Help! Everyone Else Got a Teacher Appreciation Gift Except Me

It’s OK to bring it up.

Remote teacher with #1 Teacher mug and From: Me tag

This week, Ask WeAreTeachers takes on remote teachers getting left out of Teacher Appreciation, gift card bribery, and more.

My school celebrated all the other teachers and left us out.

I’m part of a small group of teachers from my high school that is teaching exclusively remotely for the entire year.  For Teacher Appreciation, the admins left goodie bags in mailboxes yesterday, have an ice cream truck coming in today, and tomorrow there’s a celebration breakfast. Kind of hard to take part when you’re not in the building. They said that remote teachers can be part of a raffle, but they didn’t explain how to enter the raffle. Just as well, the raffle prize yesterday was free lunch for a week. I didn’t go into teaching for the recognition, but being left out hurts all the same. Should I say something, or will I sound whiny? —Virtually Forgotten

Dear V.F.,

I’m sorry. That sucks. I’m not one of those people who will tell you, “Well, some teachers don’t get anything” or “Just be glad you get to work from home.” You shouldn’t be treated differently than the other teachers, and comments like that just dismiss the hard work of teachers working remotely.

As much as it stinks, I’d try hard not to take it personally. Teacher Niko O. has a good reminder: “Keep in mind principals are dealing with a pandemic year just like we are. I don’t think it’s intentional most of the time.” Maybe they thought someone else was covering it. Benefit of the doubt?


I know Teacher Appreciation is over, but it’s OK to bring it up or ask a trusted colleague at school to talk to admin for you so it doesn’t happen in the future. Perhaps send a note to your admin explaining that you know they have a lot on their plates, and it was an oversight, but you’d like to be sure that off-site teachers are recognized in the future. Share some ideas for how to make that happen, like delivering teacher goodie bags to their homes!

My master teacher jumps all over every tiny mistake I make.

I work at a charter school, and I love it. I love my team, except for one person—my co-teacher. She has been at the school for over a decade and is widely considered  a “master teacher.”  I get that. I respect her, but nothing I do is ever good enough. She’s a perfectionist and  expects me to get everything right the first time. She’s not gracious or forgiving when I do make a mistake. It’s gotten to the point where I dread coming into work because I’m second-guessing what mistake she’ll pounce on next.  Our boss encourages us to have “difficult conversations” with each other, but her perfectionism makes me think she won’t take it too well. Any thoughts on how I can get this conversation started? —Perfectly Imperfect

Dear P.I.,

I’m really glad that you sound ready to have this hard conversation. We all need space to make and learn from our mistakes. Veteran teacher Laura K. suggests this language: “I see how hard you work to do things absolutely perfectly which works for you. I cannot work that way. This is what I can do.”

Set some firm boundaries about getting feedback from her. Explain that you do appreciate what you learn from her, but that you are overwhelmed. Be upfront that you don’t find all her criticism to be constructive. Share examples of feedback she shared that you found specific and helpful and other times you found it discouraging or unfair. You might also want to talk to her about when and where you are willing to accept feedback. If you do not want comments throughout the teaching day, let her know that. Try telling her: “I want to learn from you, but this does not work for me. Would you be willing to save your thoughts until the end of the day and share one thing you think I am doing well and one thing I can work on? This would be very helpful to me.”

Of course, that may or may not work. If she is a perfectionist, as you say, she may have difficulty turning off the criticism faucet. If it continues all day long, I would ask your boss to mediate.

I am considering giving my students gift cards if they score high on our state tests. OK? Not OK?

I teach eighth grade, and we’re coming up on end-of-grade exams in reading and math. In my state, this is a super high stakes test that affects my evaluation. I am seriously considering offering Jamba Juice and Chipotle gift cards to my students to score a Level III or IV to help motivate them to do better. My friend who teaches in a different district said it was outrageous and called it a bribe. I see it as an incentive. We all need incentives. Who’s right?—Pulling Out All The Stops

Dear P.O.A.T.S.,

I understand the pressure you feel to have your students do well. However, this is not a good idea. Incentive, reward, whatever you’re calling it … giving kids gift cards for their performance on this test is inappropriate and, in some states, illegal.

I think this kind of practice puts the emphasis on achievement vs. growth, and it’s deeply inequitable. I know you’re in a tough spot because your evaluation is tied to their performance, but I think it goes against your professional code of ethics.

If you feel the need to do something, you might consider a reward for the whole class after the fact. That way, you’re rewarding the hard work vs. the outcome.

Being a first-year teacher just might put an end to my relationship.

I’m coming home and crying every single day. I have a really tough class, and I’m mentally and physically drained. I’m operating on very little sleep. And it’s having a negative impact on my home life  with my boyfriend. He’s not in education, so I don’t have the benefit of him knowing what it’s like. He doesn’t understand why I just can’t stay out until 10 p.m. on a random Tuesday, complains that I’m too tired to do anything, and asks why we can’t “just kick out the bad kids.” He recently said he doesn’t see how we can continue this way. Does everyone blow up their personal life their first year? —Frazzled First Year

Dear F.F.F.,

First of all, yes, it’s normal to have some strain and conflict as a new teacher. It’s a major life change! Teaching in a regular year can test a relationship. So add first year plus 2020-21? Yeah, it’s completely understandable.

Make some time to talk openly as a couple about what you both need in terms of support. Try saying, “I know I’ve been kind of a bummer this year, but I’m really struggling. I’d love to have your encouragement and understanding. I might not be able to do late night Tuesdays, but can we try Friday date nights with no teacher talk?”

That being said, if your relationship is going to work, your BF is probably going to have to get a whole lot more understanding. But it’s a two-way street. Teacher Deborah C. shares this experience, “I had to learn that there is always something to do, and I had to find times to walk away. He had to learn that I was passionate about what I do and that he could support and be a part of the process or be without me.”

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My co-worker is a narcissist, and I can’t get away from her.

As an elementary specialist, on days I’m not teaching content, I work with a staff member that is driving me crazy. I’ve taught in the same building as her for a long time and know that her classroom is all about her. The constant oversharing with her students is the biggest issue. I am never to  disagree with her in class. I’ve tried pointing out things in private, but she is so egocentric she doesn’t pick up on it. She showed a video about a long-ago weather disaster that affected her. Instead of focusing on what has changed with weather forecasting, building standards, and storm preparedness, she said there was nothing we could do. She has many good qualities and ends up being many students’ favorite teacher, but she misses so many educational opportunities! It looks like I’ll be assigned to her next year. What should I do?

Help! Everyone Else Got a Teacher Appreciation Gift Except Me