Sunday, December 13, 2009

its nobodies dream to drive a bus

Unless you are a 4 year old, most folks don't dream of driving a bus when they grow up. If they do, it's in the realm of being an astronaut, a garbage collector and a fish. It's not any one's idea of a great job. It may be a functional job, a paying job, a flexible job but for the most part, unless there is an alternate universe, bus driving is not a great job.
When Genea started school, we were lucky to get a lovely driver for her. A nice, pleasant woman who smiled and said things like "have a good night" when Genea would get down. I was excited when Teena got her bus this year. Teena has a different morning driver and she is lovely and pleasant as well. That has been great because if I had to drive a bus to support our family, well I'd probably get fired right quick. My attitude would be poor and I would definitely have a sore throat every night from all the yelling.
So I don't expect my kids bus drivers to be nice. They don't even have to be civil. I would not want to sit there and make nicey nice chat with parents dropping their screaming and fighting child off if it were me. I sort of expect them to be crabby and pissy really. But I always smile at the driver and say thank you anyhow. I figure if nothing else at least I am not being rude and making their day worse.
However, Genea's afternoon driver is just nasty. Let's call her Cruella. She is rude and horrible. She glares and deliberately avoids eye contact. She refuses to answer anything I say and pretends she can't hear me. And that's cool I guess. No one has to be my friend. I am not for everyone, this is true. But dammit, I don't want to have to give her a gift for the holidays. That's right, I don't want to! And I am seriously considering not doing it.
When Genea started school we had only had her for a year we were not prepared for all the school things we would have coming at us. Of the many things I hadn't really thought of, teacher and bus driver holiday gifts were on the list. Needless to say, going from a 2 income 1 child family to a 1 income 2 child family did not earn us extra columns in the bank account. Or anywhere. So $20 to $50 worth of stuff for 2 teachers and a bus driver was unplanned. I also knew though, that teachers just don't want reams of crap. They don't want or need any more junk with apples on it. Same for greatest teacher junk, and #1 educator junk. Since I didn't know any of them personally, I didn't know if someone had a pink bathroom they needed a little statue for, or a set of white towels. Does the teacher like Jean Nate perfume? Don't know. If you give a gift card then everyone knows either a. you are nice or b. you are cheap. I was going to be b.
So last year, for Genea's teachers and lovely bus driver, I had Genea make each of them a card in her best handwriting. I had to write everything out ahead of time and she copied the letters, mostly in the correct order. She decorated with glitter and crayons. Then I made soaps for them. I felt weird about sending crappy homemade stuff (and it was not actually any cheaper to do it that way in the end), but I thought if it were me, I would think that was nice. Everyone uses soap right? Even if you don't want it, it's an easy re-gift and you can take the credit yourself. Plus since I don't do greeting cards, everyone gets a kid-made card no matter what.
It is that time again, only now I have 3 teachers and 3 bus drivers! I am thinking I will make soaps again since I have all the stuff. If I add in $10 Starbucks cards, that will be $60, or $50 if I decide to cut Cruella out (oooh, I can drink the extra myself, mmm). What do you do? Do you make some beautiful thing that involves proficiency in 5 different craft areas? Do you take a chance and buy a real gift? Gift cards? Homemade stuff? And for teachers out there, tell the truth, what did you like and appreciate and what made you think, oh crap now I have to have this thing on my desk....


  1. I think a starbucks card is a great idea. I also hear many teachers say they appreciate a donation made in their name (you can also just say "a donation has been made in your name"... and then you don't have to put the amount) to a child or education related charity. Or a donation to the classroom (picture books or art supplies). I like to think of it as if you give them practical stuff they have more of their own money available to get what they really like. A donation in the name of the mean bus driver makes me giggle a bit... it's a nice gesture but she doesn't actually get anything... and ha ha ha even though you are mean I am making you do something kind... :)

  2. I like the idea of a donation in the name of the bus driver. Especially if you could find an off the beaten path good charity that she has most likely never heard of. LOL!

    I often bought teachers gift cards to a bakery/coffee shop. I also think they like classroom donations because as Beauty Obscure said, teachers spend alot of their own personal money in the classroom.


  3. A donation is a good idea. But I have to second the suggestion of supplies for the class. Either a gift certificate to a book store (or coffee :) ) or some sort of school supplies would be appreciated.
    Are your kids old enough that the teachers have a treasure "prize" box? Some stuff to restock it saves the teacher time and money. (Ideas - cute erasers and pencils, stickers, etc).
    As the other commenter said, teachers spend a lot of their own money on stuff for the class, so if you help with that they can spend their own money elsewhere

  4. I steal ideas from Family Fun magazine. It's a great resource if you want to look really creative. This year we made chocolate mice out of cherries, hershey kisses, and almonds and packaged it with the If You Take a Mouse to the Movies hardcover you can get at Kohls for $5. It took about an hour, cost $20 total, and generated enough extra mice for two aides, a piano teacher, and the swim teacher who's class consists of mostly my four non-swimmers.

