For years Alabama legislators enjoyed complimentary tickets to ballgames and events, but now the state is tightening up its ethics rules concerning employee gifts to prevent any appearance of undue influence. And who stands to be most affected? Teachers. The people who deal with our kids all day and are frequently under threat of cutbacks in supplies or jobs, but who at least had the perquisite of receiving gift cards and smelly candles before the holiday break. The next most impacted group is moms. Who else was thinking about teacher gifts in October?
True, some teachers in the most affluent districts received gifts that would suit a Kardashian’s tastes. But absent an organized room mom who is coordinating the give, most teachers receive a jumble of knick knacks and lotions along with a few useful items, all meant to convey the parents’ appreciation for what the teachers do all year. Most of the gifts are hardly worth a teacher risking his/her job to nudge a grade of 79 to an 80, and teachers already had ethical codes of conduct to acknowledge and sign (as is common for most employees in any organization).
Any problems we’ve had with grades seem to have come from pressure to let athletes play for boisterous coaches than to get junior into Harvard. All other things being equal, has a gift card from Starbucks really tempted a teacher to inflate a grade? Gee, my parents always advised me to just sit on the front row and look eager if I dared hope for such a favor.
Still, some suggestions:
* Give supplies the teacher would be likely to have to purchase herself or forego otherwise. Colored copy paper for special assignments, colored folders, clear bins and holders for organizing.
* Offer an upgrade to standard issue items, such as an electric pencil sharpener instead of the school supplied manual version, or a small laminating machine she can keep in the class.
* Deliver a to-go container of brewed coffee and bagels to the break room in honor of the teacher.
* If your school has a foundation, make a class donation in honor of your teacher
* The old standards like coffee mugs, ornaments, lotions and scarves were specifically approved. If you’re sticking with these, try to find out her preferences for scents, colors, and whether she even drinks coffee.
*Also approved were homemade foods, ironic since we aren’t allowed to serve these in the classroom. If you’re going this route, consider giving a loaf of quick bread that she can freeze for later, and overwrap it in a pretty, of-nominal-value dish towel.
* She probably doesn’t want plates of homemade cookies to take home. A small box of clementines or a bag of pecans (only if no nut allergies) would be easy on you and she could take more time to consume them or serve them to her own guests at home (better than, “Here, help me eat these cookies made by the children in my class…”).
By next year we should have more ideas and more guidance from the school boards.