Is there a way to approach unequal staff Christmas presents at my workplace that will not come off as me being jackassy?
January 2, 2013 2:34 PM   Subscribe

Is there a way to approach unequal staff Christmas presents at my workplace that will not come off as me being jackassy?

I work at a small private school as a specialty teacher and I feel like every year, the staff Christmas presents from the parents become more and more unreasonable. I don't teach for the presents and I don't expect them per se, but when I know they are happening and I see such huge inequalities, I have to admit, it stings a little.

The first year I was there, each class gave me a present. They collected from all the parents in the class, and divided it so the homeroom teacher got 2/3 of it and the specialty teachers (music, French, art) for 1/3 split between them. In the last year or so, they have been kind of winging it.

I am a specialty teacher and unlike the art and music teachers, I am full-time and see each class every day. I teach 7 classes and got a gift card on behalf of the whole school for $125, which is less than $20 per class. The homeroom teachers, who work the same hours as me, got a single present from their own class and these ranged from Tiffany jewelry AND a spa gift card for one teacher to a brand new iPad for another. It just doesn't seem fair.

I want to emphasize, I am not complaining about the stuff per se. I just don't think the parents should be buying *anybody* an iPad here! And it does sting when my work seems to be valued at $17 per class and another teacher's work seems to be valued at $500! I just wish the principal could intervene and set some guidelines here for next year so that *if* parents feel compelled to buy teacher gifts (which, again, I don't think they should have to do at all) there is some sort of guideline for them on who works with their kids, how much, and what a reasonable limit is for gifts for each of these people.

I grew up in a blended family where blatant inequality such as this occurred (xbox for one kid, scented candle and paperback novel for another) so I understand that I am perhaps over-sensitive to this issue. And I do want to emphasize again that for me, it truly is not about the stuff---it's the inequality that hurts---hearing of other co-workers who work the same hours with the same kids as me bragging about what they got and I got so much less than they did...

So...is there a way to approach this with the boss where I won't come across as a total jackass? I can wait until the year-end meeting and mention it as a thing to work on for next year, or address it now, whatever is best. It is not an urgent, burning issue. But if there is a way to do it where I don't come across looking like a jackass or a scrooge, I'd like to say something...
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (50 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Christmas gifts are not a measure of your worth as a teacher. Really.

I don't think there's a good way to bring this up without just seeming butt sore about a teacher getting an ipad when you didn't. Personally, I would let this one go.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:40 PM on January 2, 2013 [14 favorites]


No. I'm sorry but there is no way to bring this up. If you were one of the teachers that got more then you could bring it up "not that I don't love diamonds, but X only got a gift card and I don't think its good for morale" but in your position it's not possible to bring it up without looking bad.
posted by atrazine at 2:40 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


No. It's a gift. You cannot in any way complain about it.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:43 PM on January 2, 2013 [9 favorites]


There's probably no good way to do it, and the backlash caused from bringing it up could follow you like a malodorous cloud. I'm sorry, but I'm in the camp of not airing your feelings publicly.
posted by wolfgirl at 2:45 PM on January 2, 2013


This is absolutely, 100% the last workplace gripe you ever want anyone associating with you, professionally. Because if your angle isn't "I want more," it's "I want other people to have less" and, well, no one likes either of those people. It's just a really bad idea to, in any way, make yourself known as the person who complains about others' gift-giving.
posted by griphus at 2:46 PM on January 2, 2013 [15 favorites]


You can't say anything, sorry. But maybe you should feel fortunate that your kids' parents were nice enough to get you something at all? I don't get a bonus. I know a lot of people who didn't even have jobs over the holidays, and they still managed to buy other people gifts without complaining about the gifts they received. News flash: your attitude is a part of the problem, not a potential solution.
posted by two lights above the sea at 2:47 PM on January 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


I don't think it comes off as being an asshole, but I do think it comes off as whiny and it's not something I would bring up. I worked as a teacher for a year and got less (or no) gifts from my kids while other teachers got multiple things. I would just try to not take it too personally or dwell on it.
posted by queens86 at 2:48 PM on January 2, 2013


I have to guess that you'd be a little less upset if it was you getting the iPad.

