Last year, on my son’s first day of kindergarten, we brought his teacher a red apple. She was completely surprised by this small gesture, and on that very emotional morning (she had two children beginning a new school year too), she said our small gift might make her cry.
When it comes to teachers’ gifts, apples are the fruit that adorn everything teacher-related — mugs, keychains, candles, reusable tote bags. And yet, I can say that after a twelve-year teaching career, I seldom received a fresh apple.
The first day of school is not the first day for our teachers. Generally, they’ve been paid for one additional day, the day before our children report to school. But most teachers spend days at the school site readying their classrooms — cleaning, dusting, hanging bulletin boards, making copies, sharpening pencils, setting up a library corner. Back in June, teachers are required to “take down’” their rooms and pack everything up. Reassembling everything is a time-consuming project. Back when I was a teacher, those summer days always cost me money. I had to pay for a babysitter to watch my son at home so I could go back to school and get my classroom ready for my students.
And teacher preparation isn’t limited to those days before the new school year. Let’s not forget summer vacation. Contrary to what many in the public may believe, summers aren’t all “free-time” for teachers. Most teachers postpone jury duty until summer break. Most teachers attend a training (or multiple trainings) during the summer. Most teachers are lesson planning, shopping, and brainstorming for the year ahead.
So by the time the first day arrives, teachers have been gearing up for quite some time. Teachers have put in all this time and effort because they have to. They know what needs to be done to help ensure a successful school year. And they are doing it all on their own time, without pay.
An apple for your child’s teacher is a small token of acknowledgment. While many parents may think that teachers most appreciate gift cards (we do), teachers also greatly appreciate recognition for the challenging jobs they do. An apple is a “thank you” for all that teachers have already done and all they will do for our kids during the school year ahead.