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Teacher Gifts

I love BlogHer dearly, and I love reading Jenna‘s posts, but today I was filled with inexplicable frustration as I read her “7 Out-of-the-Box Ideas for Teachers’ Gifts this Holiday Season.”

The gift guide is cute, sweet, and tries to help parents find a gift that teachers will actually want or need. There are two things I took away from this piece:

  1. Teachers expect gifts during the holiday season.
  2. All parents and students can afford to get their teachers gifts during the holiday season.
This sign appeared in one of the copier rooms a few weeks ago. Typically, "copier" would appear where "SCHOOL" has been placed.

This sign appeared in one of the copier rooms a few weeks ago. Typically, “copier” would appear where “SCHOOL” has been placed.

As a first year teacher in an urban district, I barely expect my students to have a writing utensil every day. I would never expect my students to give me a gift– sometimes I can barely expect them to give me their homework! My students are working after school to support their families. Some of them are trying to help keep their families afloat and pay the rent. Others are trying to put food on the table. Some are struggling to afford to take care of their own medical expenses or their own children.

My school district is odd in the sense that it has some students who are fortunate enough to be from financially afloat families, and others who are fall below the poverty line. I have students who live with their parents, students who haven’t seen their parents in years, and students who live in group homes.

Last year, I wrote about the over-abundance of love I received at the end of student teaching, and how much it shocked me. It still does.

I would never expect a single gift from a student or a parent or guardian, and I never will. Being given the privilege and adventure of teaching their students is enough of a gift to me.

So, for those of you who may not have the ability to thank a teacher with a gift, or those of you who do not have the time to offer any assistance to a teacher (which, by the way, might actually be more stressful to teachers than helpful!), I offer you this simple “Urban School Teacher Gift Guide” for both students and the adults they may live with.

“Urban School Teacher Gift Guide”

  1. Thank a teacher for being a teacher. Telling a teacher “Thank you” can go a long way.
  2. Encourage your student to complete his or her classwork, and to hand it in on time. If a student fails to do so, encourage him or her not to approach the teacher arguing about the work, but rather politely apologizing and asking if it would be okay to hand it in during the next class period. I will always (secretly) accept late work with no consequences if I am approached respectfully. It also makes my day when schoolwork has been completed.
  3. Wish a teacher happy holidays and a happy New Year. Tell a teacher how much you’re looking forward to seeing him or her after winter break. It will make him or her feel amazing.
  4. Just smile.
  5. Again, say thank you. A “Thank you” is far more valuable than any gift I could receive. I have thank you notes from the students where I student taught locked up in a safe box. I will never get rid of these treasured, genuine words of appreciation.

Not your average recap

This week my eyes have started to hurt from the amount of BlogHer’13 recaps popping up in my Facebook, Twitter, etc etc feeds. I already told you about my experiences in the BlogHer’13 Fashion Show, how my heart was full on the last day of BlogHer, and ya’ll saw my tweets and Facebook posts if you’re any sort of dedicated follower/ stalker.

The truth is I didn’t really take away much from the sessions this year. I think this has a large part to do with this being my 2nd BlogHer, as I was an over-eager child on Christmas morning last year, but it also has to do with the fact that a lot of the sessions were similar and reflective of one another. This is what happens when not as many people don’t apply for session or panel ideas, and I appreciate the ones who took the time (and effort) to put together the panels and sessions. (You can read all of the transcripts of all of the sessions here.)

Vulnerabilities

Alexandra Rosas of Good Day, Regular People  and Erin Margolin of The Gay Dad Project talking about being vulnerable in one’s writing

All of the panels I attended were insightful to different degrees. I’d say my favorite two were the panels on writing on our vulnerable truth and fixing education.

Last year I attended a session called “Blogging: the Fine Line Between Your Identity and the Issues.”  (Read the transcription here.) Afterwards, I briefly spoke to Faiqa and Kelly about my intersecting identities as a lesbian student leader at Rutgers University (this was when the Tyler Clementi trial was very much in the media) and my pending identity as an urban educator/ student teacher. Both women really gave me a lot of courage to stand strong with my various identities, but it was the discovery of Kelly’s blog that truly made me believe in myself as an urban educator.

Fixing Education

Fixing Education #BH13FixEd

Hearing Kelly speak again at “Fixing Education,” albeit shortly, really reminded me of why I want to be in urban ed in the first place. I want to make a difference. I want to find ways to change– and save– lives in my future, and teaching in an urban district is exactly how I can do that.

BlogHer ’13 didn’t leave me with a lot of swag. It didn’t leave me with a massive hangover (much), and it certainly didn’t leave me with the giddy teenage feeling I had last year. I didn’t leave with the desire to blog about BlogHer like there was no tomorrow. I left with a newfound respect and satisfaction for the friendships and relationships I have gained as a result of my blog. I left with a desire to use my voice– my strongest tool– to make a difference in everything that I do from this day forward.

As Kelly said during the panel, “When you find that one thing, take it and blog the hell out of it.”

The day before I left for BlogHer, I both interviewed for and found out I had gotten a teaching job in a district that fulfilled all of my teaching dreams. I didn’t have time to process this until I got stranded in Chicago for an extra day (Thanks __ Airlines!). My experiences at BlogHer’13 may not have left me with the same feeling of wanting to dive head first into my blog, but they left me wanting to dive head first into using my voice and making a difference in the world. I am so grateful to have gone to Chicago this year, even if it wasn’t what I had anticipated. I’m going to blog the Hell out of my experiences as a new teacher, just like I’m going to be the best educator that I can be.

For some recommended BlogHer’13 recaps, I suggest you read Jenna Hatfield’s list of 10 BlogHer experiences, specifically focusing on Mona Darling’s post at Dead Cow Girl. It talks a lot about the petty high school women judging women that happened at this year’s BlogHer. It’s a must read for…well, everyone.