Opinion
Education Teacher Leaders Network

How a Student’s Christmas Gift Became a Teacher’s Source of Inspiration

By Cindi Rigsbee — December 22, 2009 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

I once taught briefly at a school with many affluent students. That year, just as every other year, I began my English classes with a suggested journal entry on “the worst thing that ever happened to you.” Most of my students said things like “the worst thing that ever happened to me was when my mom took my DVD player out of my room” or “the worst thing was when we had to leave Disney World early because of bad weather.”

Winter holidays in that school were interesting. I received so many gifts, it took me three days to get them all home. I could have opened my own Bath and Body Works store. I had several cashmere scarves and numerous gift certificates to fine restaurants. My own children would wait anxiously at home to see the loot. It was quite embarrassing.

When I began teaching remedial reading at a different school, things began to change. The journal entries read “the worst thing that ever happened to me was seeing my brother get shot” and “the worst thing was when my dad went to jail.” No DVD players in these bedrooms. No flights to Florida. And on the last day before holiday break, I would hear many bittersweet comments such as, “I’ll bring you a present after Christmas when my grandma gets paid...”

But I did get one gift while in that school that holds more meaning for me than all the rest combined. Here’s one of my own journal entries from that December:

Well, today I received my first ever gift from a student in this school. Nikki, a sweet but troubled little seventh grader, brought me a haphazardly wrapped box this morning. I opened it, expecting some candy or a handwritten note. Instead I pulled out a little music box, white and pretty, with a winter scene on the top. I opened it and immediately my rambunctious last-day-of-school-before-break class became totally quiet as the sound of Silent Night tinkled across the room.

In the box lay a single, tiny nail file. Nikki began trying to explain why she put a nail file in there, but I talked over her, telling her how badly I needed one. I told her that I loved the music box and gave her a hug. As she walked away, she turned and quietly said, “I used to listen to it when I was a little girl.” I silently gasped. Nikki had given me her music box. She had wrapped something meaningful to her, placed the only thing she could find in it, and handed it to me with more pride than I’ve ever seen her display over anything.

My first thought as I look at the music box sitting in my den tonight is how important this gift will always be to me. My second thought is that I don’t know why anyone would ever choose another career. Times are hard for teachers—we’re asked to do more and more with less and less—often blamed and seldom thanked. But when I think of Nikki and her precious gift, I know we are truly blessed.

And I know, down at the heart of it all, this is why we do what we do. This is why we spend our weekends planning our weeks, why we tackle mountains of paperwork every day, and why we sometimes just take the blame and forget about being thanked. It’s because of the children in our classrooms who give us pieces of themselves, in exchange for the part of us we share with them—Christmas pieces, that we gather all year long.

A previous version of this story was titled “Christmas Pieces.”

Events

School Climate & Safety K-12 Essentials Forum Strengthen Students’ Connections to School
Join this free event to learn how schools are creating the space for students to form strong bonds with each other and trusted adults.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
IT Infrastructure & Management Webinar
Future-Proofing Your School's Tech Ecosystem: Strategies for Asset Tracking, Sustainability, and Budget Optimization
Gain actionable insights into effective asset management, budget optimization, and sustainable IT practices.
Content provided by Follett Learning
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Budget & Finance Webinar
Innovative Funding Models: A Deep Dive into Public-Private Partnerships
Discover how innovative funding models drive educational projects forward. Join us for insights into effective PPP implementation.
Content provided by Follett Learning

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: April 17, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: March 20, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: March 13, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education Briefly Stated: February 21, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read