Monday, November 22, 2010

Win-win teacher gifts!

This year, as in past years, I am begging my family to go easy on the gifts for the kids.  They don't need anything and are hard-pressed to come up with things they even want.  We have put an end to birthday party gifts for my kids and when we give out loot bags at their parties, it's usually one item, like a book or drawing kit.

For Bart’s birthday party, we wrote on the invitation: “In lieu of a gift for the birthday boy, please bring a contribution to the ABC School outdoor play bin.” Kids brought balls, Frisbees, skipping ropes, bubbles, sidewalk chalk and all kinds of great items that they then had the opportunity to play with at school.

For Maggie’s birthday, instead of sending in cupcakes for the class (which is now frowned upon due to a healthy schools initiative), Maggie picked out 5 books to donate to the classroom.

Lisa’s birthday is coming up and she’s trying to decide what kinds of donations she will ask from her friends.  Because it's near Christmas, we may adopt a local family in need and ask for gifts for the family.

These are all win-win-win initiatives. The kids feel really special making these donations. We don’t continue to fill up our house with toys that are rarely touched. The recipients of the donations are always grateful and appreciative.

Have you read Swistle’s latest teacher gifts posts? I get miffed every time I read one of these and a few (certainly not all) teachers chime in that a gift card and cash are more appreciated than the #1 Teacher Mugs, the baked goods (which are often tossed) and the little (useless) trinkets.

In Swistles’ post, someone was asking a question about whether or not she should contribute $35 so the class could present a ‘better’ class gift for Christmas, Teacher Appreciation Week and end of year. If I were a teacher I. WOULD. DIE a thousand deaths if I knew the families in my class were being asked to spend $35 on personal gifts for me. DIE!

I wrote this in my comment on Swistle’s post, but I’m going to repeat it here. I think teachers should take the lead and reject the notion of personal gifts in favour of classroom gifts. Teachers won’t get anymore crap they neither want nor need; parents and kids get to pick out something they know will be used and appreciated.

Here’s what the teacher should say:

As we approach the holiday season (/Teacher Appreciation Week/the end of the school year), I would like to thank you for the support you have given me and ABC School so far this year. Your participation in fundraisers, Scholastic orders and in providing classroom supplies is very much appreciated. I know many of you will feel obliged to purchase a “teacher gift” and I want to free you of this obligation. I know budgets are tight and I certainly don’t need anything personally. If you are still inclined to purchase a gift, may I suggest something that can be enjoyed by everyone in the class? Perhaps a copy of your child’s favourite book, some glitter glue for the creative centre or skipping ropes for the playground? It is truly a pleasure teaching your children and that is more than enough reward for me.

The best teacher ever :-)

Seriously, teachers, it’s win-win and you can make it happen.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A very long post in which I whine about being too busy.

I’m just generally finding life so busy lately and I’m getting very frustrated by the lack of time for myself. Last week was particularly rough and went something like this:

Monday: I got a call at work that Bart had a mishap in gym class and was acting a little dopey and confused. I blew off a meeting I was about to go into and took him to the doctor. He was okay; a little bruised and a loose tooth, but otherwise fine. We had to wake him a couple of times in the night, but all was well. I had planned to work on the kids’ Halloween costumes, but had to put it off.

Tuesday: A few minutes after we arrived home from Bart’s karate and Lisa’s guitar lessons (it was 7:15 and I hadn’t even been home from work, nor had anyone eaten dinner), the phone rang. It was my dad saying my mother had collapsed and could I come (they are about 30 minutes away). I implored my dad to call 9-1-1 and he promised to do so if she became any worse. By the time I got to my parents’ house, there was a note on the door that he had called 9-1-1 and was en route to the hospital. Long story short, my mom is okay now – they don’t really know what happened, but she got a lot of tests at the hospital and is scheduled for a bunch more.

Wednesday: I got a call that Lisa was sick. My backup babysitters (my parents) were obviously not available and I had two meetings that I could not blow off. Homer was unavailable as he was at a banquet receiving an award. I picked up Lisa, waited impatiently for Homer to get home and practically flew back to work and went straight into a meeting. After spending about an hour on the phone that evening with my sister, father and aunt discussing my mom, I got to work on the costumes. At 11:30 I called it quits because I was exhausted.

Thursday: Lisa is fine and back at school. Another late night working on the costumes. I also baked cupcakes and a cake for Maggie’s birthday, put together the loot bags for her party on Saturday and made Rice Krispie Squares for the kids to share with their classes at the Halloween party at school.

Friday: Maggie turns 5! I took the day off work and spent the morning with my little peanut. We had a donut and coffee/hot chocolate, went shopping for some birthday clothes, quickly changed her into her costume and then went out for lunch. I dropped Maggie off at school and then hung around so I could help the other two with their costumes. I watched the Halloween parade, then came home to frost her birthday cake. Went back for the kids and helped them out of their costumes. We carved three pumpkins, then changed into nice clothes for dinner at a restaurant. After dinner we went on a pumpkin hike (a hike through the woods in the dark with only jack-o-lanterns lighting the way). Back at home we sang Happy Birthday, ate cake and sent the kids off to bed. I tried to make Maggie her castle cake (I totally cheated by making is castle-ish, but the birthday girl was happy, so that's all that counts).
Castle(ish) Cupcakes

Meow Birthday Girl!

Saturday: The girls had their dance classes until 11:30 and Maggie’s party started at 12:00. At 2:00 the party was over and we rushed home to get in costume (again) for my niece’s birthday party (she’s 2!) We were home by 9:00 and the kids went straight to bed.
My adorable and adored niece

Sunday: I woke up and did 5 loads of wash. I made breakfast for the kids and then headed out to the grocery store. After putting the groceries away, I took the wet clothes to the Laundromat (our dryer is broken). I came home and drove Lisa to a birthday party. While she was at the party, the rest of us tried to put the house back together after a very busy week. I picked Lisa up, then prepared our traditional Halloween meal of Mummy Dogs, French fries and salad. We got the kids in costume for a final time and then went out in the freezing cold night to beg for candy from strangers.

Everyone in costume - looking a little more plump than usual, thanks to lots of warm layers

So, illness, birthdays and Halloween totally shaped my week last week. I’m more than a little tired and overwhelmed, but I’m so relieved that everyone is doing well and a good time was had by all.