Dear Snarky – The Case of the Teacher Appreciation Gift from Hell

Dear Snarky,

I’m the room parent for my son’s class and the teacher appreciation gift has turned into a fiasco. As the mother of five kids, I’ve been doing teacher gifts for a very long time and usually we just solicit money from the parents via Venmo and then the room mom gets a gift card basket or something else based on the teacher’s hobbies.

This year a small group of moms weighed in via a group text on what they thought the gift should be and it wasn’t very nice. Their suggestions ranged from getting her a book that gave tips on “what to do the last month of school besides play videos” to a gift card for a therapist. 

I thought they were just being mean/funny and, of course, ignored them. Last week during teacher appreciation, before I even had a chance to give my son’s teacher her basket from the class, another basket was delivered (by a delivery service) to the front office with the teacher’s name on it and a card that said, “From your grateful students.”

This basket was a slap in the face. It had several teaching manuals in it along with a one-month therapy gift card subscription to Talkspace. As you can imagine the basket caused a huge uproar with the teacher and the administration.

As the room parent the principal initially thought I was responsible for it and it got really ugly. I literally had to defend myself for two days until I was “cleared.” That really upset me because I’ve had at least one of my kids at this elementary school for fifteen years straight so you would think the principal and staff would know I wouldn’t do this.

Now the principal has instructed me to divulge the moms who were responsible for the basket. I told him I can’t do that because I don’t know who is responsible. I did say that some moms were offering up “unique” gift basket ideas in a group text but that doesn’t mean they followed through. 

My refusal to rat out these moms has me  in the hot seat again and I’ve even been instructed by the principal to let the school look at my phone. I said no.

How can I get this situation to go away? Am I being dumb to not tell the school who I think sent the basket or should I just keep on saying no to their requests and hope they give up?

Signed, Exhausted

Dear Exhausted, 

It sounds like you’re the one that needs a gift basket because you’ve been dragged through a whole lot of elementary school drama. 

Let’s first start with the rouge basket. (And we wonder why people are leaving the teaching profession in droves.) It sounds like whoever thought up the juvenile idea was careful and made sure the basket was delivered by someone not affiliated with a student. The contents were mean spirited and clearly let the teacher know what at least one person thought of her. (Although, I’m now thinking of some people I’d like to
“gift” with a GC to Talkspace.)

The fact that the school principal has put you through the wringer in an attempt to find out who sent the basket is ridiculous. Once you, as a long-time parent and volunteer at the school, said that you did not send it that should have been the end of it. Anyone should have been able to see that it would have been totally out of character for you to make that basket.

In terms of “ratting out” who did the send the basket you can’t do that because you don’t know. Just because a couple of moms were being bitchy in a group message doesn’t mean they sent the basket. Another mom in the chat could have read their comments and thought, “Hey, I’m doing this.” Yes, the odds are that at least one of the bitchy moms or several of them did it but that’s just conjecture. You have no proof and if you give the school those names I think this problem just gets exponentially worse.

As for the principal wanting to see your phone – talk about a huge overreach. You did the right thing by saying no and I’m still aghast that he thought it was okay to ask for it. The quickest way, I think, to make this go away is to tell the principal if he wants to have any further conversations with you on this matter he can call your lawyer because you’re done with his Sherlock Holmes impersonation. 

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