Rosie Johnson Illustrates
Freelance illustrator

Notes from the studio (it’s a shed)

The BEST Teacher thank you gift...

I was a teacher for 15 years. It's with a mixture of sadness and relief that, when asked what I do, I no longer say "I'm a Primary School Teacher."

In case you're not in it for the money

The sadness comes because I think it's one of the most important, worthwhile, fulfilling jobs going and I'm no longer doing it. I felt very proud of my work and I loved the children I taught. The relief comes because it's one of the most pressured, stressful, exhausting jobs going and I'm no longer doing it. I know it's not saving lives or defusing bombs, but being a teacher is hard. (Also, on an abstract level it kind of IS saving lives and defusing bombs.) The people who say "But they finish at 3.30 and get 6 weeks Summer holiday" have clearly never met a teacher, been near a school, had children or been a child. 

Teaching children is a small part of a teacher's work. The planning, preparation, marking, assessment, monitoring, staff meetings, plays, school trips, sports days, report writing, parents evenings, Ofsted Inspections, performance management reviews, pastoral care, transition planning, new curriculum assimilation, nit detection and suspicious smell locating take up a lot more time than you might imagine. And that's not to mention the constant negative pressure from the media and government or an 8 year pay freeze. Did I say not to mention? Oh, I mentioned it. 

The reason I'm ranting on like this is because we have reached 'Begrudgingly Find a Box of Chocs and Generic Card for the Teacher at the Last Minute' season. I hear ya. I'm a parent too. The social nicety of an end of term gift makes some of us feel slightly resentful. Presents should be freely and spontaneously given. I agree. The thing is, as a teacher, I agreed too. I don't know any teachers who expect a gift at the end of the year. With the EXCEPTION OF BOOZE. I REPEAT, ALL CAPS, THIS DOES NOT COVER BOOZE. 

I have received many very thoughtful, carefully chosen gifts over the years but, without a doubt, my very favourite things- that I have kept every year and still pop up to the attic to leaf through when I'm hormonal or in existential crisis- are the cards. Not the 'Dear Miss Johnson, thank you, love so and so'... but the ones with a little message from the parents (I primarily taught the youngest children, so it was usually the parents writing the messages, unless I'd done a particularly good job teaching writing to their kids.) Those messages were an acknowledgement of all the Sundays I'd worked making my lessons personal and exciting. The relationships I tried to build with each child and their family. All the half-terms I'd gone into school to transform the classroom or stayed behind with a parent to chat through a problem at home. As a teacher, you don't have time to wonder if your work has been noticed. Sometimes, it's not until the end of the year that you see the difference you've made.

So, parents out there, I know YOUR lives are also hectic and crammed and exhausting, but rather than spending your precious little time trawling the supermarket shelves for a Best Teacher mug, use that same time to sit down and think about the year your child has had, under the supervision and care of that teacher and, if they're really lucky, teaching assistant. If you can think of a gift you know they'd love and you want to get that too, then double hooray! But I promise no-one expects it. Just write them a note and let them know how you feel. 

Now the bit where i unravel all that sincerity to reveal my true, mercenary intent- BUY MY STUFF! I have thank you cards, post cards and specific teacher cards you can buy if you fancy. They make a pretty addition to your heartfelt words. There's a poster you could download where you and/ or your child can write a message with their favourite memories of the year. Honestly, it really is the thought that counts. And the booze.

And for all you shattered teachers and teaching assistants, I've got your back. I've designed a range of cards that you can download and print to give to your class and the memories poster works just as well from teacher to children! Keep on keeping on. We salute you. 



Rosie JohnsonComment