Tuesday 19 July 2011

The Best Thank You Gifts

At the end of the year, some students give their teachers gifts (there seems to be a thread on the TES forums about odd presents every year, and I am simply thankful that I am not a primary school teacher!). I watched the cards and presents piling up on the maths lecturers' desks with a slight tinge of jealousy (one of them was given £200 a couple of years ago - something that I still cannot quite comprehend for a number of reasons), and then I felt really guilty for my materialistic tendencies - after all I should not be expecting presents, and many of the students I teach can't afford to buy gifts for their teachers, and it would be really unkind to want that. Some students did buy me little presents - I had a very nice box of Toblerone mini chocolates from students who knew exactly what my favourite chocolates were. Earlier in the year I was given a massive bottle of Smirnoff Ice, and the same student presented me with a "Top Teacher" bottle stop - he knew me very well after two years, although Paul pointed out if he knew me better he'd know that wine bottles don't stay open long enough to merit a bottle stop!

Then there were the less tangible gifts that I'm going to treasure for a very long time: the cartoon one of my A2 students drew on exam paper at the end of his final biology exam (which I made him sign so when he's a famous movie director and I'm still a lecturer I can sell it for lots of money). The tearful hugs from some of the young women I taught which tell me they are really going to miss me. Some amazing e-mails from students who I honestly thought loathed the topics we covered. The students from this year and last year who have places at universities that they didn't think they could get into, studying subjects they didn't think they could. The revelation that the subject my A2s and BTECs enjoyed the most was biology (oh yeah!). Catching up with a student who's been at university all year studying biomedical sciences, who is having the whale of a time.

I'm reminiscing and getting all soppy like this because I saw some e-mails included in last week's PostSecret: Sunday Secrets:
My geometry teacher at Central High School in Pueblo, Colorado is the reason I'm alive today. The reason I burnt my suicide note. He changed my life and never knew it.

When I went back to thank him, and apologize for my behavior in his class, they told me he moved away. I wish I could find him now and tell him how much he's changed my life. I hope he sees this. That man needs to know that he's a hero. His name is Cole McGee.
This was followed with:
The comment written to the high school teacher shook me. I also had a teacher in high school that saved my life. I see him whenever I go back to visit but never have the courage to tell him how much he truly changed my life.

I realized today how important it is to say what you have to say while you can still say. I'm going to visit Mr.Tobin this week and thank him.
I haven't saved any lives (at least I don't think I have). But I have made a goddamn difference to a lot of young men and women this year. And the best gifts I've had from my students have been seeing them using the difference I've made. So if you have a teacher who made a difference, let them know - it'll be better than cards, chocolates and wine, honest.

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