A is for apple – the unofficial symbol for the teaching profession. Perhaps this association began with bringing to school “an apple for the teacher” in the days when more elaborate gifts were not available nor expected. Think of the rural schoolhouse with one teacher teaching a class of 20 kids aged 5 to 18! An apple brought for a teacher was a special thing, and it was healthy! Nowadays, apples are used on teacher products ranging from book covers and notepads to pins or necklaces, and sometimes signs for the teachers’ classroom doors.
What do students give teachers for gifts now? If there’s no special occasion, it could be a hug, a sticker, maybe yogurt that the child didn’t want or have time to eat. During holidays – Halloween, Christmas/Hanukkah, Valentine’s Day – or a special occasion, such as the teacher’s birthday, Teacher Appreciation Week or the end of the school year – there are always a few children who bring a gift for the teacher. Depending on the affluence of one’s student population, this can range from a piece of candy or a tube of “Gogurt”, to gift cards for Starbucks or Target, boxes of fancy candy, flowers, things a teacher may supposedly appreciate, such as a coffee mug or a foot massage kit. Valentine’s Day and Halloween are when the teacher gets the most gifts from her students. That’s because they are purchased in bulk (bags of candy, Valentine’s cards) and distributed to everybody. Maybe the teacher will get a larger piece of candy or it will be wrapped in a special way. After those two celebrations, I always have a lot of stuff to take home and sort through! As for the candy, I’ll eat my favorites and give the rest to my family.
What teachers like most, however, are homemade cards expressing the student’s feelings in his/her own words. I have either consumed, given away, lost or at least forgotten most of the gifts my students have given me. However, I still have a box in which I’ve kept cards, drawings and messages they’ve made for me. I date them on the back and state the child’s grade level at the time. Every once in awhile, I find that box and look through these messages, and remember with fondness those students who many years ago were part of my daily life for a year or two before they left my class. I sometimes smile or laugh in remembrance of a particular child, thinking of an anecdote. I often calculate their current ages and wonder what they are doing these days. There are certain kids I think about often and even now worry about! I sometimes hope that I will run across a former student who has made something of his or her life, and share in the pride of her or his accomplishments.