  5. I had no idea I was supposed to give teachers and busdrivers gifts. Shit. I've had schoolage kids for nearly four years now and not a clue. Oh well. At this point I wouldn't want to break my tradition.

  6. Hey- I could make a donation in the mean drivers name (which I don't even know because she wont look at me or answer me) to "The Human Fund"- remember from Seinfeld?!!
    Kerrie you are way more creative and useful than me- I think I would love to teach your kids!
    Torina if I remember right, TTops bus driver deserves a brick of gold! I didn't know about gift expectations either until I heard it on a podcast.

  7. Maybe you should just stop listening to that podcast? :)

  8. I'm with Torina.. ha. I didn't know about teacher gifts until the 3yr old's preschool teacher mentioned no teacher gifts please but if you MUST (because surely people just MUST give another gift) please send a book for the class. I'm like ohh crap? My older kids are in 8th & 6th and we have never done teacher gifts.. Too late to change my ways, I'm not giving gifts.. Their gift is getting to have my kiddo in their class..*snort* Maybe I really should send something for the 5yr old's teacher for putting up with her :)
    And BUS drivers? Now you're just reaching there.. I'm gonna stick with being the Scrooge of school member gifts :)

  9. This could be a real TTT, but I have NEVER thought a donation "made in my name" was anything but a donation they wanted to make, and a gift they didn't want to give me. Two birds with one stone.

    I would never have thought to buy the bus drivers a gift. I don't think....

    Yes; the "teacher crap" is a drag. It is also a drag to have a teacher as a friend and get it re-gifted. Some of my ickiest Christmas decorations are things I KNOW my friend was given that came directly to me.

    As a teacher, yes - I love even a small gift card to the Coffee Shop. But I also like useful things - baked goods from people whose kitchens I trust are nice. One lady used to make me a spectacular apple pie in the fall, and a lamb cake at Easter. What a relief to not get another Christmas gift!!! It felt more truly appreciative because no gifts were expected at those times.

    Another idea is to do what some people do here; you be the enterprising mother and take small donations from all the parents who wish to give, to buy a gift certificate for the bus driver and/or teacher.

    Think: If you have twenty students, most of them will spend more than $5 on some junky thing you have to figure out what to do with. However, the $100 from each family just donating $5 can result in a REALLY NICE gift certificate (and make it to a restaurant or nice shop - not the Teacher's Store!)

  10. Another reason I'm glad I homeschool. I'd never make it through the gift giving thing. Please remind me I said this tomorrow when I'm pulling my hair out trying to stuff some knowledge in their resistant brains. :)

  11. I give stationary cards, TJ Max has some really cool ones for 3 to 5 bucks and anyone can use some blank but cool looking note cards. Sometimes I throw in a little hand sanitizer from bath and body works, again they are cool not expensive and most females use hand sanitizer. Throw in the adorable hand made kid card and voila, done.

    But I love the donation idea in the person's name. Definitely go with 'the human fund' for Cruella!

    Making soap sounds like a great gift if it isn't a lot of work, then I'm out.

  12. Oooh, hand sanitizer, I didn't think of that. BBW used to have nice antibacterial lotion, I'll have to see what special they are running.

    I am SERIOUS about the bus drivers... last year, they made a point of propping all the gifts up on that big bump right between the door and the driver seat. Probably in case someone was thinking about ditching the obligation.

    *snort* my gift is my child in their class LMAO!!! Good one!

  13. 1. I am married to a school teacher (of Seniors no less) and we have a standing rule in our house. No Gifts! As there is no way we can afford on a school teacher's salary to give a $10 Gauntlet Warehouse Store gift cards to ALL the kids that give him announcements every May.

    In return we of course do NOT expect gifts, and most of the time meet them with exasperation, as now we feel obligated to return a gift to the giver. I know this is what this holiday is supposed to be about... but I HATE obligation gifts! I would just as soon receive a card that says, We are hoping many blessings come to you this holiday season and the upcoming new year than get yet another coffee mug filled with Cocoa mix.

    2. I don't give gifts to my friends. Just as I don't want my friends to feel obligated to buy me some crappy snowman/angel/christmas tree. I don't do knick-knacks. I see knick-knacks and I think of dusting. I am opposed to all gifts that require work from the receiver.

