During the holidays it’s customary to remember the people who make your life easier during the year.
Whether it’s a gift card for the mail carrier or a special box of chocolates for your coworker, it’s nice to think of kind ways to express your love and gratitude. For educators like Louise Gardner, a second-grade teacher at St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Voluntary Aided School in England, seeing those piles of well-meaning gifts on her desk never fails to bring a smile.
This year, however, Louise felt that her cup already ran over. She thought of all the needy families in her area who could use those gifts more than she could. There was one family in particular who was struggling, and Louise thought there had to be a way to redirect the kindness her students show her during the holidays to the family who needed it more.
Louise sent home a letter to all of her students, along with a blank envelope. She asked that if students planned to give her a gift, could they please send in a donation of a couple of dollars instead.
“At this time of year there can be pressure from children to buy their teacher a gift,” Louise wrote. “I would like to take the opportunity to say while I am always really grateful for parents’ kind generosity I would like to reduce your stress a little and ask that you don’t buy me a gift. I thoroughly enjoy teaching your children and my job is a pleasure to do.”
“This half term we are focussing on money in maths and the real meaning of Christmas in our RE lessons,” she continued. “With this in mind I would like the children to be involved in the social responsibility of giving and kindness and plan to support a local family. I will be sending blank envelopes home with the children, in which if you would like, you can place a donation (no more than £2). Please don’t put any names on this.”
The teacher explained that she’d use this exercise to give the kids real-life uses for their math and money knowledge. The money would be collected and counted by the children, then they’ll have to budget the cash to buy items they think a family would need. “This also helps them with their understanding of different food groups and luxury items!” she added.
If the kids insisted on making her a gift, she asked only for a homemade card or for them to draw her a picture instead.
Steff Ravenhall is a mother of one of the kids in Louise’s class. When she saw the letter she was so moved by the kindness behind it that she shared it on Facebook, where it went viral. Now she’s hoping that others who hear her story consider doing something similar with their unneeded Christmas gifts.
“It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a couple of years,” Louise explained. “I think it’s become a very commercial thing in recent years: there’s no expectation at all from teachers that they should get gifts, so I don’t really know where it’s come from, but I think parents do feel the pressure.”
“Since I’ve become a deputy head I’ve seen families who’ve come to us and said they’re really, really struggling,” she added. “As a school, we already support the food bank, but when you realize how much your own families in school are affected, you want to do something. People think everybody has and everybody can afford, but they just can’t.”
This is such a great idea, and it doesn’t have to be limited to teachers. Anyone who receives a multitude of gifts at the holidays could ask to have that money donated to someone who needs it more. It’s important to recognize when we have enough and those resources could be better served elsewhere!
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