As I thought of what I would write about today, my first thoughts were of all the nice Christmas gifts I've received over the years. From cheesy little teacher gifts to elegant well-thought out gifts to lovely ornaments to yummy homemade treats, my thoughts were all about the Christmas holiday and all the gifting that goes on in schools during that time of year. However, as I reviewed Webster's definition I focused on the word "voluntarily" and my thoughts drifted away from the holiday. See, no matter how fun and joyous the Christmas season is, there's an underlying sense of obligation during that time of year. While I never feel obligated to give anyone a Christmas gift, the season itself compels us to engage in gifting. It is voluntary, but then again it's not.
As my thoughts moved away from the Christmas holiday, I reflected on all those random, spontaneous and completely unsolicited gifts I have received over the years. So what was the nicest gift that I've received from students, parents or colleagues? Well, I have one in each category. From students, the winner is a note from a student who was deathly afraid to make oral presentations and now is a confident and effective public speaker. She wrote "Mrs. Gonzalez, you are amazing" because I helped her overcome her fear. Actually, it's the student that is amazing - I just helped her discover it. From parents, it was a homemade Indian meal. Their willingness to share a part of their heritage with me was very touching and confirmed that all the cultural celebration I was doing in class was capturing their son's heart and mind. Lastly, during my first week as a teacher, back in 1996, I was not only embarking on a new career, but I had just moved to a new state. We temporarily moved into my in-laws' place before we moved into our permanent home. So, first week on the job, I was also moving and unpacking boxes. On the first day, my principal introduced me to a number of teachers at lunch and announced that I just moved. The next day one of the teachers showed up at school with a couple of bags of groceries and a complete meal for that evening. At that point, I barely remembered meeting her and was floored by her kindness and generosity. Needless to say, we were great friends from that day on.
It is moments like these that warm my heart and keep me going.