Be happy for the gift card and spend your emotional energy on something of consequence.
posted by Pecinpah at 2:48 PM on January 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


I really don't see a good solution here. I can hardly imagine the boss would want to take on managing the parents Christmas present purchases as an added duty. Your salary and benefits determine how your organization values your work and this is the start and end of it.

I expect you have less visibility with the parents because of the nature of your job; students (and therefore parents) will naturally form a stronger relationship with the homeroom teacher. Possibly the parents don't realize that you're not part time and don't realize how hard you work. You might be able to strengthen relationships with parents in the future which could lead to more of the recognition and validation that you seek (and this is fine, it's reasonable to want to be recognized for your work), but it will always be harder for you in this role because you have 7X as many parents as your homeroom-teacher peers. This may be one of those things you will simply have to accept as beyond your ability to change.
posted by PercussivePaul at 2:49 PM on January 2, 2013 [13 favorites]


Like others say, there is probably no way to do this without looking a little bit like a sore loser.

BUT, it's obviously bothering you, and I can see how this would feel unfair. If I were your supervisor (the principal, I guess), and you were a valued teacher on my staff, I would want to know if you were feeling this way. It might be in the principal's best interest to maybe issue some guidelines on the gift-giving for the sake of all concerned. I've been a parent in private preschools where this route had to be taken -- where some teachers were winding up bonanzas and others with coffee mugs.

It might be worth mentioning to your boss, in private, if you feel strongly enough about. But depending on the relationship with your boss, his/her approach to problems like this, and if he/she is able to keep things in confidence, you run a risk of looking a little jerky. That's not fair, but that's the world.
posted by pantarei70 at 2:50 PM on January 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Wow. There is no way to not make that sound jackassy and outrageously petty. Nope.

Homeroom teachers usually have the kids most of the day. They form the strongest bonds as the main connection between the child's parents and the school. You should celebrate that your colleagues have earned the healthy, positive respect of these parents and kids enough to be given such gifts. Be happy for them. You know firsthand how hard teaching is, and it sounds like these teachers are doing it well enough to receive gifts.

The only reason to look at what others are getting should be to make sure they have ENOUGH.
posted by mochapickle at 2:51 PM on January 2, 2013


I wonder if the parents view the homeroom teacher as their kid's teacher, and thus feel loyal/grateful/whatever toward him/her, whereas they don't spend a lot of time thinking about their kid's French teacher. In other words, I doubt very much that anyone is thinking, "Tiffany jewelry for the homeroom teacher, $20 for the French teacher--that seems fair!" but rather that the parents are thinking, "What should we get for Billy's teacher this year?" and not considering gifts for other faculty or staff at the school (or they're thinking, "Well, we pitched in for the all-school parents' gift, but let's recognize all the hard work Ms. Homeroom has done--Billy's doing so well this year!")

I get that it stings to not be recognized for putting in full-time work with your students, but you can't control how parents think about their kids' homeroom teachers. You could take this as a cue to look for ways to raise your profile with parents. However, in terms of saying something to the school's administration, I think your sense of gift-giving fairness is in overdrive here, and no good can come of raising the issue. You will look bad.
posted by Meg_Murry at 2:51 PM on January 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yeah, this would definitely come across as you having a chip on your shoulder big-time. Schools are an inherently imbalanced, inequitable environment. Let this one go -- and consider the possibility that you may need to work with someone objective to get over the gift giving stuff your family put you through so you don't find yourself simmering with long-term resentment over stuff like this anymore.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 2:52 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm sorry, that situation stinks. It must be hard to hear others brag about their gifts (which is, by the way, tacky behavior). However, raising this issue to the school administration probably won't help matters and could harm your professional reputation and relationships.
posted by Area Man at 2:53 PM on January 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


I don't think it's fair of folks in this thread to call you jackassy and whiny. I guess I'd be bummed. But I would also feel badly if I got an iPad and the teacher in the next room got a mug. I like fair things.