    3. I LOVE the soap idea, bubble baths are my favorite thing EVER. I gave up the spare room in my house and made my husband expand my bathroom into it. It is the only time I have to myself, my own thoughts and the freedom to be ugly (Cause I am naked).

    So Accidental Mommy, here is hoping you and yours have a marvelous holiday season and many blessings in the upcoming new year, 'cause I will not be sending you a gift card or knick-knack, but doesn't mean I think any less of you.

  14. You've hit on one of my favorite teacher topics. I taught elementary school for 6 years. My least favorite gifts were the most expensive or extravagant gifts that the student had no hand in choosing. My favorite gifts were the glittery things made by small hands. My all-time favorite gift cost nothing at all - one of my 5th graders had his dad shave my name into the back of the kids hair. Weird, but incredibly cool. I wrote thank you notes to every kid at Christmas,even if the note said "Thank you for turning in all of your homework." Any teacher worth her salt will make the giver of a homemade card feel just as special as the giver of a big gift. I wrote about this once on my blog, and there's a picture of the head-shaving kid.

  15. You are cracking me up. I needed the laugh..and I feel terrible because none of my kids' teacher etc are getting a single thing from me. Im just too lazy this year.

  16. i found a cute idea for teachers, and i'm going with it this year--i bought each teacher a nice whisk and filled it with green and red hershey kisses and put a cute tag on that says, "we *whisk* you a merry christmas!" fun!
    my hubby is a teacher and is always so excited when someone gets him a gift card, too!

  17. I like this post Essie, really got me thinking. I have an 18-year-old and a seven-year-old. thinking back, I think the older one gave teacher gifts perhaps two or three times in her ten years of elementary school.

    The younger one is now in grade two so on her fourth teacher and only given a gift once. Don't think we're considering one this year. Although we may send in some cookies as that's what we're baking this year.

    No malice intended to the teachers who did not get gifts from my kids, it's more that we choose to honour the ones that really touched my kids' lives, made a real difference in their year.

    I don't think there's an obligation to give a gift at Christmas time or the end of the year - and I can certainly see the point that a teacher wouldn't not 20+ gifts every year of their career. I think it's perfectly acceptable to only give a give if you want to, not because you feel you have to.

    It's the same with me and my girl friends - I don't usually buy presents for them at this time of year, nor do they buy for me. We give gifts to one another's kids and that's more than enough. But once in awhile I spot something that just screams out a friend's name and if it's within the budget at the time, I'll pick it up. No expectation or pressure, just the joy of gift giving.

    Isn't that what it's supposed to be about?

  18. Gifts to the bus drivers? Never heard of it...I vote that you pretend you never gave them before, either, and guiltlessly spend the extra $ toward your own family's holiday. The only way I'd consider bus driver gifts is if the person was a saint my child loved, and that is clearly not your bus driver. Soaps and no Starbucks card would be fine teacher gifts in my opinion, unless you are just rolling in dough and have no better way to spend it, which is obviously not the case. Obligatory excess is why so many dread the holidays, and that is not what Christmas is supposed to be about, anyway.

  19. My daughter no longer gives teacher gifts because she's in high school, and that's just not "done". If you give a teacher a gift in high school, you stick out, so she won't do it. And God help me if I suggested giving the bus driver a gift. She'd be laughed right back off the bus. Which is sad, because some of them deserve a gift. We always gave food or gift cards. Food is consumable, or can be given away easily in the event it's something they don't like. We used to make up cute little gift bags of all kinds of Xmas candies, and maybe a little ornament, etc.
    I'd like the soap, but I love homemade soap. I'm allergic to a lot of commercial body wash, so I only use bar soap.

    I'd give the mean bus driver a gift. She may have a reason for being in a bad mood. Getting a gift might make her feel better for at least a little while.

  20. See, I need the extra brownie points with the teachers for when my kid shows up with the same St Patricks Day pair of socks for 3 days in a row. I want them to think, " Don't call social services, that mom is obviously so busy carefully selecting beautiful gifts cards.. "

    But really, both kids have good teachers and 2 of 3 good drivers.

    So far, 'do nothing and pretend you don't notice a holiday' seems to be winning, with 'turn off your ipod' ha ha!

    It does totally change if I take the "have to" out of it. Hmmm.

  21. Amen to the brownie points. I credit them with my five-year-old only having to come home after threatening to do unspeakable things to the pregnant substitute's unborn child, as opposed to kindergarten expulsion.

  22. um bus driver gift? Never in all of my life. I say NO TO THAT. NOT NEEDED.

