teacher that it is so gorgeous at Christmas to get sweet little presents from my children. (from classroom, not my own!)
Soap, choccies, wine, tiny books, home made biscuits, or just some tatty old card that they made at home... heaven.

claires inner world said...

LWM - Thanks so much, that's lovely. I knew I couldn't be the only one who thinks the whole commercialism of Christmas is getting out of hand!!

Tim Morley said...

Go Girl. You tell 'em and then go and get some loo rolls, cotton wool, and glitter and show 'em what kids-giving-teachers-presents is all about.
I wont dare suggest to you that we might go for a 'christmas drink' sometime soon unless of course its to the sort of inn with a donkey :-/

claires inner world said...

Tim - We can't go to the inn with the donkey. Don't you know your Christmas story? It's Full!! Even my four year old could tell you that...!

Good idea for Christmas celebration of some sort, though. Liase with my secretary, would you? ;-)

Ernest de Cugnac said...

well done Claire. It's not easy to take a stand and far easier to hand over the dosh. I hope that your fair and carefully reasoned email will have them thinking about next year.

claires inner world said...

Ernest - thanks for the vote of confidence...! Cx