Friday, December 3, 2010

Holiday Gifts for Teacher

The Huffington Post thinks of it all. This Holiday Season, they have compiled a list of 8 ideal gifts for yon student's teacher. They thoughtfully considered:

1) A Thank-You note (on Hallmark's payroll, I see)
2) A Donation in your name (through
3) Coffee (or coffee accessories)
4) Spa Day
5) Gift Cards (literally for the "cash-strapped" teachers in our lives. So, all of us)
6) Science equipment (specifically, space-age goggles. To impress the girls)
7) Clothing (specifically, a literature-themed hat. To impress the boys)
8) A cookbook

I look at this list and I think miserable thoughts. If my 19-year-old stoners handed me a cookbook, I'm not sure what I'd do. Smack 'em? Ask 'em for a joint? Leave campus for the day?

Here is what I would like, as a teacher, for Christmas:

1) Alcohol. Coffee's nice, but let's bring on the Bailey's.
2) A Raise. Enough to get rid of these pesky student loans once and for all.
3) Benefits. Because I want dental coverage at some point. And eventually I'm going to need glasses.
4) A fer-realz OFFICE. Without 6 other people or an open room with the secretaries. All to myself, where I can bring in a fridge or play music or hang a picture of my very own.
5) A Grading Slave. Or a computer program that acts like a grading slave.
6) Five days free of everything except for my research. No emails. No meetings. Just me, some databases, some manuscript, my laptop. (And a Manhattan) Mid-semester breaks don't count, because that's when the library closes. (conspiracy)
7) A get-out-of-jail free card to use for assault on at least a dozen students, good for the next 3 years.
8) One year where Christmas just doesn't happen. Because I can't take the 8 weeks of nonstop Carols, the pressure to buy everyone (including the letter carrier, grocer, kids' teachers?!) a gift, the headache of traveling, the frustration of credit card debt, the inescapable moment when my brother-in-law attempts to convert me to hard-core Christianity whether I visit him or not, and all those days of research lost.... Yes. For Christmas, I would like one year when Christmas goes away.

What about you?



  1. The next time your brother-in-law tries to convert you, say:

    "There is no God but ALLAH, and MOHAMMED is His prophet!"

    Keep repeating that until he stops being a nuisance.

  2. "Five days free of everything except for my research."

    I was about to say that got those five days once a few years ago. But that isn't entirely true. I timed it for a lull in my teaching, but online with overlapping terms there is never (NEVER) a real lull. So while I spent almost a full week doing nothing but research (just writing, actually - even better), I still had to log in for an hour or two every morning and put out fires in two online classrooms.

  3. I had a student once give me 3 CDs, one for each of my TAs that term. It was the nicest regifting experience ever. I got to pick who got which CD. Everyone was happy and I thought it was a sweet gesture.

  4. 1) A Thank-You note (on Hallmark's payroll, I see)

    Actually, the few thank-you notes I've gotten from my students are among my most treasured possessions. Because I don't "friend" my students, and I don't encourage them to "like" me.

    They keep me grounded and centered when the 'flakes are dragging me down.

  5. I'd have a hard time with a literature-themed hat. Emily Dickinson panties, maybe I'd take.

  6. I'd like all students (and teachers) to have no holidays off, because the students don't deserve any time off at all. Oh, they worked SO SO HARD, the poor things, they certainly need way over a week off for one Thanksgiving dinner, thereby totally jacking up every single teacher's momentum and syllabus. Fuck that, the stupid brats.

  7. I have Virginia Woolf in pillow form (a gift from a relative who was working at an independent bookstore, not a student). I like leaning against her better than wearing her.

    But, this year, my first (and most realistic) preference would be for those thank-you notes and emails (at this or any other time of year; ones that show up at random times from students I had several years ago are particularly welcome). The closest I've come so far this semester wasn't too bad: a student from last semester emailed a couple of days ago to ask about some technicalities of citation (in a way that showed he had actually been paying attention to what I said in class).

    I really, really want/need a raise, but I don't want it as a gift; I simply(!?) want to be paid a salary comparable to that of my TT colleagues with similar education and experience (but differently-configured loads). What we're all (TT and non-TT alike; I'm not sure about adjuncts) getting instead is a "bonus" -- which won't play a role in future raises; won't, unlike my usual salary, generate a retirement contribution worth 10% of the total; and may require me to pay the employer's as well as the employee's portion of the social security contribution (I haven't verified that one yet). This holiday-season "gift" makes me picture the powers-that-be as Scrooges dressed up in Santa clothing that doesn't quite conceal their true nature.