Unfortunately though, as mochapickle pointed out, the parents will know the homeroom teachers better - and know their kid spends more time there, than with you. I think you just happened to pick a career that will not make out in the Xmas present department.

But don't say anything. You won't be able to take it back, and it could get very uncomfortable very quickly.
posted by Glinn at 2:55 PM on January 2, 2013 [16 favorites]


Can you not get a job as a home room teacher so you can get the presents? Or, just ignore the presents. Teaching is full of illogical inequalities (for example, classroom hours are assigned by seniority rather than competence) so why should this be any different? It's part of the culture of teaching.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:55 PM on January 2, 2013


I want to emphasize, I am not complaining about the stuff per se.

Hey, come now, you clearly are complaining about the stuff; at least half your question - maybe more - is complaining about the stuff and your feelings of rejection regarding the stuff.

This is not to say those feelings are invalid or unworthy or whatever, but I think you should be honest with yourself that you're pissed off you don't get an ipad and it hurts.

Once you've acknowledged that, you should totally acknowledge that a) everyone else at the school will see your motivations as clearly as they come through in this question, and b) "I want an ipad toooooo!" is not a compelling pitch regardless of the feelings of anxiety and hurt that motivate it.

If it bothers you so much, maybe switch to a school where the parents can't afford ipads for their kids, let alone their kids' teachers. a $125 voucher would feel like staggering generosity in those schools.
posted by smoke at 2:57 PM on January 2, 2013 [11 favorites]


No. The gifts are extras, nobody is entitled to them. I'm sure at one point in their lives, the teachers that got iPads and jewelry had a Christmas where their class got them a mug, if anything. I think it is great that your school gives you a 125 dollar gift certificate- many teachers get nothing at all.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:03 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I grew up in a blended family where blatant inequality such as this occurred (xbox for one kid, scented candle and paperback novel for another) so I understand that I am perhaps over-sensitive to this issue.

Parents owe it to their children to be fair, and so it's understandable when kids feel resentful about such scenarios, but adulthood is a different ballgame with different rules. Adults aren't owed the same level of consideration by other adults, and adults are supposed to be able to deal with the fact that life isn't always fair. If you try to address this, you will come across as childish.

Keep in mind that a $125 gift card is still a substantial gift, and remember that, outside your school, lots of people don't get a workplace Christmas gift or bonus at all.
posted by orange swan at 3:05 PM on January 2, 2013 [10 favorites]


... and you know, I understand it's not fun when someone else gets better gifts. I worked for a gardening company where my clients tended to be poorer. I worked my ass off to swing every little deal for them, brought plants I removed from other gardens, bought cheap seeds, and did whatever I could to make their little yards beautiful within their budgets. a colleague had much richer clients- he would schmooze them and hangout while his assistant did the hard work. He got tons of presents because his clients could afford it and thought nothing of giving him a bottle of Veuve Clicquot or a 200 dollar gift certificate. One of my clients made me homemade cookies, another gave me a five dollar card for Peets Coffee. I knew they did what they could to show their appreciation for my work.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:09 PM on January 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think you just happened to pick a career that will not make out in the Xmas present department.

I think so too.

You might not like what I'm about to say, but I'm going to offer it anyway. I was a teacher in a private school where there was gift-giving (though it was more things like a really nice candle or a $25 gift card, so it wasn't a big deal). And we had head teachers for each class, and also specialists. It wasn't "homerooms" in the shallow sense of public middle school where someone takes attendance and then you move on with your day, it was a class for which we had ultimate responsibility for the kids' progress during the year. We had the kids 8:30-2:45 and specials were 45 minutes long out of that day - also, in my particular scenario, we didn't have "off" during specials but had half the group at all times while the other half went to specials.

