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Last Day Gifts

appleIt used to be an apple, didn’t it? The young primary schooler, feeling the full blast of love for the teacher who has guided him through a significant slice of his life, would arrive on the last day with a perfect, shiny, Red Delicious of exactly the same size and sheen as the Brothers Grimm prototype that lodged in Snow White’s gullet. Twenty five kids means 25 apples, and so the weary educator, having hauled herself through nine months of tying shoelaces, cleaning up grazes and reciting times tables, arrived home to the stress that any product of the Depression or World War II experiences in the presence of four kilograms of fruit. Pie or crumble?

Can we believe that generation when they say they gifted fruit? It seems earthy and impossibly quaint. According to my father, Santa was even in on the act, tossing an orange or an apple into the stocking, as though scurvy was front of mind rather than consumption.

Teachers are special, but not so special that they should actually get something they want.

Nowadays, as break-up day looms, we all know that an apple isn’t going to cut it – not one that begins with a lower case ‘a’ instead of an ‘i’. My daughter Polly’s classroom even has a bowlful of fruit all year round. Turning up with an apple would be as offensive as turning up with a sheet of A4 paper. Which begs the question, what is the perfect gift for a primary school teacher?

Let’s consider some options:

Jewellery: Must, and I repeat must be either child-crafted or so hideous that it could only have been chosen by the child. A tasteful piece of jewellery runs the risk of communicating something similar to what Don Draper ended up communicating to the impossibly hot grade teacher in season three of Mad Men.

Chocolate: Risky in a primary school world where there are nut alarms fitted over every school gate. That said, kids love giving chocolate, and with the paucity of future contact, you will get away with re-gifting that six dollar box of chocolate liqueurs.

Book: On its face, a strong choice because it breathes ‘education’. The danger lurks in choosing the right title. You don’t want to pitch too high, because any kid associated with Umberto Eco too early ends up getting bullied. Nor do you want to give Dan Brown’s Inferno, because you’re hoping the teacher was trying harder than that with your child’s literacy. The final decision will probably be Oprah’s.

DVD: Weirder than a book. It’s like you’re crossing into the private domain of the teacher, and wanting to infiltrate his couch. Although perhaps a light-hearted selection can work? Polly’s teacher will hopefully be enjoying her copy of Goodbye, Mister Chips.

Voucher: Vouchers are a scourge on present-giving, and should be resisted in every context including this one. Yes, teachers are special, but not so special that they should actually get something they want.

Creams and perfumes: Make ‘em cheap. (Refer Don Draper reference above.)

One inedible candy cane: Maybe that’s slightly too cheap.

Gingerbread, shortbread, Christmas cake, biscuits: Now we’re talking. As parents know, the real gift here is the one that happened the night before when the kids had an activity. Yes, it ended in flour being distributed across vast terrain, and you losing your temper, but it was a different fight to the one you have every night about whose turn it is on the iPad, and for this, both you and the kids are grateful. They will hand over the cellophane bag with a sense of accomplishment. The teacher will sense this pride, and quite possibly, be moved by it. The biscuits themselves will end up in the bin.

Kids craft: Ditto possibly moving. Ditto bin.

Hopefully this helps with the 21st Century ‘apple’. Whatever choice you make, a little note expressing thanks and admiration will get the gift over the line. Polly misspelled ‘underpayed’ and ‘overwerked’ in hers. Nobody’s fault, but I might hold off on the second DVD.

Polly as a Prep

Polly as a Prep

This piece was written for ABC’s educational The Splash website.