Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Gifts from Students: The Best Ones are Free: #SOL16

The mop angel I received from a student early in my career (1980s).
A conversation with a student:

Lizette: When's your birthday?
Me: Why do you want to know?
Lizette: My dad wants to buy you a neglige. He's in love with you and wants to get you one for your birthday. 
Me: (mortified) That's not necessary. I wouldn't be comfortable accepting such a gift, but thank you.
Lizette: (not to be deterred): Then how about a night gown. A flannel one. 
Me: That would be better but still not necessary. You don't need to give me anything. 

I'm sure I mumbled something about Lizette being a superb student. I'm sure I thought: "Who needs a flannel nightgown in Yuma, Arizona," which is where I taught in the early 1980s, the time of this conversation.

As a secondary teacher, I don't get many gifts and receive fewer from my current students than from those I taught in Arizona. This year a student from last year frequently drops by with cookies and brownies, which I often take home to my husband. 

Early in my tenure at Highland a debater gave me a leather briefcase. That's one of the most expensive gifts I've received. 

Once a parent picked me up at school and took me to her home for lunch. It was a touching moment from a woman who became a good friend during her time in Pocatello. Alas, we have lost touch. I taught several of her children and love them all. 

In the early years of my career a student gave me a mop angel that I put on top of my Christmas tree for over thirty years. My husband and I have a discussion about the topper every year. Last year was the first time he "won" as we bought all new decorations and did not haul any old ones up from the basement. 

The best gifts, however, come from the heart. They express gratitude and love through words and deeds. The card below is one I received this year from a student. It says exactly what I wish to give each student who learns from me and teaches me in turn. 
The card reads: "Happy Holidays to a teacher that always offers kindness, knowledge, and unconditional support. I will always think of you in my future success! Kumbaya."

The Kumbaya reference is a class joke of sorts. When the mood is a little heavy, I tell the kids we need a group hug and a Kumbaya moment.

Teens are a pretty generous demographic. Students in my school support close to thirty families via the Sub-for-Santa program. They provide gifts for all members of their sponsored family, regardless of age. They fill classrooms with food for the local food bank. They want to give to their community and do so without hesitation. 

We teachers talk about something transforming in the lives of readers around middle school. I see a similar change as teens move into adulthood. Often the generosity of the teen years evolves into cynicism and doubt about the world. 

I embrace the generosity of teens. Their inherent goodness is a gift that has given to me every day for over three decades. May you know the joy and gift of having young people in your life this holiday season. 

Happy Holidays!

Each Tuesday the team of teachers at Two Writing Teachers sponsors the
Slice of Life story challenge. I'm grateful to these ladies for their
unwavering dedication to living the writer's life. Head over to the TWT
blog for more slices of life. 
*This post was inspired by a thread on the Badass Teachers FB page about unusual, weird, and best gifts that prompted me to remember the exchange with Lizette in the wee hours of the morning. 


  1. Although gifts are nice, it was the hand crafted cards with hand written notes that I cherished the most. Since I taught sixth grade students, I knew the time and effort they put into these personalized treasures. Happy Holidays.

  2. I think all teachers can relate to this post. The most meaningful gifts I received came from the heart. I have a santa made of yarn that I hang every year. I also have those ornaments that spark sweet memories.

  3. I love that mop angel and your memory of other treasures shared by your students through the years. Thanks for sharing.

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  5. I love that mop angel and your memories of other treasures shared by your students through the years. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Beautiful post. I was blessed with many sweet gifts today as well at school. My favorite was a note in pencil on a crumpled piece of notebook paper from an eighth grader. She wrote that I have given her confidence in her writing life. That is the absolute best. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    1. Keep those notes. I have a box full of them but have also lost some.