What I can say based on my own experience is that though the specialists may not work shorter hours or apply any less intellect than homeroom teachers, the job is definitely different and the expectations and relationships are different. The homeroom teacher not only has the kids for more cumulative time, they are also ultimately the ones responsible for the (many and frequent) personal parental contacts, the fights, the breakdowns, the bad news, the referrals to child development specialists and the adapative measures, the ones that have to clean the kids up when they have bathroom or vomit accidents, the ones who have to give and justify the grades, the ones who sit in parent conferences, and the ones who track progress holistically in great detail. I know every teacher works hard, but the relationship is different for a reason. You are able to enjoy teaching a subject speciality and have a relationship with the kids that is likely to be less stressful for them and more of a highlight in their day (and for the most part my kids behaved better in specials than in the regular classroom, where they felt safe to push boundaries and didn't mind wasting time), while their homeroom is where much serious drama and interpersonal heavy lifting occurs. This may also be reflected in hiring requirements and the salary structure. Classroom teaching is just different from specialist teaching.

I feel sorry for you more because your whole school is apparently caught up in a crappy, consumerist, affluenza type of extravagant money-based gift culture, not because you're not raking in the goods while others are. This sucks for everybody, and if the parents are that well off, then outlaw gifts and just raise the freaking tuition and pay everyone better. I think that a "gifts are out of hand for all of us, can we opt out or do a community charity drive instead" move could be very welcome and nonselfish seeming, but not an "Even out the gifts please, where's mine" move. I'd just recommend you re-evaluate your ideas about 'fairness' in this situation. It's like in a corporate office, the receptionist always gets the gifts and enjoys the flowers and fruit baskets and cheese trays and chocolate more often than anyone else. It's not that she's a better person, s/he's just there when the delivery happens. It's structural, not personal. This isn't something to carry around as a burden. Life's too short.
posted by Miko at 3:09 PM on January 2, 2013 [29 favorites]


I am a specialty public school teacher and, yes, some of my kids' families remember me at Christmas; usually homemade jams or cookies, sometimes a coffee card, certainly never anything worth more than $15. Most don't, and probably most do remember their kid's homeroom teacher- who their kid spends most of each day with- and likely with something more substantial. This makes total sense to me. I write little thank-you notes to the families who do something for me- no matter how small- and honestly don't think about it more than that. You really shouldn't either.

My district did set a $50 limit on gifts a few years ago, just so it didn't look like anyone was bribing a teacher for a grade. Anything more than that has to be reported to the city. If the parents giving or the teachers who are getting the fancy gifts seem stressed or weirded out by the culture of gifts at the school, that may be a thing to consider, but right now, honestly, going by the tone of this post, I think the problem is not that you don't think that anyone should be getting iPads, really, but that you think that you should get one too. And it would be hard for your principal/head to take you seriously if s/he thinks that's what's really going on and you suggest a gift limit. I would let this one lie.
posted by charmedimsure at 3:09 PM on January 2, 2013


So...is there a way to approach this with the boss where I won't come across as a total jackass?

No. I understand that there are very legitimate discussions to be had here about homeroom, specialty, full-time teachers and parent relationships, etc., but this is not the way to have it. There is no possible way in which bringing this up will solve any of these more substantive issues, and it will unfortunately just make you look very petty, even if your intentions are only the best.

(And I think we should give you the benefit of the doubt -- there are some food for discussion here, but framing it in the terms of gifts as you've presented here is 100% not the way to go about it.)
posted by andrewesque at 3:11 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think it is really understandable that the way this is being handled pushes your buttons if it reminds you of how presents were handled when you were a kid. I have some buttons of my own based on childhood stuff, and my blood pressure might start rising in reaction to things that other people see as really no big deal. But that's the thing about having buttons like that - they are personal. When other people don't share them, they might see your emotions and reactions as really over the top, out of line, etc.

