Gift giving – meaningful gesture vs. formality


Julianne Sun

Mr. Keir smiles with his mug, a past Christmas present. Christmas is a time known for receiving gifts but it is also a time for giving. Brookfield Central also has a program that gives the opportunity to pitch in money to help out underprivileged Elmbrook families during the holidays.

Julianne Sun, Reviews Editor

There’s always that one person on your list that’s impossible to shop for. Either they have everything, they don’t want anything, or you just don’t know them well enough. That last category of people (unfortunately) includes the teachers that we spend more time with than we do our parents. And yet, it’s practically tradition that students gift their teachers every holiday season.

When asked about the most common gift he’s received, band director Mr. Gillette said, “I get a lot of gift cards…mostly Starbucks.” Mr. Keir of the history department had about the same response: “We’re in the era of gift cards…Starbucks and stuff like that.” Are these answers simply a symptom of a wrung-out gift-giving tradition, or do teachers still see some semblance of novelty in them? Maybe the answer, as it so often is in this complicated world, is both.

Most students don’t think too hard about the chocolate, mugs, powdered hot chocolate mixtures, and gift cards they distribute. It’s just a gesture, a simple way of appreciating their teachers. Mr. Gillette, however, didn’t view gift-giving from that perspective. “[I] totally don’t expect anything from anybody. When someone does something like that, it’s always like ‘Oh wow, that’s really kind and really nice.’”
Students that are familiar with the band director, however, know that he approaches almost everything in life with that selfless mindset.

Perhaps someone a bit more cynical could deliver the cold, hard truth. Someone like Mr. Keir. In sharing his thoughts on gift-giving, he veered into the territory of thank-you cards over physical gifts. “When you give a little thank-you card, I would bet that that means way more than whatever goes with [traditional gifts]. When somebody hands me a gift card from Amazon, I’m gonna use that card because half of what I buy is off of Amazon. But like I feel a little bit bad about that – like you really shouldn’t have spent money on me, but I do appreciate it.” Not so cynical after all, it seems.

As cliché as it may sound, gift-giving is always going to be appreciated from at least one end, whether it’s the giver or the receiver. If you’ve already bought five identical bags of Ghirardelli chocolates, never fear – they certainly won’t go uneaten, much less appreciated. To those that haven’t picked up the holiday-shopping fever yet, a gift isn’t necessary—but it is very much appreciated.

Mr. Gillette reassures all students, saying, “Don’t feel obligated…just the fact that a student even thought about giving me a gift makes me feel really good.” So if you do forget to grab your teacher a gift, it won’t result in an “accidental” mistake in Infinite Campus a few days later. But it’s always nice to show some recognition to the people who have made a strong impact in your life!