I have a past life that I will now share.
Before I was a Deal Diva I was a Rookie Mom. I wrote a column each week for the paper about finding my way as a new mother. By the time I had three kids and the column had run 10 years the powers-that-be at the newspaper and my bank account decided it was time for me to get a real job and quit using my kids as a meal ticket.
But in honor of the gift-giving season I am recycling a Rookie Mom column I wrote on what to give teachers. I remember hearing funny stories about what they don't want but now I see these things didn't appear in the column. Long before the age of blogging, social media and Trump I think my editor thought it might offend someone and cut it out.
Now, the bar gets lower every day so we can say what people really think.
I'll re-enact what one teacher said:
"I've seen your kids' hands. I've seen where they put them. I'm not going to eat a plate of cookies they made just for me."
I remember someone sayig anything that says "Number 1 Teacher" is also not a good choice. Teachers hang out with other teachers. They drink coffee in the teachers' lounge with other teachers. So nobody wants to brag with their coffee mug.
That's the same reason we had to put a ban on all the "Number 1 Deal Diva" mugs and phone cases fans were sending us.
(Okay, okay. I admit I still drink from the "Number 1 Deal Diva" wine glass a reader from Tampa sent me but only when I'm feeling really insecure.)
Here's the column.
A coffee mug, gift certificate or an apron with handprints down the front? What are you going to give your child's teacher this year for Hanukkah or Christmas?
Some parents have a standard gift they give each year while others scramble at the last minute to come up with something that shows how much they appreciate all theteacher's hard work.
I'm a scrambler. I've had my kids paint ceramic ornaments at the last minute or I've been up late stringing together wooden beaded Christmas necklaces that turned out too hard for my girls to manipulate. As I try to push the too-big needle through the small holes of the reindeer beads I wonder what teachers really want.
I like having my kids make something because it seems to come more from them than me, but then I second-guess myself. Many of these teachers have their own children with their own handprints. Do they really care about mine? Is their tree so crowded with ornaments from kids in years past that they don't need any more?
So I've asked around at schools as well as friends, relatives and neighbors who are or were teachers to find out what are some of their favorite gifts and what are some things parents love to give but teachers tire of getting. All were quick to say any gift from a child is greatly appreciated, even if it is the eighth coffee mug with an apple on the front. And they certainly don't expect gifts or look less favorably on those who don't give them one.
But in these times when we know their classrooms are crowded, their workload heavy and their salaries at least half what they should be for the role they play in shaping the future - if you want to do even a little something to say thank you, here are some pointers.
Several teachers said they like getting things they can use in the classroom. Gift certificates to school supply stores, Bookstores were mentioned repeatedly. Several mentioned a nice plant to put on the book shelf.
Gift certificates for any amount to a department store, Target, Wal-Mart, restaurants or manicure are big hits.
Much to my relief, ornaments are a favorite among every teacher I talked with. They say you can't have too many. Some even have a separate tree to fill with just ornaments from students.
"My first tree when I was married was completely full with all these beautiful ornaments from students," said Buffy Hall, a friend of mine who has taught in St. Petersburg and Michigan. "I always associate each child with that ornament when I put it on the tree."
"I write each child's name on the ornament they gave me and the date, this way I can remember them and think of them each year as I decorate my tree," echoed another friend, Mary LaRue Sweeney.
The most bittersweet gift she ever received was an ornament from a student in Tampa. When she thanked his mom for it the next morning the woman spanked her son right there on the spot because he had "stolen" it off their own Christmas tree.
This is probably why teachers stressed to me that they don't expect anything and the best presents are by no means the most lavish. A nice note from a parent or student means more than most gifts. One teacher said her favorite gift was a grocery bag full of grapefruit that a student had picked from a neighbor's tree.
My mother retired a few years ago after teaching for 36 years. Every Christmas she brings out a pair of poinsettia earrings a student made from green and red painted seashells 25 years ago. Of course my mom still knows the student's name and can picture her face as clear as a bell.