One solution that occurs to me is if you graciously let the school and/or parents know that you request no presents at all for yourself.
posted by cairdeas at 3:11 PM on January 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think your feelings are understandable and it is thoughtless of the parents -- but as I recall, my homeroom/main teachers got a lot more than any of the secondary teachers in elementary school, because we just were closer to those teachers. But there is no way to mention this without sounding entitled. Even if it is brought up, it is really on the homeroom teachers to mention it, not the specialty teachers.
posted by jeather at 3:13 PM on January 2, 2013


I'd feel a bit bummed if this happened in my school too. (Then again, I'd probably feel worse if I was the person with the $500 iPad.)

I think there is an angle you can approach this from, though. You could say something to the principal along the lines of "I'm not sure gifts, especially such lavish ones, are appropriate in a school setting. It creates an unequal playing field for the students, where teachers may feel obligated to give them better grades if the parents got them a more expensive gift. Maybe next year parents could donate to the school in the name of the teacher instead, or just send holiday cards?" By framing it as something you're doing for the benefit of the students, the issue becomes a lot less volatile.

In the school where I taught, gift-giving was specifically discouraged. Instead, parents who wanted to say thank you to the teachers were encouraged to dedicate a book to that teacher in the school library, which I think cost a nominal amount of money. The teacher then received a photo of the child and the dedication on the inside front cover of the book, which was like a personal thank-you note. It was a really sweet gesture, and ultimately benefited the whole school as the library could use those funds for anything it needed.
posted by danceswithlight at 3:16 PM on January 2, 2013 [20 favorites]


Gift inequity strikes in many workplaces. I work in the publications department at a museum, and we usually receive nothing from vendors at Christmas, while our colleagues in the graphic design department on the other side of the floor receive countless lavish gift baskets from many of the exact same vendors we use for many of the same projects. But the designers get more face time with the printing companies, and so they get the Godiva truffles and wine and fancy cheese (and then share them generously with us).

There are lots of injustices in the world to be concerned about. Christmas presents among adults isn't really one of them.
posted by scody at 3:19 PM on January 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Ask about a policy of not discussing gifts... but you're going to come across as bitter and a fun-hater unless you're very popular. Consider waiting until November of next year and have a good selfless sounding reason. Even then...
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:20 PM on January 2, 2013


Homeroom teachers usually have the kids most of the day. They form the strongest bonds as the main connection between the child's parents and the school.

This is it. Students and parents are allowed to have more affection for their homeroom teacher, their sports coach, or the lunch lady than they have for you. On preview, for the reasons set forth in Miko's comment.

Given the season, it might help to do a thought experiment in the form of a holiday TV special titled, "The Specialist Teacher Who Didn't Like Her Christmas Gifts". Does the show end with the specialty teacher complaining to make sure everyone gets gifts of lower (but equal value), or does it end with the teacher accepting gifts without complaint? What show would you want to watch each year?
posted by Tanizaki at 3:25 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm also a teacher, and stuff like this happens at my school too.

But I don't think the stuff is the issue.

You feel like you're being judged as "not worth enough" compared to the other teachers. You see them being valued at iPad level, and yourself valued at $125 gift level. That is less about the stuff and more about you feeling like you're less important.

But what if the stuff is just stuff? What if they DID give you an iPad - would that make it all better? Or would it just be one less thing in the narrative of "I'm not worth as much as [x person] is"?

Your worth is not determined by your job, or by presents, or by the amount of praise you get. Your worth is in who you are - not what you do. The iPad is a distraction. What really bothers you is tangible evidence that you aren't "good enough" compared to someone else.

But change the narrative and the iPad is just an iPad. It has no bearing on how hard you work or how much you're appreciated. Until you believe that, this narrative is just going to get stronger and stronger.
posted by guster4lovers at 3:30 PM on January 2, 2013 [11 favorites]


There is one thing you can do, actually.

