ASK MYRNA: TEACHER APPRECIATION WEEK
Our resident advice columnist, Myrna Joy offers the Heauxs' perspective on all your nagging problems. Send her your questions—large or small, inane or petty, or inane and petty—to firstname.lastname@example.org.
It's Teacher Appreciation Week. First things first, I appreciate the hell out of my daughter's preschool teachers. They're patient, they're upbeat, they're creative, they're basically saints. I could never do what they do, and I'm so grateful that my kid spends every day with such lovely people. (Well, all except Jacqueline, who kind of sucks.)
So I am down to appreciate these teachers, but the school's approach to appreciation is so irritating. Each year the school sends out this calendar of things that each kid is supposed to buy/make for all six teachers at the daycare for each day of the week! Baked goods! Flowers! Bath and body stuff! Something “soft and cuddly”! Something else I already forgot! Six teachers times five days is thirty gifts! Myrna, it's expensive, and it's mostly just crap. I don't know if they want orange nail polish or vanilla body lotion, so I'm just making random guesses. Can't I just get them Target gift cards? Or cash? But then will it look like I'm shirking the spirit of Teacher Appreciation Week?
And then there's Jacqueline. My kid has never got along with Jacqueline, and it's clear that the feeling is mutual. I am supposed to write nice things about each teacher ("from" the kid) for one of these homework assignments, and kid doesn't have anything nice to say about Jacqueline. What do I do with that? And... I do have to include Jacqueline in all the presents and such, don't I?
Can you validate my feelings about Teacher Appreciation Week, or put me in my place? I don't suppose you can absolve me from appreciating Jacqueline?
Dear Weary Mom,
I am weary just thinking about Teacher Appreciation Week, and I am both childless and a former teacher. An entire calendar of gifts? Compulsory baking? Going to the mall to choose between Bath & Body Works Country Apple Body Lotion and Country Apple Fine Fragrance Mist, like we’re all attending an 11-year-old’s birthday party in 1996? Teacher Appreciation Week seems like it’s just another way to distract us all from the big, glaring, blinking, neon point at the center of this charade: that women’s work is so devalued in our society, we think a homemade lemon square can deliver career fulfillment.
Your kid’s teachers would probably appreciate an extra sick day. A dollar per hour raise. Maybe even just some k-cup coffee available in the teacher’s lounge. Instead, they’re getting orange nail polish (pro tip: if you’re going orange, Cosmo recommends this as a color of the summer). In other words, it’s not really about appreciation at all.
Which is why, unfortunately, you do have to include Jacqueline. If Teacher Appreciation Week isn’t about teachers, if it’s not even about appreciation, then you have to treat it like any other dumb homework assignment you’ve been given throughout the years. Turn in C-minus work, just enough effort to reassure the teachers you do read the notes they send home, but not enough effort that you make your kid really consider Jacqueline’s redeeming qualities. (This is a good moment to let your kid vent about Jacqueline, and then say, “Let’s just write, ‘Thanks for being a teacher, Ms. Jacqueline!’”)
However, you do mention your kid’s teachers are, on the whole, “saints.” You’re grateful that your kid not only has consistent childcare, but childcare provided by loving, dedicated adults. So if you’re going to half-ass Teacher Appreciation Week, then go full bore on appreciating your teachers year-round. If your kid mentions a teacher doing something especially nice later this year, help your child write her a thank you note then. If you know one of the staff members is going through a tough time, make sure to let her know you’re thinking of her (and, if you have the time and money, now is the appropriate moment for some store-bought coffee). Complete honest acts of gratitude, throughout the year, both in genuine appreciation of their work and as an example to your child.
But yeah, I’ll validate you. This commoditized Teacher Appreciation Week sucks, and it seems like Jacqueline does, too.
Yours in solidarity,
I’ve gotten into a bad habit of going out for coffee or a “treat” every day of the week. Three pm rolls around, and I’m sick of staring at my computer screen, and one of my coworkers shouts, “Starbucks run! Anyone want to come?” and before I even have time to consider my options, I’m halfway out the door.
I do need a pick-me-up at that time, but I’d like to veer healthier and less caffeine-filled. What should I do? How do I avoid the daily Starbucks trap and eat something healthy and energy-providing?
I think this is where I’m supposed to say: Keep 100-calorie packs of salt-free almonds in your desk. It’s a filling, protein-packed treat!
But honestly, it’s hard. I bought a Costco-sized bag of pre-shelled (pre-shelled, even! all the hard work has been done!) pistachios a few months ago, and I’ve only successfully used them as a Starbucks substitute twice. I’d say your best bet is to allow yourself Starbucks a few times a week, and then to have something you like and is impressive to take out to snack when you get the 3 pm invite. Impressive is key, here. Wow your coworkers with some Fuji apples and brie cheese or popcorn with that Everything Bagel seasoning Trader Joes carries. Make them jealous, even as they walk out the door to a Starbucks half-off happy hour.
In lieu of any internal motivation to eat healthy and reduce my caffeine intake, it’s that kind of positive, “wow! I want what she’s having!” peer response that I find most motivating. It’s healthy eating through borderline unhealthy thinking.