Katrina Mills remembers some old favourites and attempts to get to the heart of gift-giving.
It’s that time of year again! I’ve been searching the shops and wracking my brain for an appropriate present for the teacher, TA and headmistress at my son’s school. Which are they most likely to receive less of and find most appealing? The candles? The plants/flowers? The soap on a rope? How many bottles of Prosecco will they already have been given by my son’s eager classmates this year? How many boxsets of dire bathing goods can any woman really use? These are the questions that plague my life for two to three trips to the supermarket every term.
As secondary school teachers we’ve never really had that glut of useless toiletries to haul to the car each Christmas and end of term. You might get the odd present from your tutor group members, grateful parents or doting students but it was all a bit more low-key and low budget at secondary. And I think that is what makes those gifts all the more loving and memorable when they do come.
I remember the lovely scarf from two girls from an old tutor group, received with the information that they’d meant to give me a fluffy cardigan (‘Because you always wear them, Miss’) but had then spent half the money they’d saved. The strange brown vase. The book of teacher quotes. The blue eye bead bracelet with the word ‘Friend’ painted on it. The odd bottle of booze snuck in by a grateful pupil and brought out like contraband from their school bag at the end of the lesson since they were terrified of being caught with wine on campus. The ‘I love books’ pin and the candle set that made me sneeze.
Along with the gifts came the cards and the sentiments and these words were the important things – the heartfelt thanks, the, ‘You’ve made me want to be an English teacher’ (not my intention, really), and the ‘I love English now’ cards. I may not have needed the scarf or the vase or the pin but I really did need the pick-me-up those cards and gifts gave me, and many of them are still treasured today.