Wait. Wait until you are the teacher that receives a really expensive gift, for whatever reason (which will probably boil down to you being really liked by a parent you happen to have one year, who happens to have a knack for fundraising -- which is likely how those homeroom teachers got larger gifts the last few years, one or two fundraising-adept parents can make that happen.)

When you get that gift, don't brag, and don't boast. Keep your ears open, and figure out who got the lowest-value gifts that year.

Then, go to the principal and say "hey, look, I got this really great gift, but [other person] got a really lousy one, and I'm going to give mine to [him/her]. Even though it is up to the parents to fund these gifts, do you think we ought to pool the money so that nobody feels left out?"

Then give your gift to that person, quietly, and leave it at that -- you've said your peace quietly at a time when you could have chosen to be greedy, you've put your money where your mouth is, and now you put it behind you.
posted by davejay at 3:34 PM on January 2, 2013 [15 favorites]


Also -- some teachers are really, really blunt (and gauche sometimes too) about the stuff they want for the holidays. Is it possible that the teachers that got the really expensive stuff made some not so subtle hints to parents and that's why they received what they did?
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 3:44 PM on January 2, 2013


Telling people what they can & can't gift others is a definite no. I am really sorry you feel hurt by this, but your best bet is to work the next year to become more present (ha) in the minds of the parents so that they can also understand what a big part you play in their child's every day.

But that doesn't mean you will get an iPad next year.

There are so many factors behind the scenes that might have influenced the gifts that you don't know about. Did the iPad teacher help get someone's son to read his first whole novel? Did the T&C teacher get someone's kid to start interacting in class for the first time ever?

Sometimes someone is that special teacher who deserves something special. One day that someone might be you, so don't spend your time working to take that away from other teachers.
posted by haplesschild at 3:54 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


This sounds like a lot of money per family. I mean, I just don't think it can be appropriate for each student's family to be giving enough money for an iPad AND MORE unless there are absolutely no scholarship students at the school. On the other hand, I don't ally see you being in a good place to address it unless you were good friends with the head of the PTA.
posted by bq at 3:55 PM on January 2, 2013


It's a gift, not an entitlement. You shouldn't complain that someone giving you a gift is not giving you a large enough gift. That would be really tacky.

The size or cost of a gift given to you is not a comment on your worth as a teacher. The fact that your students got you a gift at all is.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:00 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I agree with all the others who said no, there is absolutely no classy way to bring this up. I don't think it's the fault of the principal or anyone else; it is just a reflection of the way the parents view the teachers at your school. (And I just mean that you, as a specialty teacher, are not as visible to them as a homeroom teacher would be.)

Maybe just focus on the gift that you did receive, and be grateful for it? I mean, I would be thrilled to receive a $125 gift card! I didn't receive any gifts at work this year.
posted by barnoley at 4:35 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


As a parent in an affluent school district, I think teacher gifts have gotten completely out of control. I don't remember anyone doing monetary gifts to teachers when I was a student, but now there seems to be a vicious cycle of people trying to outdo each other. Not that the teachers don't deserve gifts! It just seems like the wrong sort of relationship - a teacher isn't a service worker I employ personally, like a house cleaner who I might give a Christmas tip. And they're not personal friends of mine. So gift-giving beyond a token seems weird, and possibly trying to buy grades. I'd be thrilled if the school policy was "no gifts over $10" or something of the sort. Or even if the PTA solicited donations that would then be used for something that would benefit all the teachers.
posted by Daily Alice at 4:42 PM on January 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


The only reason you should ever look in your neighbour's bowl is to make sure they have enough.
posted by flabdablet at 4:47 PM on January 2, 2013 [31 favorites]


Honestly, for this year, I'd just drop it --- anything you could say, no matter HOW you say it, will come off as sour grapes.

