"I bet you only do it for the presents at the end of the year," is one of the many comments that teachers hear. Along with the much loved and my personal favourite…
"Teachers need to stop moaning; they get all those holidays."
Catch me on a bad day and I would explain the endless reasons why this is MENTAL whilst also resisting the urge to be violent. It's not a good look when a teacher hits a member of the public.
Obviously, it is all true. I decided to become a teacher solely based on the hope of getting some wine every July. That's how you choose a job right? I spent thousands of pounds to qualify, work 60-hour weeks without finishing the 'to do' list and cry in a cupboard at least once a week. What a dream I hear you cry!
I can't remember giving any of my teacher's gifts when I was a child. I'm not saying it didn't happen, but there certainly wasn't pressure or expectation like there seems to be today.
It has become a booming business and another occasion in the year that shops have embraced. The 'thank you teacher' mugs and 'best teacher in the world' keyrings start popping up in the aisles of our supermarkets along with the quirky online gift stores where you can personalise a wine label to say:
'I'm pretty sure my child is the reason you drink.'
I'm not sure why it has evolved into such an event. Do we need to give gifts to teachers at the end of the year? How much should we spend? Do they expect it?
You may be hoping that I will say:
"We don't expect or need gifts, we just love teaching, please don't worry!"
Well, you are in fact wrong.
If you don't give a gift to your child's teacher at the end of the year, then you are a terrible person. It will be passed on with high importance to their next teacher and God forbid if a younger sibling goes into that class in the future. The name is noted, and they will be paying for your foolishness.
A bottle of wine is a fraction of what we deserve. It could be your child who has harassed a classroom for 180 days. Your child who ate the work off the displays I spent hours putting up or your child who made me have to have a conversation with parents where I had to say the words penis and vagina to them with a straight face. (If your child's name ends with 'en' then I'm probably talking about you.)
Over the years, I have received lots of gifts and it has always astonished me how generous and heartfelt they have been. Being a parent of a toddler I'm not in the whole class parent Facebook group scenario yet, so I'm not sure if there is a competitive nature to the teacher gifts. Watching the local news in July you might watch an interview with Julie - parent to Caden - saying how she feels pressured to spend hundreds of pounds on jewellery for the teacher and that all the parents on the Facebook group page have spent at least a hundred pounds each. Or it could all just be media hype and Julie was just excited to be on the tv.
The reality is, I have never met one teacher that has been upset about not receiving a gift at the end of the year. It's the opposite. The love and appreciation we get from kind words, cards, and gifts can be overwhelming and sometimes can feel underserving like we haven't done enough.
I have had classes that I've truly loved over the years and parents with whom I have formed great relationships. The end of the year with these classes is met with feelings of pride and sadness.
I have been given gifts of all shapes and sizes. Candles, chocolates, bracelets, mugs, teddies, keyrings, wine, gin, afternoon tea, spa days, gift vouchers, plants, flowers, and a birdhouse! The list could go on of all the lovely things I have received over the years. My husband always puts bets on how much hand cream I will get, no idea why but it is a go-to gift. Softest hands in the world right here.
However, anything that has been jazzed up with rhinestones tends to not be allowed to stay in my house. My local charity shop has received gorgeous wine glasses that could be sold to anyone who has the same name as me. I don't know why, but it doesn't feel right drinking from a glass with my name spelt out in diamonds. I'm just not that kind of girl.
On the last day of the school year, you are left with piles of cards and notes the children have made that day because sod doing anything except drawing and watching films on the last day. Screw the national curriculum!!
Some still spell your name wrong, some draw you pictures, many say you're their favourite teacher, but come mid-September they will have dropped you at the kerb for their new teacher. Seven-year-olds are ruthless.
This is what we enjoy, the last hours we get to spend with our classes after a year of hard work, and never-ending tasks. Time to enjoy them. Those scrap bits of paper and handmade cards come home and sit on the mantlepiece to remind us of why we do the job and that however hard the year has been we made it to this point.
My advice would be don't ever feel like you need to buy a teacher a present, like with any gift giving, it means so much more when it is heartfelt. Failing that, alcohol and chocolate never go wrong.
So, when you see a teacher looking happier than they have all year, wheeling a lunch trolley full of gifts up to their car at 3.15 on the last day of school, know that they are thinking…I can't wait for that glass of wine.