Saturday, September 25, 2010

Thirsty??? Students Bearing Gifts (and baring gifts)


I humbly and modestly admit that students sometimes bring me gifts. Homemade apple pie. Interesting newspaper articles. Artifacts from vacations. And so on. Sometimes I accept the gifts for myself. Sometimes I accept and share with everyone in the class. Sometimes I decline altogether. The three best gifts ever offered to me: marijuana, an exotic alcoholic beverage, and sex. I accepted two of the three. No regrets.

Q. What's the best gift you've been offered by a student?

A. And did you accept the gift (or have any regrets)?

Be honest, dammit.


29 comments:

  1. While I was bald due to chemo, I had several students offer me pot -- for medicinal purposes. I declined, mostly because if I wanted it I could easily get it from sources that don't have the potential to get me fired...

    ReplyDelete
  2. I was flashed by a good-looking blonde chick I'd just told had gotten an A in one of my advanced classes. I didn't have the option of accepting or not. No one else saw.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is going to sound a bit treacly, but the best gifts are the emails I occasionally get, usually several semesters after a student left my class, saying "I just wanted to thank you for insisting we learn x. It really came in handy in the project I just finished, and no one else in my group knew to do it." Those, of course, I accept.

    The (infrequent) material gifts tend to be less interesting: very typical "female" things, like perfume or relatively inexpensive items from "status" consumer lines, usually given by students who have relatively recently arrived in the U.S. I thank the student and accept the gift (as long as it doesn't appear to be so expensive that I'd be compromising myself by doing so; so far, that hasn't come up), and quietly put it in the box at church that collects donations for a "Christmas shop" that allows impoverished kids to select presents for their parents, free of charge. I hope some of the moms enjoy what are, in fact, quite nice modest gifts, just not my style/taste.

    On the whole, I'm uncomfortable with student gift-giving (except, of course, for those "thank you" emails, or even ones that just let me know that a former student is doing well).

    ReplyDelete
  4. From a Chinese student, a scarf for my wife and a bottle of liquor that is basically pure grain with a Chinese label. My department chair said they were small enough I could accept them. No, it didn't make a difference on her grade (she did well on her final, THAT improved her grade) and, funny enough, I don't drink so I keep the bottle, unopened, in my home office next to some books on East Asian history... And a graduating student once gave me a box of home made baked goodies. Since I can't eat sweets I tried a bite of one (yummy) and the rest went to my wife's office....

    ReplyDelete
  5. I forgot to mention, when I was a TA in the mid 1980s a student tried to bribe me for an A with some antique campaign buttons from his Dad's collection. I ignored him and he kept his B.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thank you emails (and once an actual card that about ten students signed) -- Accepted.

    Occasional small pieces of candy/chocolate
    -- Sometimes.

    An invitation to a student's art opening Monday
    -- going and invited other GTAs

    ReplyDelete
  7. My first class (8AM) post-Ph.D. my students brought me a peice of fruit pretty much everyday. Coming for the huge grad school I though that was weird (and I wondered if they were trying to poison me). Now I'd accept as my students aren't the crazy kind that I had as a grad student.

    The gift I most enjoyed was a very kind, thoughtful Christmas card. The giver was a very good student and slipped it into her final exam (which she only needed a 30% on to maintain her A). I happened upon the card when I was in the middle of the painful grading process. It made my day.

    Crazy Math Spouse has been given booze and stationary. One particularly nice gift was a very, very expensive bottle of champagne given by a student who CMS helped through a very upsetting and scary family situation. We enjoyed it thoroughly the night we got engaged.

    ReplyDelete
  8. The semester I got engaged, two of my three discussion sections gave me little gifts: cards signed by everyone, a balloon, some candy (which I passed around the class to share). I hadn't announced it to them, but I answered honestly when the keeners in the front row asked about the new bling. While the gifts were "from the class," it's too much of a coincidence that those two sections each had a mom-type non-trad who probably served as ringleader for the traditional mom-type show of congrats.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Free beer at a bar offered by former students, accepted without pause.

    A dozen cookies baked by a former student, eaten before I went home.

    Yummy looking, but nasty tasting, foreign candy, shared with my lovely colleagues.

    The only time I got in trouble was when my wife got upset that I didn't bring home those cookies.

    ReplyDelete
  10. One semester when I was teaching Children's Lit, my class and I had a discussion about favourite children's books, and I described mine, mentioning that I no longer had a copy, as my mother had loaned it to someone who had not returned it.

    At the end of the semester, the class presented me with a copy of this book.

    Yes, I kept it. No, they didn't all get As.

    ReplyDelete
  11. This is extremely weak. Bubba, you should have specified, "best -illicit- gift you've been offered by a student." ;-) ;-) ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  12. A student recently offered me fresh eggs from her chickens. I was sorely tempted, and told her to bring me some after the semester was over. I doubt she will.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Once I had a very shy foreign student who was showering me with gifts ever holiday break as she traveled extensively. It started to make me uncomfortable. At one point, I presented them to the dean and showed her the Givenchy after shave lotion and the Polo shirt and asked her what I should do with them. She told me to keep them, so I did, and eventually the gift stopped coming. I never wore the shirt nor opened the bottle of after shave lotion, but I still have them.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I got a rather odd pair of Christmas gifts one year from a Vietnamese woman: a sweater...and Victoria's Secret underwear (in the right size!)...

    ReplyDelete
  15. I must have the worst students ever. I think the most I ever got offered by a student was a high five. I took it...gave it back...whatever.

    Mathsquatch out.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I agree the best gifts are the e-mails and, even better, hand written notes of appreciation. I once had a student make a little poster with her thank you note on it.

