Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Happy Teachers' Day

It's Teachers' Day here. Teachers' Day is a big deal in Turkey, especially in primary and secondary school. A couple of days ago, all the supermarkets and greengrocers started putting pots of flowers and boxes of chocolates on display near the check-out counters. Single carnations wrapped in cellophane have appeared in shop windows.

My husband teaches younger kids than I do and the kids (and more importantly, their parents) go all out, lavishing their teachers with gifts. My husband made out like a bandit last year; my daughters and I had to make several trips from his classroom to the car, all of us lugging carrier bags filled with his loot. Among the Teachers' Day presents he received were three bunches of flowers, two pen sets, a potted plant, a clock, a photograph album, two diaries, four boxes of candy, three batches of cookies, a loaf of banana bread, a foil package of freshly-baked brownies, a mug with his name on it, a fancy nazar boncuk amulet to ward off the evil eye, and a bottle of whiskey. Best of all were the hand-made cards depicting a middle-aged man teaching rows of laughing, smiling children. And the messages crayoned and penciled inside: YOU are the Bestest teacher ever! thaNK YOU THANK YOU! and Welove math now becuase ov you!

"What did you get?" my daughters asked me. All I could do was sigh: for Turkish university students, Teachers' Day isn't a big deal at all: none of my students gave me anything but grief.

In fact, I barely even noticed it was Teachers' Day last year. After an afternoon of teaching that was more hellish than usual, I was putting away my books when one of the girls in the front row creased her pretty forehead and muttered something in Turkish to the boy next to her. He frowned and flipped through the pages of his dictionary. The girl craned her neck to see. "Teechateechazday," the boy muttered as I bent to unplug my CD player. "Teechazday," the girl piped up after him. It took me two minutes to understand what they were trying to say. I felt awfully silly drilling the class stragglers on Happy Teachers Day, Teacher.

Last year, a half-hearted Teechateechazday was all I took home with me besides a headache.

This year, the Turkish Ministry of Education and Board of Health went and closed down every primary and secondary school in our area barely a week before Teachers' Day due to the swine flu epidemic. Swine flu has spread through Turkey like fire through dry tumbleweed, and even though our local schools have had only a few cases, every school had to lock its doors.

We've had cases of swine flu at the university too and hopes have been high; fervent prayers have been wafted up to the heavens and a petition has even been circulated -- all to no avail: no edict has been issued to close us down.

My husband and his colleagues will no doubt still be deluged with Teachers' Day gifts this year, but they will have to wait until school begins again to receive them.

I told myself that this year I knew what to expect, and I would not be disappointed. I knew that nobody would be bringing me candy, flowers, or ceramic mugs.

But as it turned out, I did get a gift. Something even better than flowers or candy or ceramic mugs.

Today I was sitting in the teachers' room when three students from last term came in, graduates of our preparation English program. They had come to talk to me, they said. They wanted me to know that their classmates were complaining about how hard it was to understand their English-speaking professors in the faculty. "But we understand everything they say," one of the boys told me, "because you talked so much to us all the time. Thank you, teacher."

Because I talked so much. Bless them, in all my life no one has ever thanked me for that before!

This evening I will be walking down to the main road to catch the dolmuş home with a spring in my step and a light in my eye. Mugs and flowers are great, but it turns out that heartfelt thank-yous are even better. And a whole lot lighter.



Lily Cate said...

Isn't it nice when someone finally appreciates all the work you've done? I always thought classroom teachers got a bit of the short stick on that one- it's the next teacher who sees the results of your efforts, and another class before the student realizes just how much they really learned from you!

Patrick said...

That's a nice gift you got!
By the way, happy teachers' day to you..=)

Vijaya said...

Aw, Mary, my kiddos would lavish you with cookies, cakes and flowers/weeds. Isn't it strange how we lose this exuberance of childhood?

I'm happy you got heartfelt Thank yous ... and for "talking too much." Hee hee.

Happy Teacher's Day!
Be well.

Robert the Skeptic said...

We should have Teacher's Day in this country. That way, the citizenry can set aside one day to bash teachers as being overpaid and under worked rather than save these complaints up for periodic school levy elections.

Frankly I don't know how you do it... or ANY teacher, for that matter. It's a tough career you have chosen, so Happy Teacher's Day to you.

Mary Witzl said...

Lily -- That really is true: a bad teacher's mistakes have to be rectified by the next teacher.