    I'm planning to give myself some time for research, and for household tasks (I'm not much of a neatnik, but the level of domestic chaos is beginning to discourage me; in fact, I ended up re-caulking the area behind the kitchen sink yesterday because I just couldn't stand looking at it anymore. Time devoted to such activities definitely raises my spirits).

  8. I think suggestions 6 & 7 are dumb but everything else was quite nice. I'd take any of that. Coffee should probably be coffee accessories, because some people don't drink caffeine, but anyone can use a mug.

    I know the rest is just an expression, and It was fun. So don't think I'm trying to school you or something. I'm just saying... personally, if I was still teaching HS where gift giving is considered acceptable, I'd like any of those things (except the weird goggles, if you want to get me some weird science thing, combine 6 with 5 and get me a gift card for Ocean Optics.).

    But I don't understand (and this is EVERYWHERE, not a CM thing, not even an academic thing)... the people who hate the holiday season. I'm not religious at all. And the idea of Black Friday shopping (or any kind of "door busting' activity other than the fantasy of seeing my students' dorms on COPS) makes me ill. But why can't you just ignore what you don't like and take what you do?

    I wait until finals week and schedule my finals week office hours so that my "lunch" is at an odd time. Then I go to the mall and pick out a few gifts for people who matter while the mall is empty. I spread it out over the week and then I'm done. The only shopping I put any "effort" into is for the kids, and honestly, that's a blast.

    I have no interest in fighting lines to get a deal. So I don't fight lines to get a deal. I have no interest in being saved. So I focus on what's important... balsam scented candles, hot chocolate and snowmen. I enjoy the holiday season and I don't let anyone else tell me what I do or don't have to do during the time. I'm surprised people as educated, and better spoken than I, have such a hard time avoiding being pressured into a season full of doing things they don't want to do.

    I like the desserts and Andy Williams and toy shopping. The rest of that crap - maybe it's not for all of us - but it is for some people. Some people really are a lot less... they're dumb, I'll just cut to the chase - they're dumb. We have so much more going for us. We get to discuss things they've never heard of. We've got questions that will take a lifetime, or longer to answer. Dumb people don't. (And by 'dumb', I mean the 98% of the bell curve below us). What are they supposed to do? They go door busting. Let them have it. We've got the rest of the year. Deprive them of this, and more of them will sign up for our classes and try to tell us that they can't be wrong because whatever stupid thing they said is an opinion.

  9. I like door-busting, actually. It's like the running of the bulls, or, perhaps more accurately, like watching my Big State U's basketball team (which sucks less than our football team.) I didn't grow up in a sports-fan culture, nor did I grow up with door-busting, so doing these things helps me feel a kind of communitas with my fellow Americans. I usually don't buy much, but I like going.

    It may help that I live in the South, where we do not have quite as much trampling of people during the first rush into Best Buy / Target / whatever. (And, in fact, during my foray to Macy's this year, someone offered me a coupon they hadn't's very communal, in a way.)

    It may also help that despite being a university "prof," I am only an adjunct and therefore perhaps not as clever as the rest of us.

    I don't like XMas because it was a terrible, terrible time of year in my family...I suspect I am not alone in disliking the holiday that brings with it memories of really awful family fights. Plus, there's the working in retail, which is enough to give anyone a wee bit of a nervous tic at this time of year.

    Each year I resolve to enjoy it more. Usually I try to see one person that I don't normally get to see...a former teacher, a long-distance friend, my kid brother. Sometimes it goes well, sometimes not so much. I think it might be the blaring's ALL THE SAME SONG. And really? If I heard "Paint It Black" as often as I hear "Winter Wonderland," I'd start to loathe "Paint It Black," too.

  10. The "next semester" thank you is the best. After grades.

  11. I'm with receiving a friendly note is always a good thing. We're a financial aid office at a tiny college, so a lot of our interactions with students and parents only happen when a problem has arisen. It's really nice when they contact us not to complain, but just to say thank you and Happy New Year. :)

  12. I will make the concession that receiving a thank you note has actually made my day in years past. I remember each student who has put a thank you note in my mailbox after the class ended, and I kept them all.

