Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Coffee, Ethics and Russian

My regular coffee place closed early today for their staff Christmas party, so I went to a new place recomended by the manicurist at the spa adjacent to the gym. Not good enough to switch to. They get points for the comfy chair and the free wifi, but the regular place has both of those and a fireplace. The latte had a bit too much foam and not enough latte. I tried a lemon bar - blech. More than three quarters of the thing is sitting uneaten on the little table besides me. Serves me right for spending good money on a pastry.

Ethics I: When I checked my mailbox in the teachers' lounge yesterday afternoon, I discovered that some of my students left me presents. I don't like the idea of teachers getting presents from students. I go to great lengths to remove bias from my grading process, including asking my students to put their names on the back of tests so that I don't know whose test I'm grading while I'm grading it, and I don't care to have even the faintest appearance of bias because some kids gave me presents and others didn't. If my students decide I did a good job they can write me a note post-graduation telling me so. Add "write a no-thank-you note" to the to-do list. (And yes, I would feel the same even if I was teaching something other than religious studies: Exodus 23:8 and Deuteronomy 16:19 notwithstanding.)

Ethics II: Got an e-mail this morning from my school in Jerusalem telling me that they're going to contact my school here in Kansas and request that the school contribute funds towards my flight this summer to attend the Summer Curriculum Workshop. Um, no, thank you. We have a professional development policy in my school, and as a new teacher I'm not eligible for any funds this year. Doesn't everyone know that queue-jumpers are a lower form of life? And even if it was my turn for funds, PD funds can't be applied to transportation costs. Sigh. I sent them an e-mail back telling them that I'm not comfortable with them doing that. They should have told me about the funds shortage before asking me if I plan to come to the workshop. Either I pay my own way or I can do without the workshop, thank you very much.

So now my summer trip to Israel is a question mark. Of course I got the aforementioned e-mail two hours after I registered for the Russian course at the local community college. I had this vision of walking back into my old gym with a basic Russian vocabulary. Even if the trip falls through I'm going to stick with the Russian courses. I downloaded the alphabet and a basic grammar description off the web. This is not a language for the fainthearted.


At 8:22 AM , Blogger M@rla said...

I think the practice of giving gifts to teachers is very strange, for the reason you describe. When I was a young person, it was unheard of - the student would appear to be ass-kissing or bribe-attempting, and the teacher would appear to be bribable. I think Christmas gift-giving has simply gotten out of hand in the last decades; all that buy-buy-buy programming needs an outlet somewhere, and people's families just aren't big enough to satisfy the merchandisers.

Oh, was that cynical? ;-)

I hope you'll make it back this summer, but if not, you'll be even more expert with Russian when you return.

I saw a giant blizzard on the news - did you get any more snow?

At 12:06 PM , Blogger Mich said...


No snow here, just a lot of rain, which was nice because it washed the car.

As for the presents, I think everyone knows that teachers are underpaid and some folks just want to make sure that we know that we're appreciated, but don't realise or feel that a note would do that just as well as a gift.

At 5:59 PM , Blogger M@rla said...

p.s. I think that dental floss thing was either Cosgrove or Berardi, but it's possible it was somewhere on

And, I didn't mean to imply anything bad in your students' motives - yes, I think they simply like you and want to show their appreciation.

Also, it only later occured to me that perhaps your students aren't Christians and thus don't celebrate Christmas or give presents for the holiday anyway - that it was an end of semester thing. D'oh! D'oh! D'OH! (and no doubt I've commited another blindness somewhere in this comment too...)

Oh well, have a wonderful holiday of your choosing anyway!


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