Christmas is a time for giving… and for receiving…
I must admit, when I was a young teacher I looked forward to the (usually remote) chance of a child or parent bringing me the odd Christmas present.
Over the years that never amounted to much. I worked in a relatively poor inner-city borough in east London – but sometimes a pack of Quality Street or a cheap bottle of after-shave would be the concrete evidence of a genuinely touching appreciation.
Some of my friends worked as teachers in leafy affluent suburbs. They would come home on the last day of term with their hands full of expensive gifts – cashmere scarves, silk ties, high value book tokens and bottles of Chablis.
I have to admit... I really envied them.
When I was out of school teaching and working at the Department for Education, my employers regularly reminded me that all gifts from any source must be politely but firmly declined. Even being sent a pocket diary by a firm of printers had to be recorded in a pecuniary register. We didn’t even get a Christmas drink from the boss!
However, one year at school was a notable exception. I was teaching Year 6 at the time and a parent sent in a very desirable Christmas present. It was a pair of expensive tickets for excellent seats at a sell-out West End musical, enclosed in a very nice card saying: “Thanks for all you have done to get Sarah in to the best school in the borough next year.”
In actual fact, I hadn’t done any more to get Sarah in to “the best school in the borough” than I had for the 29 other children in the class. So without the slightest hesitation I accepted the gift with delighted alacrity.
It was only reading the card again at home that I reflected I was rather glad the parents of the 29 other children hadn’t seen the words written on the card.
Should I have even been bothered what other parents thought?