I have such wonderful students, many with generous parents. At the end of the year, I humbly accept thank-you cards, many that have Starbucks gift cards and movie passes, and I also love the home-baked goods I receive from those students whom I know I can trust. I am so grateful and lucky to have students who care enough to make these gestures to me. I am.
However...I try to always tell the kids that if you make something to show your thanks, it's just a better strategy than buying something. Most adults would rather have something that comes from your hands and your brains than from your wallets; I can keep and treasure and show-off to others handmade gifts much longer than I can keep a plastic Starbucks card. I really stress this lesson during December and February, when we are doing different poetry lessons, which include a "tribute poem" as one of those lessons. "Make something--like a poem--and give it to someone you love or admire for any upcoming holiday," I always say, "and they will be so happy with your gesture."
I didn't receive any poems at the end of the year this year (which was fine--as I had received plenty this Winter). I did, however, receive one of the sweetest, hand-made gifts I have ever received. I just have to share it with you.
Del--one my seventh grade girls--stealthily placed this homemade paper box on my desk some time during the final week of school. It looked like this:
When the yellow lid came off, the box unfolded to show eight different "memory panels"--shared memories from the school year that involved the two of us.
There were two layers of images and memories. Here are the first four; each image represents a story that Del and I (and perhaps a few other students) share from our time together. Most of these are thoughts that we laughed about when she put them in her writer's notebook.
And here is the second layer of images:
I think my favorite panel is this one, which shows Del (in her Team Phoenix mascot outfit, which she made out of construction paper for assemblies; each interdisciplinary team at our school adopts a team name, and we are 'Team Phoenix.') Another student had made me a crown of fire to wear at assemblies, and we laughed when we saw each other entering the assembly that day! Here is a close-up of that panel:
Thank you, Del. You are an amazing student, and the extra care and thought you put into this homemade gift means the world to your silly ol' teacher. I only hope I can figure out a way to preserve this fragile gift so that I can enjoy it for years to come. Perhaps photographing it in this way is the first step in doing so!
P.S. I love this picture of you from our end-of-year slide-show in your mascot outfit. Next year, let's obtain a picture of me with my crown of flames, okay? :-)