But maybe sometime this summer, you could make some suggestions for FUTURE gifts to teachers: make up a plan for an overall gift policy that the principal and the school's board of directors could enact. DO NOT bring up the inequality in the gifts you yourself have received; simply say that the general gifting seems to be getting out of hand, and perhaps its time to put an official limit on things. Make concrete suggestions: $25 maximum per gift; give to the school library in a teacher's honor; start a 'teacher appreciation flowerbed' at the school that donations could be directed towards, or even make the limit "only gifts handmade by the child".

The point is, suggest a specific policy, and suggest it be implemented before the next school year starts --- well away from the actual emotion of the holiday season.
posted by easily confused at 5:14 PM on January 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


If it makes you feel better, I totally feel your pain. I am a teacher. I am considered an hourly "part-time" teacher - even though I teach 6 classes - the exact same amount of classes as the "full-time" teachers. The "full-time" salaried teachers get paid twice as much as me, including paid office hours to prep and grade. For the Exact. Same. Job. The injustice of it all really grinds my gears. But the worst part is that it totally affects your self-worth.

But yeah, you can't say a damn thing about the gifts. Just suck it up and move on with your life.
posted by gnutron at 6:27 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Daily Alice, speaking as a parent, makes a great point. Your avenue to this is probably not bringing it up with the other teachers or school staff, but actually working with parents. Is there a parent or two who you know and trust well enough that you can sidle up to at a school event and say "geez, this gift-giving thing has really gotten out of control! I sometimes feel like parents expect us to privilege some student over another because of the gifts. Of course I would never do that, but it's nuts to spend so much - that never happened when I was a kid. I mean, I can buy my own stuff, it's not like we need a tip. I wish there were a $10 limit (or a charity drive instead, or handmade only, or whatever), don't you?"

REally, if it started as a parent movement, nobody would say a peep (publicly).
posted by Miko at 6:37 PM on January 2, 2013


This would bug me too and for the same reasons you identified. While I agree with the sentiment expressed above that "we don't teach for the gifts" I also think if that's the case then the school should walk the talk: no gifts accepted that are worth more than $50 (or whatever). Perhaps you can frame your proposal that way. Other industries (are supposed to) adhere to these types of limits in order to avoid/minimize undue external influences so there is precedence.

If you don't feel comfortable bringing this up in person can you write/send an anonymous letter?
posted by hapax_legomenon at 6:38 PM on January 2, 2013


I grew up in a blended family where blatant inequality such as this occurred (xbox for one kid, scented candle and paperback novel for another) so I understand that I am perhaps over-sensitive to this issue


I think an old tape is getting played for you here. Really.

Although the gifts for the main teachers ARE ridiculous, I agree, it's a function of the parents probably have more of a relationship themselves with those main teachers.

I wouldn't bring it up. But be gentle to yourself; it is totally understandable why this would sting for you so much. Think of it this way, in the public school system I doubt you would be gifted anything near what you yourself got this year.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:27 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm a specialty teacher in a public school. This year, I got two presents: a set of 4 stemless red wine tasting glasses from one student, and a set of four crystal whiskey glasses from another. (Both of which are awesome.)

A colleague, a homeroom teacher, got a Nook from her homeroom. I felt a hint of a trace of a brief pang of jealousy before realizing, hey, good for her, and also that I like my position way more than I'd like teaching an elementary school homeroom, and it would take a hell of a lot of Nooks to get me to trade places with her.

Some colleagues inadvertently made an interesting point when fawning over the Nook gift on Facebook: the ones in the next grade up were (jokingly?) lobbying to have the child of the homeroom mom (who organized the collection and chose the gift) in their class next year, so they'd wind up with the nice gift.

Not sure if things are allocated the same way at your school, but that kid is going to find a lot of borderline calls going his or her way the rest of the year and is already on the radar of the teachers a grade up. Which is not to say that the homeroom mom doesn't appreciate my colleague's fine work, or was attempting bribery or anything. She just managed to raise her profile and her kid's profile a whole lot through her involvement. (And not just with teachers, probably with other kids and parents too.)