I knew I'd had a good teacher when the next one I got happened to be really awful. I sometimes find myself wishing that the next teacher my students get is worse than I am, thus making them see that they had it better with me.

Patrick -- It was a very welcome and wonderful gift and I was SO grateful for it. And thank you too!

Vijaya -- A bouquet of dandelions and a couple of Twinkies would have been nice. One of my colleagues got a couple of sprigs of lantana -- I saw them on the desk.

And yes, I'm glad I got ANYTHING that wasn't bored looks or rolled eyes from talking too much.

Robert -- A lot of people think teachers are paid too much. And teachers' long summer holidays are definitely envied -- but so VERY necessary after a long, touch stretch of teaching.

Until this last year, I didn't think teaching was so tough. Now I see just how awful it can be. I'm in awe of people who manage even more obstreperous classrooms than mine.

Postman said...

That's the best gift a teacher can receive, I think. Congratulations. It sounds like you've more than earned it.

Helen said...

Way to go Mary!!! You deserve to be recognised for your hard work!! There is something so real and touching when a heart-felt thankyou is given out, isn't there. People can buy presents without giving it much thought, but when someone makes the effort to single you out, it means so much more. Just make sure you get hold of some of your hubby's booty!

Robin said...

That is so sweet, and well deserved! My husband and I joke about how grateful his patients are compared to mine (he's an eye doctor). They kiss him, hug him, and shower him with presents. I know a patient is doing well when they don't show up for their appointment. Or if they only stab me in the arm, and don't go for the heart.

laura said...

Closing school before teacher's day is like breaking up with someone before their birthday! And if anyone could get an award for talking so much...I would have a full trophy case! But how sweet of those students to let you know they appreciate you!

Charles Gramlich said...

I guess there is an advantage to teaching younger kids. Until now I'd not imagined there could be.

Kim Ayres said...

Recognition is far greater than physical gifts, and it's what we all crave :)

Falak said...

Happy Teacher's Day Mary! Hope you get more such gifts with a few chocolates and flowers thrown in for good measure.

Mary Witzl said...

Postman -- Oh, if you'd heard me nattering away to that class last year, you'd know just how much I've earned it! Few people can top me when it comes to mouthing off.

Helen -- I got two of the diaries (which I gave to two of my hardest-working (and coincidentally, neediest) students. The wine and whiskey I left to my husband, but I really pigged out on the brownies.

Robin -- I once had to go to an ophthamologist and I felt like hugging him when he finally made my eye better (I got very tired of wearing a patch). I haven't needed your specialty yet, but if and when I do, I will remember to be very grateful!

Laura -- All my husband's colleagues feel the same about Teachers' Day, but I'm betting their students will shower them with gifts anyway. Kurban Bayram is coming up, or failing that, Christmas.

You and I could have a talking competition some time, maybe get our husband's to judge! How many words per minute are you good for?

Charles -- My husband has taught all ages now, from six to eighty. He claims that kids from nine to eleven, roughly, are the best age group. They hug you and chat with you and have little guile. I wish I taught nine-year-olds!

Kim -- Yes indeed. If only I could get editors and publishers to recognize me as well!

Falak -- Believe me, if anyone had given me a box of chocolates, I'd never have turned it down. But the thank-yous were still delicious.

adrienne said...

That's putting your strengths to good use! Glad you had a happy Teacher's Day.
And wow, someone gave your husband a bottle of whiskey?

kara said...

ok, yeah, 'thank yous' are pretty great. but if all i get for christmas is some wrapped up 'thank yous' under the tree, someone's gonna get popped.

you're a selfless person.

Charlie said...

The thank yous are well deserved, Mary. And thanks for this blog and all your wonderful stories.

Mary Witzl said...

Adrienne -- YES! A whole bottle of whiskey they gave him, and it was good stuff too. He got wine as well, and other things I didn't even put on that list such as free meals at a fancy restaurant (we didn't use them -- it didn't feel right). One measly carnation would have done me proud, but I made do with a top quality 'thank you'.

Kara -- I'm not selfless! From my family, I'd like to get something a little more tangible than thank you. But having my students tell me I was an effective teacher was better than anything. Especially since I've already given them their grades.

Charlie -- Ironically, the kids who thanked me were star students who came to almost every class and didn't give me trouble. The ones who REALLY owe me thanks haven't said a peep.

And thank YOU for visiting my blog and paying me such kind compliments! And writing funny stuff that makes me laugh -- which I sorely need.