Should Teachers Accept Gifts?

We are approaching that time of the year when some tactless teachers will be posting photos on Twitter of their ‘haul’.

How embarrassing. I mean, who would do that really?

A desk creaking under the weight of bottles of wine and piled high with “The World’s Best Teacher” merchandise, teachers are eager to share their goodies. Before you know it, people are comparing what they’ve got and celebrating saying they’ll “really miss their class”. Believe me, about a week later, they won’t.

The thing is, some gifts aren’t half-bad. Some can even be a bit on the extravagant side and make you feel a tiny bit awkward. Not every teacher will get a £100 voucher for John Lewis along with a sky-diving experience and spa weekend.

Okay, slight exaggeration but gift giving at the end of term is getting to be a bit of a joke.

Things depend entirely on where you teach and your ‘context’. Teach in a well-to-do area or independent school where some parents have cracking incomes then expect the cash to be splashed. People are very generous, even when the teacher has been borderline crap. Parents want to show their appreciation and they do, by the bucket and shed load. It can actually be overwhelming and some feel, totally unnecessary.

I’ve taught in a range of schools and I’ve been ‘showered’ with presents which has been great for my ego and I have appreciated the gesture. But not in every school.

Some of the schools I have taught in have been part of communities where survival is the name of the game and buying a present for a teacher isn’t a priority but food on the table is.

Some schools have signed up for poverty-proofing to ensure that parents aren’t put under the pressure of thinking they have to buy something at Christmas or at the end of the summer term. Parents are sent a letter to say as much and this works well. It relieves people of an expectation and pressure they don’t need. Teachers are fine with this.

But what if children and parents want to give their teachers something. We can’t stop them but there are limits and responsible organisations will have a gift giving policy where there is a cap on what can be given and what needs to be declared.

So what can be done?

Teachers everywhere are spending their own incomes to prop up the school budget and regularly buy supplies for their classes. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be but cash-strapped schools often rely on teacher goodwill to dip into their own pockets. Imagine how many other professions do this?

If some parents really want to give something then in the politest possible terms, instead of buying teachers ties, socks and mugs then a donation to the school would be better so that essential supplies could be purchased.

A school could have a wish list of things they need and then a gift fund could be set up so parents could donate whatever they could afford to give. If parents know that their own children will benefit from the school being able to buy some new equipment or books then they will give generously.

Teachers don’t need personal gifts to feel appreciated. It’s a nice thing to do but the children come first and gifting the school makes more sense. It also avoids uncomfortable moments and teachers on Twitter posting selfies of their end of term ‘swag’.

Should teachers accept gifts? Yes, they should, for the school.

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