Every Christmas season it was the same thing all over again in the staff room.  A lot of the teachers would ‘oh and ah’ as their colleagues opened up presents from their admiring students.  I was jealous.  No kids gave me presents! Why?

Maybe it was because I was a new teacher and trying desperately to keep my classes under control by being a ‘hard ass’.  Nasty and mean can keep a class in order but nobody ‘loves’ you.  And no kid will ever buy you a Christmas present.

I just got so sick and tired of watching all these teachers sitting in the staff room opening their presents and going on and on about how their students liked them.  ‘They must not like me – they never got me anything’, I thought to myself.  Jealousy worked it’s festering evil on me!

Then I got a brilliant plan!  Why not go buy myself some presents at the dollar store.  Wrap them up and put them in my mailbox at the end of the day when nobody was around.  The next day I would  act really surprised at my mailbox and bring my ‘loot’ to the staff room to unwrap  in front of everybody!  I’ll show them!

It worked like a charm.  As I was opening my ‘presents’ the teachers were sullenly looking at the ‘rookie’ who was getting as much ‘love’ as they were.  The clincher was the card that I got myself; “Dear teacher – you’re the greatest! Thanks for being such a caring person!”  As I was walking out of the staff room with my armful of presents I overheard a teacher saying; “Wow, I never thought the kids would give him anything.”  They were jealous of me!

Over the years, as I learned about classroom control, I relied less and less on ‘shock and awe’ and more and more on respect and consistency.  Kids respond to an orderly environment with clear expectations.  I was one of those teachers that grew into the job – starting small and growing with experience and interaction with kids.

Even though I never became any student’s ‘friend’, my students knew they could depend on me to be prepared for class, mark fairly and run an organized classroom.  Kids don’t need another friend in school – they need real teachers who care enough about them to phone home themselves if they are ‘messing up’.

Over time I started to get real Christmas presents from my students and had to buy less and less for myself.  My colleagues never knew the difference but I did!