Gifts do not make a teacher good
Updated: 2013-09-10 07:19
By Lisa Carducci (China Daily)
When I came to China as a teacher in 1991, I was surprised to find that the country celebrated Teachers' Day on Sept 10. I thought it was a wonderful idea, especially because in my country, Canada, we had a Mothers' Day and a Fathers' Day, but no special day for teachers.
On Mothers' and Fathers' days, children pay their respects to parents. A card, bouquet or a gift is just a token of children's appreciation of their parents' sacrifice. The real appreciation is the gratitude children feel toward their parents.
Since teachers often play the role of parents, sisters, brothers and friends, it makes sense to celebrate a teachers' day the same way. Children often confide their problems to teachers rather than parents. A student once told me how his first love affair had come to an end. Another student confided in me that she was pregnant and I guided the 16-year-old to tell her parents. And a young man once confessed that he had become addicted to drugs. Teachers are not paid to render advice on such matters, but those who love their profession and students often perform duties beyond their regimen.
In return, students are expected to appreciate teachers' efforts. But in China the appreciation for teachers has become a competition. When I was in school in Canada, one of my classmates once brought a big red apple for the teacher on the last day of the school year. The teacher immediately reported the matter to the school director. The director came to our class and said teachers cannot take gifts from students because they are paid to do the job they do - but thank you cards were fine.
In Canada, there is no need to "buy" a seat in a good school for a child, because there are enough schools for all children and all the schools, urban as well as rural, are good. All teachers are qualified and parents are not required to pay extra for any special care their children need, be it in math, science or any other subject.
I understand Chinese parents' belief that students must express their gratitude to their teachers. But more than gratitude is expressed on Teachers' Day. In fact, the special day has acquired a different meaning over the past two decades. Almost all parents (and their children) believe it is mandatory to offer gifts to teachers. Since classrooms in China are crowded, teachers cannot give "special attention" to every student, so they have to be showered with gifts, often expensive, to do so to certain students.