    But I still think Christmas is a terrible time of year. For those who really believe, it's their time to "own" every public space: airports, parks, malls, grocery stores, television. For those with bad memories, it's a 2 month reminder of the grandmother who died Christmas Eve or the Christmas breakup or the time Aunt Karla threatened to kill Uncle Tim in front of the whole family.

    But more than that, it's this sense that everyone loses their shit and goes insane for at least 4 weeks. Chocolate and cake everywhere, people gaining tons of weight, tacky sweaters in the workplace. Some people might quietly go to the mall one day after lunch to buy some gifts, but most people spend about 5 times more than they can afford. The mixture of capitalist frenzy, religious devotion, and the accusation that you are unamerican if you don't embrace Christmas in all its tacky glory (left unsaid, but quote poignant throughout the year) just leaves me exhausted before Thanksgiving has even come by.

  13. Excellent points, AM, particularly "most people spend about 5 times more than they can afford. The mixture of capitalist frenzy". My thoughts that if you aren't into it, ignore it, should go both ways. If you ARE into it, deal with it. For the people who like it, like it or don't do it. And don't get in over your head and then complain about your $$ situation.

  14. What I want most from my students is a little self-awareness--a very little will do--and zero whining/bitching about their grades at the end of the term.

    What I want most from the Universe, something students can't provide, is more than 12 days off between fall and winter semesters. I wish I were making that up, but that's what we get this year. Half of that is spent with relatives doing the Christmas thing. I like Christmas and sometimes enjoy my visits to the family compound, but the break provides next to no recovery time from the semester. The moment I get back from the fam, I launch into prep for next semester. Totally sucks.

  15. @Academic Monkey: I don't disagree with your description of Christmas as it is currently practiced (I won't say "celebrated") in the United States, and I agree that there's a lot of intrusion of religion into the public square going on at this time of year (the only worse time of year is Easter, when, at least in my neck of the woods, the public schools' spring break and Holy Week combine, ironically undermining congregations' attempts to mark the most solemn dates on the Christian calendar by inviting families to jet off to Disney World or the Bahamas instead).

    However, it's worth noting that many Christians aren't any happier with the situation than you are. We're busy teaching adult education classes on "Unplugging the Christmas Machine," and organizing "Longest Night" services, and otherwise acknowledging that the kingdom has not yet come, and that the world is still a fallen place. I, for one, would list some Christians' desire to impose their own faith on others as one symptom of that fallenness, and would be perfectly happy to see all marking of Christmas confined to churches and homes, with no state and a minimum of commercial participation. Some of my fellow Christians might accuse me of channeling the Puritans who condemned their own century's version of Christmas excess (not to mention the undeniable pagan roots of our current celebration), but so it goes.

    Contingent Cassandra *stepping off theological soapbox* out.

  16. I just finished watching "Shrek the Halls" in which Donkey said one of the most beautiful quotes about Christmas I'd ever heard....

    "Grandma always said, it ain't Christmas until somebody cries."

    Now, you can take that whichever way you like...someone could cry from Christmas joy or someone could cry from Christmas hell.

    I sympathize with those that had Christmas in Hades. You may not remember me, but I was there. I was dressed as one of the fruitcakes.

    I too vow to enjoy Christmas more each year. Reading the "Christmas Sweater" by Glen Beck just made me mad, so I'm back to the 'ole standby, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."

    @ Marcia and Elsa. About the Emily Dickinson panties, who in the Sam Hill wants to have Emily Dickinson in their crotch? Yick. Yick. Yick.

    (my favorite gifts are the thank-yous; I still have most of them from the last 20 years; the stack is not as high as Yaro's blue books, but they'll break my fall in a pinch)

  17. Last year I gave my favourite professor a lock of hair for Christmas. He was a bit weirded out...I'm not sure why, it wasn't my hair.

  18. I love you,'re wicked! I see your name on here every once in a while and you always give me a laugh.

  19. I'm so stunned that there actually are Emily Dickinson panties, I don't know what to say.

  20. I teach SF Lit/Film, and my comp 102 class is centered around technology and society. A student I'd had for both classes in successive semesters gave me a Star Trek phaser ornament (complete with sounds and sayings). I'm not a Trekkie (we don't even talk about it in my SF course), but I cried. [She was a returning adult student, my best student the whole semester.]


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