The Farmer, The Emo, and The Transcendentalist

Contemplating the deeper issues of life over the Thanksgiving holiday, a thought occurred to me: Who ever dreamed up that apples were the perfect gift for teachers? The top five results of a “gifts for teachers” search on Google (my results here):
1. (3 of the 7 gifts have apples, and one a school bus)
2. (good inspirational gifts, but nothing specifically for teachers)
3. (2/6 have apples, one school bus, and nothing for men)
4. (no apples, no gifts, just school outside of school)
5. (3/6 have apples, one book, a bell, and a Santa)

Having taught elementary school, I grew quite accustomed to receiving mugs, ornaments, magnets, desk decorators, and other various “teacher” goodies with some sort of apple on them. One year I even got a bronze apple bell with a red ribbon tied around the stem. I still have it in a box somewhere.

The point here is not people’s generosity. I am thankful for those who go out of their way to say thanks to their teacher (more the case with younger kids, older kids hate their teachers, or at least tell them that on a regular basis). I can’t blame the generous in spirit. They are nice and caring. What I’d like to complain about is whoever decided teachers liked everything about apples, pencils, school buses, carrying bags (see this post), and alphabets. I hate school buses–they’re the place where kids melt the seats (with fire or farts), yell and scream, throw paper, light firecrackers, put condoms on their heads, beat up little kids, tell dirty jokes, etc. If this doesn’t happen regularly, then I happened to ride the bus from Hell everyday from 5th grade to 9th. This is not a happy environment for teachers. The pictures of school buses on teacher gifts show a group of happy, playful children showing extreme bliss for an educational experience. Yeah right.

My biggest beef is with the apples. I like apples. An apple a day keeps the doctor away. I like doctors less than apples so this is a good adage. Some kid somewhere took an apple to a teacher and it became status quo. Here’s some possibilities on how it all went down:

The Farmer
Little Johnny Appleseed lived on his family’s apple farm. The farm sold just enough apples to get by. When Christmas rolled around, Johnny wanted to show his teacher that he was thankful for her. He didn’t have any money to buy a gift, so he decided to give her an apple. It would cost the family twenty-five cents of income, but it was worth it. Johnny picked out the biggest, shiniest apple and took it to school. When he gave the apple to the teacher, she thanked Johnny and ate it in front of the whole class. Johnny was proud of his gift and was richly rewarded for his generosity.
(Typical teacher story)

The Emo
Little Johnny was angry. He wore all black, grew his hair over his eyes, listened to angry music, and glared at people. He hated his English teacher. You see, Mr. English taught such classes as Greek mythology and the Bible as Literature. Emo Johnny loved the mythology. He especially liked the story of the goddess (he can’t remember her name because he’s so soaked in anger) who threw a golden apple into the middle of a wedding ceremony. The ladies wanted the apple and began fighting over it, the wedding taking a back seat. Johnny liked the goddess of discord and her golden apple. Johnny also liked the role of the apple in the Bible. A man and woman (again, forgetting the names) are put in a garden and told not eat from a tree. A serpent slides along and tells Woman she’ll be cool if she eats the fruit. She does. Then she gives one to Man. They both doom mankind to hell and damnation. Johnny is ecstatic. He runs home, steals the last apple out of his step-mother’s fruit bowl, and takes it to school the next day. He smiles as he hands the apple to Mr. English. The teacher, surprised by little emo, thanks Johnny and eats the apple in front of the whole class. The problem is Mr. English didn’t know what the smile on Johnny’s face meant. Johnny smiled, hoping that the apple would cause Mr. English’s life to fall apart, damning his soul and his entire family to hell!

The Transcendentalist
Little Johnny loved nature. He ditched school regularly to take nature walks. He decided that he didn’t need teachers anymore and tried to think of a way to tell his own school teacher that. So he brought the teacher an apple. The teacher was so pleased he ate the apple in front of the whole class. Johnny could only think of the apple’s place in nature, so he left and the teacher never saw him again.

Okay, so neither of these are likely the origin of the apple pandemic. Why didn’t that kid way back when give his teacher a book? It was probably due to money issues and availability. But this tradition of apples has got to change. Every teacher worth his/her weight in gold (apples) wants to learn more. One of the best ways to learn is to read books, the gift that keeps on giving. Books are useful. Books don’t rot unless you have a mold problem. A hundred years from now, a book may be fragile but still exist. An apple? Smelly for awhile but nothing more than dust. Maybe I’m partial to books because I’m an English teacher, but I know a lot of teachers and professors in different subjects that love books.

The irony of posting a blog like this during the holiday season is astounding. But asking for gifts is not my point. And for those students who see me daily, it’s not funny to have everybody bring me an apple. I will put them in a box until they rot and then mail them to you. Happy Thanksgiving.


2 thoughts on “The Farmer, The Emo, and The Transcendentalist

  1. Hey Joel,
    I am so glad I can post comments now! Thanks for switching.

    And as an elementary teacher I am right there with with the apples and would like to add mugs to the list. Most of the mugs I’ve noticed end up in the teacher’s lounge cupboard.

    Being at a low income schools I usually didn’t receive a gift at Christmas time, I would sometimes receive them at the end of the year. The best gifts were the ones the kids made for me. One girl gave me towels that she with the help of her mom, embroidered. They are beautiful. The other gifts that I tend to keep are ones the kids made or were polar bear related (I collect polar bears). What would have been or would be the best gift is as you suggested a book, not for me but for the classroom where everyone can enjoy it. The child’s favorite book with a note inside with the year. A gift that continues to give and helps teachers build there classroom library.

    I hope you receive a book or two this year. 🙂

  2. You’re so right. I still have some home-made gifts from teaching elementary school. Now that I’m with high school, it’s usually a cookie something. Some of my students were saying they are going to organize everyone giving me an apple for Christmas to be funny. We’ll see if they can make it happen.

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