  23. Actually, my husband, an otherwise sane, Y*le-educated attorney, talks about how cool it would be to be a bus driver. He grew up in Jersey City and he was inordinately fond of the Bergen Avenue buses. He had favorite buses and he still remembers their numbers 30 years later. Yes, I suspect he has a touch of the Asperger's.
    I'm a little bit afraid that he'll quit his job and become a bus driver. I'm also afraid that an airplane will crash into our house and I fear I'll acquire a flesh-eating virus. It's unlikely but I'm a worrier.
    So, to preserve my lavish lifestyle, I frequently tell my husband how wretched it would be to be a bus driver, particularly one in the inner city. I quote crime statistics that show attacks on bus drivers are rampant and I recount every bus-related horror story I hear. I plan to show my husband your post about how bus driving is a sucky job.
    As for the mean bus driver gift question, I say give her something nice. Not soap, because most people don't appreciate the time and labor spent in making really nice soap. If she's as nasty as you say she is, she would spurn your soap as being cheap and tacky.
    A nice gift, and by nice I mean one that you'd like to get, would send the message that you know she's an asshat and you don't care because you're morally superior to her. A pair of cashmere gloves, a gift card to the movies or one of those Sephora perfume assortments that comes with a coupon for a full-size bottle of her favorite scent would be good.
    She probably expects you to stiff her gift-wise because she knows she's been rude to you. By giving her something nice, you're sending her a subtle message that you could care less about her and her attitude.

  24. Didn't take time to read all the comments, and not sure you can still use ideas, but here is what we are doing this year for all the teachers (school teachers, taekwondo instructors, piano teachers, etc etc): fairly cheapo plate from housewares section of discount grocery store (I bought a bunch all the same: mid-size square with slightly angled edges, in white), with a few types of homemade cookies on; for people who might have issues with baked goods (one teacher is diabetic, and so on), I bought a bunch of cheapo tea candles in those little metal cups) in various colours. Total cost per loaded plate is under $5. And it's a gift I would love to receive -- just having another little plate to put appetizers on would be nice. Last night we assembled the first tea candle version of the plate, and it looked gorgeous. P is delivering it to the school counselor today and was very proud of it. We stretched saran wrap over it and slapped a self-adhesive gift tag on.

  25. teacher here--i like gifts that are for ME as a person, not as a teacher. i don't want any teacher stuff. i don't want anything cute. i am not a second grader--i TEACH second grade.

    i think consumable gifts are best. really, where am i going to put that platter that everyone in the class signed? and you know i can't throw it out. sigh. bubble wrapped and on the top shelf.

    the best gift--my entire class got together and donated $10 each. they taped the bills end to end and put it in box so that when i pulled the bow, lots and lots of spending money for my trip to kiev came out. that was fun!

    i think soap and G-made card (and spelling!!) is fine. and maybe fudge.

  26. Maybe if you give grouchy bus driver a gift, she will start being nice to you. I bet she won't get many gifts with her attitude, so she may decide to be nice if you get her one??

  27. Miz Kizzle, I KNEW someone would speak up and say bus driving is their dream job, I almost renamed the entire thing! I'll take all your funding donations for the gift of cashmere....
    I had Genea give out the gifts herself last year, so will do that again for both. Then I don't have to deal with Cruella at all, but I havent decided yet on her. Probably will give her the same as everyone else.

    Homemade fudge and cookies are a great idea but I don't own a cookie sheet. Does anyone have one I could borrow? Maybe with cookies on it already?

    BTW, all the drivers are displaying their various gifts on the front panel by the door. Every Day there is a new pile!

  28. All these ideas are great. I take the really, really cheap route. I don't give anything at Christmas, but at the end of the school year I make an effort to write each teacher a personal note (i do this on the computer, printed on regular copy paper) trying to be specific about how they influenced one of the kids lives. Because the two older boys are special needs (ADHD, PTSD, Attachment Disorder), they tend to put the teachers thru the mill. I cannot think of one teacher who has not gone out of their way to help the boys reach their potential. I thank them and give at least 2 specific things they did to help out...even if it is to communicate with us and keep after "P or C" about homework. I then cc the note to the principle.

    When I was working as a Communication/Behavior Skills Treatment Manager at an adult day treatment (for adults with MR/DD) I had a parent who did this every year. It was a blessing, an honor and a real morale booster to know that someone appreciated me doing my job.

    Love your blog. I get a laugh out of it and it helps me keep things here in perspective! Thanks!

  29. Thanks Kim! That will be a good idea for the end of the year. So far, all of Genea's teachers have been more than willing to do a bit extra to keep her on track.
    And both of Teena's bus drivers will bring her to the door or pick her up at the door if I am not at the stop exactly on time- now that is great service!!
    (not Cruella though)


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