Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Because You Can (Gift-giving and Perspective)

That got me started thinking about - shocker, I know - perspective.

While the majority of the teachers my kids have had over the years have been good, my kids have had their fair share of crappy teachers over the years, a few of whom didn’t deserve a gift other than a dog turd and/or a swift kick in the behind.  I will admit that I didn't feel any sense of obligation at all to give those teachers a gift - and sometimes I haven't given an end-of-the-year gift for other reasons, ranging from my own manic year-end schedule to not being able to think of anything I considered to be "a good gift" to caving in to pressure from my kids not to "embarrass" them by giving their teachers a gift because they thought it would seem like - to put it kindly - obsequiousness.

Obviously, though, my perspective on LOTS of things has changed over the past few years, and I’d like to offer this perspective for consideration: we may never know what battle another person is fighting.  And sometimes it may be better to fight fire (or incompetence/rudeness or whatever the issue may be) with kindness.


Not that someone has to spend a bunch of money or time on a gift for every teacher, especially one who has been less than ideal for a child, but maybe giving a teacher just a little something and/or a card saying thanks could make a difference for her – which may, in turn, improve her outlook and have a rippling effect on others around her – her future students or even other teachers who may have some sort of interaction with the child of that parent and other kids in the future. 

When I was growing up, my mom didn't like for my sisters or me to say that we hated something or someone.  At some point, I argued that I really did hate something - but she insisted that it was better for me to say I disliked or didn't prefer it instead.  My mom, my sisters, and I still sometimes half-jokingly say that we "don't prefer" something or someone, even today as adults.  It's a good point that choosing to use words that are less harsh may be a better idea, a point that intertwines with perspective and kindness.  (Maybe a parent who hasn't liked her child's teacher could send that teacher a thank-you note ... and could just think secretly to herself that the thing she's thankful for is that the school year is over - or that the child will surely appreciate having a good teacher after her experience with one that was not preferred.)

Parallel to the bad-teacher situation is a bad-boss scenario.  I've help a few positions in my lifetime that have unfortunately been under the supervision of someone that let's just say I did not prefer.  My distaste for these people has been for a variety of different reasons, ranging from a simple personality conflict to ethical considerations (more on the latter topic is coming up in a future blog post).  In the midst of each of those situations, I have not had the perspective that I do in retrospect; I now feel an ironic sense of gratitude towards those bosses because my experience with each of them has certainly made me value an effective supervisor - and because having those experiences has served to teach me how not to do things whenever I am in a position of leadership.

I'm not advocating giving a gift to get something in return, and I'm not pretending to be overly nice or forgiving or anything like that.  I'm just seeing this as one way to react to such a situation.  From the way I see it, not giving the teacher (or the boss) a gift probably won't be noticed by that person, but taking the "high road," erring on the side of kindness, giving just because you can - that's something that can have an impact.

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