The whole delicate subject of presents for teachers came into sharp focus last week, when the stickiest Year One in the school (the one with the permanent heavy head cold) gave me a plate of lovingly hand-rolled chocolate truffles. “I made them all my own!” she said proudly, prodding one possessively with a damp finger, “you can eat one now!”
During the years I’ve spent working with children I have built up a useful reserve of cunning, which I called upon at that point. “How clever of you – I can’t WAIT to eat them,” I said smoothly, “but not until Christmas Day!” She accepted that as classic adult boring-ness and allowed me to stash them away on my Special Shelf, untasted. From there they will move to my freezer where they can stay for a couple of weeks, which should give the bacteria (an inevitable and significant part of the truffle contents) something to think about.
This year I’m working on the periphery of school, so presents are rare and unexpected. In previous years I was right in there, and never failed to be thrilled and delighted with my haul at Christmas Time. In fact I made quite a study of Things People Give Teachers (and which of those hit the spot with the recipients).
I am not picky when it comes to presents, in fact I am pathetically grateful for anything (which is why I took pains with the aforementioned truffles, a colleague called her plateful ‘bacteria balls’ and shoved them straight in the staff room bin). So every Christmas I just loved the poinsettia plants, the dodgy bottles of white wine and the mugs with ‘To my Teecher’ painted on them that came my way. Ours is a small and rural school, and our parents didn’t give in to displays of flashy present buying that we hear (with a faint and unworthy sense of envy) go on in the Capital.
A friend of mine recently moved to our school from London, where she taught at a very smart primary school. I came across her looking thoughtfully at a small mound of handcream and fudge. “I don’t miss the theatre tickets so much,” she said wistfully, “but I really do miss the Fortnums hampers!” I placed a sympathetic hand on her shoulder and offered to share my truffles as a consolation prize. They are very prettily packaged, and I’ll tell her about the freezer trick before she actually eats one.