“Hey Mr.V, why…?”
This is a ‘repeat’ posting of last year’s “Hey, Mr.V…” article. Please read the “PS” at the end for my current comments.
No one said you can’t give a gift to a teacher. The sticky part is what you consider an “appropriate” gift. I just wish to remind all students during this festive season that they are in a situation that requires thought before gifts are acquired and distributed to teachers.
Giving gifts can make many of us “feel good inside”. But what you may not know is that your relationship with teachers is special and unique.
History is full of close teacher-student relationships: Socrates-Plato, Aristotle-Alexander of Macedon, Buddha-Ananda, Jesus-Peter, Muhammad-Umar, Confucius-Yan Hui, and on, and on,… I don’t pretend to be a fraction of the thinker or scholar that these teachers were. But I do expect my students to do great things. When my students see and listen to me, they may view me as a scholar, a tyrant, or something in between. When I look at them (and my own children) I see hope and promise. This is the foundation of my relationship with my students.
When we take the festive season and the generosity it engenders in many, and combine that with the special student-teacher relationship, it can lead to misinterpretation by others. A kind act can, in this mixed-up world, morph into a source of heartache. That heartache could damage the special relationship which my colleagues and I treasure.
For this, I recommend to all my students that they refrain from giving gifts to teachers that are beyond a “token gesture”. To a rich person a token gesture could materialize into a Ferrari. This needs to be an area where thought and common sense prevail. If you believe that you must give a gift, then I recommend a thank you note created and decorated by you. Something made and written by your hands is awesome. Teachers have chosen a profession where expectations are high but few opportunities for recognition exist. A student saying thank you to his teacher with a handcrafted note can be deeply emotional in its impact.
Any student compelled by the season to offer a gift to me, can more than satisfy that urge by offering a request to divine providence (each in his/ her way, as their culture & conscience dictates), to care for the well-being of my family.
PS (Fall 2012): I should have reposted this article sooner, but alas I forgot. I had to surrender to the principal, Ms. Zhang, the gifts I received from students with monetary values in excess of $5. I’ve kept the cards and they’re proudly displayed alongside the well wishes from students of bygone years. Sentiments expressed within the folds of those cards keep my aging frame energized. I asked Ms. Zhang to personally return the gifts to the students along with my gratitude. I chose this path now, as I have in the past, to ensure that no hurt feelings result and that no conflict-of-interest exist. If I had known the extent of the generosity, I would have returned the gifts myself and pleaded with the students to forgive me. I offer thanks to all my students who took time from their exhaustive schedules to think of me.