So, no, I wouldn't bring it up. Keep in mind that nobody's trying to slight you here, and there may be more at play than acknowledging the homeroom teacher's good work.
posted by alphanerd at 8:27 PM on January 2, 2013


I grew up in a blended family where blatant inequality such as this occurred (xbox for one kid, scented candle and paperback novel for another) so I understand that I am perhaps over-sensitive to this issue. And I do want to emphasize again that for me, it truly is not about the stuff---it's the inequality that hurts---hearing of other co-workers who work the same hours with the same kids as me bragging about what they got and I got so much less than they did...

No, really, admit that is is about the stuff. You wish you got nicer stuff like the other teachers from parents who wanted to give you something major.

I think that other people's comparisons of professions here are apt. Some people have jobs where they're in charge of making purchasing decisions, and they get all the fancy gifts from vendors. I work alone in an office and solve difficult problems, but I don't have vendors fawning over me to keep them in my good graces, even though I work the same hours as those purchasing guys and probably aren't paid that much differently (possibly I'm paid more). We occupy different social roles in our jobs, so we get treated differently. One of the things I think you should ponder is the fact that your choice of specific teaching profession (being a "specialty teacher") occupies a certain social role in the community/school hierarchy, and you should decide whether you're comfortable with that or whether you really would prefer to have a more "forward facing" teaching job.
posted by deanc at 8:35 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


If this truly bothers you, than you should insist that whatever is given to you should instead be donated to a charity or other group that could use the money/items. This way, you aren't taking anything home, and therefor aren't comparing your gift to other peoples gifts. You would also be doing something good for people in need.

Honestly, it is a gift. If you are feeling stressed out over a gift, than it's probably best that you remove yourself from the situation entirely.
posted by markblasco at 8:48 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I get where you're coming from when you say that it's not about the stuff, it's about the inequality. I'm sure if all the teachers were getting $20 dollar gift cards, you wouldn't come on here and complain about wanting an iPad instead. It's a valid concern.

However, I don't think you will be able to convey this in a way that doesn't sound petty. Also, I don't think there's much you can do to control what other people want to give to you. Some organizations and people are obligated to be fair - parents, governments and so on, but parents are individuals and they have no obligation to treat you fairly. They probably should, but they don't and it isn't really your place to tell them so.
posted by cyml at 8:55 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am a substitute at a pre-school and kindergarten. This holiday season I was overjoyed to get two cards from parents of one of our 2-, and one of our 5-year-olds. The cards were heartfelt, written with the help/input of the students, and unlike normal birthday cards or whatever, I will keep these two cards for years. The cards brought tears to my eyes and are precious—they are unsolicited letters thanking me for caring for their children in their stead. There is no financial or tangible gift that could've topped these.
posted by blueberry at 11:23 PM on January 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


My children's school was similar, and I do not know if it was a teacher's complaint or what started it but the Parent Teacher Association took over the gifting at Christmas and year end. All families were sent an envelope for a voluntary donation. All funds were divided evenly (regardless of specialty, homerooms,etc) and each received a gift card and a "thank you, teacher" card.

This took the responsibility from any paid staff member, made it all voluntary, and did not embarass anyone (esp kids whose families may not be able to send in a special gift). It was all equal for the staff members. Individual gifts to teachers were strongly discouraged but some kids still brought cookies or a small homemade gift to their homeroom teachers.
posted by maxg94 at 6:22 AM on January 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'm sorry, but this sounds so incredibly petty to me. They don't have to get you ANYTHING but you are complaining about "only" getting $125. Stop looking at what the other teachers are getting, as it's really none of your business.

You probably are with each subset of kids for an hour or so per day while the homeroom teacher has them for the rest of the time and is a lot more personally involved with their day to day lives.

That's how I remember elementary school.
posted by dozo at 12:16 PM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


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