Life Learning

Sunday 21 September 2014

Saying 'thanks' is ample for our teachers

While it is nice to show our appreciation for teachers, they don't expect expensive gifts, writes Sean Cottrell, Irish Primary Principals' Network

Sean Cottrell

Published 21/07/2014 | 02:30

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AN APPLE for the teacher is the ultimate classic cliche. The innocence of a child wanting to show their appreciation for a teacher is a wonderful thing. So why has 'a gift for the teacher' become controversial in recent times?

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A few years ago I heard from a colleague of a teacher who received a card from a child in her class with a gift voucher for €100 for a certain upmarket department store.

The child in question was from a home that was of average means and, like most families, didn't have a lot of excess cash.

The teacher was unsure how to react to this gift, which was clearly over the top. If she handed it back, would she insult the child's mother; if she accepted it, would it lead to the beginning of a pattern which would present further problems?

In the end, the principal took the matter away from the teacher by discussing it directly with the child's mother.

Whatever happened to the good old apple – the answer is in two words 'Celtic Tiger'. Of course, teachers appreciate when someone gives them a token of their appreciation and far be it from me to suggest that they shouldn't.

But, it has to be said that there is no expectation of any sort from teachers. Receiving gift vouchers or some expensive toiletries is not why teachers teach.

The child who makes a home-made card from a folded sheet of paper is showing their appreciation more powerfully than any voucher could ever attempt.

If you think about it, what more could flatter a teacher than a card which contains something that the teacher taught the child during the year. The simplest thing of all, which in my mind has the greatest power, is to look at someone face to face and say "thank you".

We are living in an age which places a lot of value, perhaps too much, on material goods. It is vitally important that we teach our children why material things don't matter as much as the advertisers and promoters tell us.

If we don't, inevitably the gift for the teacher becomes a platform for competition between parents who seek to impress with the value of their gift. If you really want to impress the teacher, there are 183 opportunities to do it every year – a simple thank you at the end of the school day goes such a long way.

If you would like to send a question directly to Sean, please do so by emailing him at info@ippn.ie

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