Miss Manners: Parents’ gifts to teachers bring reaction pro and con

December 12, 2011

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I would like your response to an enviable problem — receiving gifts. I am of the thinking that one can dictate the nature of receiving gifts only when you give your own party or when you die, but let me explain.

I am a teacher among many in a small, affluent private school. Many of the parents of our students freely, by their own choice, give gifts to teachers at Christmas and/or the end of the school year. The thoughts behind these gifts are appreciated by us all.

However, the gifts vary. Some are touching and personal, and others end up in the “re-gifting” cycle. To further complicate the issue, the needs on the part of the faculty differ, and some of us truly want and need the gifts, while others would rather see the gifts go to charity, so among ourselves we do not all look at the question the same way.

Taking all of this into account, the question of our “suggesting” the nature of these gifts or putting a policy in our school handbook has been discussed among ourselves. Is there a polite or appropriate way to put forward the idea of these gifts being discontinued, or going, for example, to the local soup kitchen instead of to us? Or should we just appreciate things as they are?

GENTLE READER: The prohibition against dictating the presents one expects to receive is even stricter than you claim. Giving a party is no excuse, and dying only entitles you to leave things to others.

However, an organization involving many people can have a policy — for example, one forbidding the staff to accept presents. Miss Manners noticed that you did not mention any such sentiment among your colleagues. But you might agree on the school’s banning presents but establishing a year-end fund, either to be distributed among the teachers or to go toward school needs.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My boyfriend lost one of his brothers to a tragic accident a few years ago. For the holidays, he and his other brother will be visiting their parents in a different state. I will not be going, but I am planning on making a personalized gift for each of his family members for my boyfriend to take with him. The gifts are handmade stained glass Christmas tree ornaments with each person’s name gilded on the ornament.

Would it be improper or in poor taste to include one with the deceased brother’s name on it? They were a very close-knit family, and I do not want to make them feel weird about it, but I also do not want to feel as if I did not include an important person in their family gathering.

GENTLE READER: Certainly you should send an ornament with the brother’s name. From your desire to do so, and the reaction Miss Manners expects from the family, she imagines that an important person at their next family gathering will be you.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Why is it that some people never say “Thank you,” and why is it that people always keep giving these people things, knowing they will never get a thank-you?

GENTLE READER: Those who never say “Thank you” are simply rude. Why others continue to give to them is beyond Miss Manners’s understanding.

Visit Miss Manners at her Web site, www.missmanners.com, where you can send her your questions.

@ 2011, by Judith Martin

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