The Great Debate: What to Get Your Teachers for the Holidays


Professor X/Student Y, Wildcat Guest Writer/Staff Writer

Professor X:

Picture this. You’re a teacher. The weather is getting colder, the classroom temperature is set at a homey 72 degrees, those beloved winter spirit days are about to be in your rearview as winter break approaches, and one of your sweet students hands you a cactus and says, “have a great Christmas Professor X.” A cactus. This kid just handed you a cactus and skipped out of your classroom, smiling like a gleeful elf. By now you probably realize that this scenario indeed happened. I didn’t quite know what to do with the cactus. Do I set in on my desk? Do I read into it as some sort of metaphor? Does it produce aloe? Is it edible? I decided to keep it and proudly display it by my computer. The next several months created an undue amount of stress. How much water does a cactus need? They live in the desert, which is a far cry from my classroom. Should I return it to its natural habitat? Can you water a cactus too much? Then it happened-it died. I killed a cactus; a plant so hearty that it can survive in some of the harshest climates this world has to offer. Sadly, my classroom proved uninhabitable for this innocent specimen of desert flora. This brings me to the point of this article: the unwritten rules of student gift-giving.

Rule 1: Don’t give something that can die to a teacher. My story is proof and it will always haunt me.

Rule 2: Baked goods. This one is tricky. While thoughtful, baked goods can cause suspicion. Is this student trying to poison me? Might they be trying to get me high? Did they wash their hands? Most of the time, I eat a bite or two in front of the student and then bring them to a Christmas party to give to the host.

Rule 3: Gift cards: Who doesn’t like a gift card? In ancient times, kings received money from peasants to pardon crimes and to seek royal favor. I view gift cards in the same way. The only difference is that I don’t offer pardons or favors.

Rule 4: Pictures. Hmm. You gave me a picture of yourself. What do I do with it? I can hang it up and look like I’m favoring you or I can not hang it up and make it look like I loathe you. I am sure there is some middle ground here, but I haven’t found it. I typically hang the pictures on my wall, which sort of ends up looking like some sort of cultish hall of fame or awkward harem.

Rule 5: Cards. This is usually your safest bet. Give your teacher a card and thank them for a good semester. Perhaps share a short anecdote with them. Don’t apologize for being a punk or offer some sort of odd confession. Keep it concise. Also, don’t have your parents write it. We know your handwriting and it’s not as nice as your mom’s.

In hindsight, these are not so much rules as they are insights into the bizarre world of your teacher’s minds. I think all teachers appreciate gifts. At the end of the day, teachers are people too (weird thought, I know) and they enjoy recognition and thoughtfulness just as much as the next person. Just don’t give them something that puts them in an uncomfortable position. However, if you want to exact revenge for the stress they’ve caused you, give them a cactus. It will keep them up at night.


Student Y:

t other schools, perhaps those with less restrictive moral standards, giving teachers gifts is a commonplace, surefire method to jump your grade that extra 0.01% to an A. But not at Dougherty Valley. Thankfully, we have teachers that are not susceptible to bribes. They won’t flinch at even the most fragrant cup of coffee ground from beans painstakingly extracted from an Asian palm civet’s feces or a delicious smoothie blended by colliding mangosteens and African cucumbers, nor will they lose resolve after being offered a 24-karat-diamond-encrusted paperweight of pure gold containing the moonrock that was brought back from Neil Armstrong himself. Trust me, I’ve tried. But seeing this moral fiber in teachers has brought me something even better than a grade bump. You see, I realized that gifts shouldn’t be given for the sake of receiving a gift in return. Instead, they should be given as sincere offers of happiness, celebration, or even condolence. When given with a good intention, a personal gift can mean much more than a diamond-encrusted paperweight. So with the holiday season fast approaching, it seems that teachers will be much more willing to clear a space on their shelves of ‘#1 Teacher’ mugs and drawers full of apple-shaped paperweights to make room for your handmade card referencing an inside joke or your hand-drawn picture of a subject-related visual pun. Whether it be a thank you note spelled out in elements for a chemistry teacher, an equation with a solution that spells out a special message upside-down for an algebra teacher, or a punny historically relevant compliment for a history teacher, a unique, well-thought-out gift seems much more valuable in the eyes of a teacher than something that required little thought or effort. After all, it’s not what’s bought that counts, it’s really the thought that counts.