Being a teacher means you get Valentine’s Day three times a year. You get Valentine’s Day like everyone else. Then you also get The Last Day Before Christmas Break and The Last Day of School. Like Valentine’s Day, these days mean that sometimes people give you chocolate and flowers and jewelry. Also, lots and lots of cards.
These gifts aren’t the point of teaching of course; they are just little bonuses, sort of like they give CEO’s.
A friend in college tried to convince me to the theory that the reason that poets and teachers don’t make very much money was that their jobs are intrinsically awesome, and that part of why high paying jobs are high paying is to bribe people into doing them even though they are boring or stressful or entail huge amounts of responsibility. I didn’t buy his theory then, and I still don’t.
I see three basic flaws: First of all, teaching may be great, but minimum wage jobs are rarely awesome, and are usually boring and stressful. Second of all, although I was an English Major destined for modest awesomeness, he was an engineer, hurtling towards a high paying job himself, if he so chose, and yet he really seemed to find engineering awesome. Third, I may be biased, but teaching and writing literature seem like big responsibilities to me.
So it is a flawed theory. But I was thinking about it this week, when I got showered in homemade granola, hot pink geraniums, chocolate-filled figs, and cards that said things like “thank you for helping become a betor ritor.” See, I love teaching and provided I had a sugar daddy/trust fund/pile o’ gold I might do it even if I wasn’t paid. However, teacher appreciation presents really do make a teacher feel appreciated.
I started thinking about those CEOs and their gazillion dollar bonuses, and wondering if anyone at their work had ever given them a hand drawn card with hot air balloons and an igloo on it. I imagined if things were switched around a little and my students’ families passed around a hat and gave me an envelope with with $43,511,534* inside, while meanwhile all the people touched by the CEOs’ work sent them hand-beaded necklaces and inventively spelled messages.
I’ve never been given millions of dollars, so I can only imagine how it feels, but I wonder if it makes a person feel as appreciated as I felt last week. I have a hunch that it would make me feel a little awkward. Then again, maybe that is just one of the things they are paying you to endure.
* The biggest executive bonus of the 2000’s, according to CNBC. This one went to Steve Jobs.