There's no denying we got off to a rough start this year. But now that William and Julio have left us, we've evolved into a kind of cozy classroom community. Most of their transgressions are now frustratingly predictable: Kyle forgets to put his schoolbag in the closet every. single. day; David needs an engraved invitation to the meeting area when all of his classmates are already there; Viviana's loud, chatty voice pierces through every direction I give like a siren; Jason cannot resist the urge to insert explosive noises and mime punches in an effort to liven up every mini lesson. Even when my class is driving me up the wall with their chatting and their resistance to following directions, not a day goes by when I'm not thankful that chatting is the worst I typically have to deal with; I do not miss the days of peeing on the floor and jumping off tables and loud swearing.
And then there are times when it all comes together and I get to sit back in satisfaction and think, "Ahhhhh, Miss Brave's class." Last week, for instance, we arrived alarmingly early on a field trip and had to sit on the bus for a half-hour. We'd already had two students get carsick and we were in for a long thirty minutes of "Is it time yet? When are we getting off?" until I suggested we play a round of Guess What Character Miss Brave Is Thinking About. They asked me questions about the character -- "Is he helpful?" "Is he from a book by Kevin Henkes?" -- until someone finally guessed correctly, and then I gave someone else a turn. They were raising their hands, they were calling on each other, and when we finally got to go inside (and we had to wait again), some of them continued to play amongst themselves. It was great.
Last week, I received in my Department of Education e-mail a "Holiday Gift Memo" from the DOE's "ethics officer." The e-mail encouraged me to review the Chancellor's Regulation C-110 on conflicts of interest and reminded me that, as a city employee, I "may not accept gifts or 'tips' for doing [my] job" and that "teachers should only accept individual gifts from parents that are of a sentimental nature and/or of small financial value."
Apparently the over-gifting of teachers was a growing problem in the suburbs, where wealthy parents were competing to out-gift each other by lavishing upon their children's teachers gifts of spa certificates (!), Coach bags (!!) and Rolex watches (!!!). But in NYC public schools, when I read Mayor Bloomberg's admonishment to parents to keep it under $50, all I could do was roll my eyes. My students don't even pay for lunch. How could they pay $50 for a Christmas gift for a teacher?
Today, two of my students presented me with holiday gifts. One of them, Alaina, is new to my class and new to the country; the other, Marco, is my class clown, and handed me the bag looking like the gift had been entirely his parents' idea. No, it wasn't a Coach bag. It was better: a large tote bag (perfect for lugging heavy teacher manuals), with plastic slots on the front (the perfect size for sliding in photos of my class), and best of all, embroidered with my name. I now have my very own teacher tote with my name on it! Eat your heart out, suburbia.