    The weirdest "offer" I ever received was when a student with a name that could be either male or female (and whose gender had thus far been something of a mystery) told me she had been working on some creative writing and would I take a look. I was still new enough on the job to say yes of course I would. The piece turned out to be a bit of pornography in the first person detailing sex between two females, one of whom (the "you" in the story") bore a remarkable resemblance to myself. This student had always been quiet and shy and never given me the least bit of trouble, so I decided to let this one go. I only got through the first paragraph before I put it aside. When I gave it back to her I was professional, serious and a bit blank, telling her that she should always consider her audience and that I was not the proper audience for something like that for so many reasons, not the least of which was I was her English Professor. She replied with the words "Well, I figured you can't win if you don't play."

    She never came to my class again after that.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I had a kid who couldn't afford it give me a lousy looking tie that I wore EVERY class day thereafter.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I've been given all kinds of lovely things by grad students, as thank you presents. I'm never sure what I've done to deserve them, besides my job, but I'm always touched.

    The "gift" of an e-mailed description of an S/M dream that a grad student had about me, on the other hand, I could have done without.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Every semester, I tell my students that if they can find me an original daugerrotype or photograph of Lewis Henry Morgan dressed as a Native American, I will give the student an "A." So far, no luck. (I want that thing pretty badly, and while technically it MIGHT exist, I have no proof it does.)

    I am sure there have been food gifts (although I'm fat, so I always get a little freaked out by those) but the ones I remember (and keep) are the thank-you notes, both electronic and hand-written. To be honest (this is so maudlin) I keep them in a box on the very top of a bookcase, and when I am feeling particularly low, I read them and convince myself that suicide is not actually the best option.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Military guys and gals love to give a handshake if you do a good job. I treasure those...and the few unit patches I've also been given.

    ReplyDelete
  21. "The three best gifts ever offered to me: marijuana, an exotic alcoholic beverage, and sex. I accepted two of the three."

    You didn't want the exotic beverage??

    ReplyDelete
  22. @Contingent Cassandra: Treacle is acceptable. I'm reminded of a small class (ten students) I had several years ago. All of the students passed! On the last class day, they presented me with a garment with the college's name on it and a Hallmark card signed by all of them. It was not the kind of garment I would ever wear, so I was tempted to take it back to the bookstore for a refund, but I never did. Here's the treacle part: Within a year, two of the students were dead. I went to the funerals, where I saw most of their other classmates. Still have the garment (never worn or washed) and the card.

    @Fresno Frod: It's not illegal or against the rules to accept the alcohol or sex at my current place. And while it's not against the rules to drink alcohol on campus, I don't know what the campus rule is about sex.

    @ELS: You are the wind beneath my wings.

    @Marcia/Cindy: Isn't it amazing how few proffies actually do their jobs?

    @Mitchell: I LOVE those handshakes from the military guys.

    @Anastasia: You're right about my choice. It's not that I didn't want the alcohol, but that I didn't want to accept a gift from the person that offered it. I'd graciously accept a rock or a clump of clay (or a tie, a la ELS) from a student I like. But if the student makes my skin crawl or is offering a bribe/quid pro quo, I won't accept a winning lottery ticket from him.

    ReplyDelete
  23. A Nixon and Elvis coffee mug. Now my most prized possession.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Let's see, an Indonesian student gave me a necklace make out of tiny purple shells that I wore proudly telling people it was from a student until someone informed me that I'm not allowed to take presents/bribes. I've never been able to wear it since then.

    There have been the occasional bottle of red wine, apricots, cookies and such, but the very, very best present (that I accepted without shame) was a wooden Tower of Hanoi a group organized for me after I spent a few weeks beating the concept of recursion into their brains. I have it in my office and dust it off once a year for use in class. It is a trick one, colored so that I can rapidly solve it and look like a genius, although I am just following a simple color-sequence rule.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Scotch -- good scotch. Usually from a graduate student or an honors's student whose thesis I've supervised. Always after the grades are in. The scotch isn't usually as peaty as I like it, but enjoyable nonetheless. The fact that I get scotch rather than cookies is because I often mention my fondness for the stuff (especially in seminars) and it pleases me to see that some of them are listening.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I've never gotten a gift from a student after just having taught them, but I've gotten a couple after writing recommendation letters.

    Most interesting gift: A DVD of the Family Guy movie.

    ReplyDelete
  27. This is making me feel rather cheap about the covered Delft-pattern cup I gave a tea-drinking undergraduate professor for Christmas. I was broke, but he tirelessly edited my short stories for four years and nominated me for a fellowship so I thought he deserved some recognition for that before I left school. Turns out we are still friends all these years later.

    Now that I am a grad student, any professor who has been inspiring enough for me to consider them worthy of a gift, I always send a handwritten thank-you note to their campus address at the end of the semester. I also send a complimentary note to their dean about what a great prof they are, and I post a positive review to RMP. I think that's better than a coffee cup, but maybe not so good as pricey Champagne, single-malt Scotch, underwear from Vickie's, designer clothing, weed, sex, and so forth.

    ReplyDelete
  28. The best unintentional gift, which will probably be the one that does me the most good in the long run, was to have two fundamentalist students in my Intro-Astronomy-for-Non-Majors class. They wouldn't let me cut any corners whatsoever when it came to natural history, radioactive dating, stellar evolution, or Big Bang cosmology. Their aggressive lines of questioning all semester long caused me to improve the course greatly, giving easy-to-follow, consistent, and plausible explanations and homework on all these topics, and more. If only illicit gifts count here (and I see they don't), I'm sure their spiritual leader would have seen the result of what they did as very illicit indeed.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Wow, Patty, a note to the Dean. I'll take it over a china cup any day. And I'm not above being pleased by a good RMP review. But I promise I never, ever consider a gift from a student "cheap." They're not obligated. And they are often broke. It's always the thought that counts.

    ReplyDelete

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.