The First Brick in a Junta Foundation 

N told me to write this post and suggested the title because he doesn’t support my actions. He says I’m about to turn this country into an autocracy. Me! A quiet, modest literature scholar. I have sown the seeds of corruption that will destroy the republic, he says. 

What caused all this outrage is that I bribed the teachers at Klara’s school. They kept saying that their birthdays were this week, so I gave them gift cards. They hadn’t seemed to be super into Klara before the gifts. I had sensed some resentment over having somebody so young in a group where everybody else walks and talks. But now they rush towards me, knocking the rest of the kids off their feet, the second I appear and look super psyched about Klara. 

N condemns me, though, because he’s anti-corruption.


12 thoughts on “The First Brick in a Junta Foundation ”

  1. Tell N the gift cards weren’t bribes, because the teachers were obviously soliciting gifts when they dropped the information about their birthdays.

    All you did was take the hint and graciously reward them for taking such good care of Klara.


    1. “the gift cards weren’t bribes, because the teachers were obviously soliciting gifts ”

      Um, that’s literally how bribes work.


  2. It’s the ‘soliciting gifts’ part that rubs me the wrong way. For example, I happily tip my UPS driver during the holiday season for all the amazon deliveries (and they are a lot) he brings in all year. But if he hinted that he wanted a tip from me, that would sour the deal.


  3. “The context was that it’s funny how both teachers and Klara have their birthdays on the same day.”

    Best, most optimistic reading: They simply thought it was an interesting coincidence and since they deal with small children all the time they’ve acquired the habit of repeating everything. They didn’t expect anything and were suprised and maybe a little flummoxed by your small gift and they’re paying more attention to Klara as a result of this new association between you and pleasant feelings.

    Worst, most pessimistic reading: This is a well-practiced routine by a couple of habitual conwomen and they pull this with all the parents at some point or other. They’re satisfied with your gift for now and will subtle signal that they expect more graft when they start neglecting Klara in small ways. “yeah, it’s a real shame we ran out of cookies just before we got to Klara…”


  4. Both my mother and I think giving small gifts to kindergarten workers is A-OK. It is done in Israel too on holidays. Parents raise money and give gifts together as a group, and some parents give individual gifts too.

    My mother said that the salary of those workers is very low, not reflecting the daily effort, so at least they get sometimes signs they are valued and appreciated by parents.

    If America is going to turn into anything corrupted, Trump and global transformations will cause that, not you.



    1. Your mother is right. I know for a fact that these teachers are not highly paid.

      And I’m sure they warmed up to Klara because it’s impossible not to. She’s such a sunny child. Everybody adores her.


  5. The conundrum of whether to give teachers and other school staff gifts, and for what occasions, and how generous each gift should be, continues all through elementary school and sometimes beyond.

    In our elementary school, each classroom had a volunteer room mother and she collected money for the holiday gift, and purchased it. Usually it was a gift card for our local mall. That made things very simple.

    When there were other staff who went above and beyond, I wrote effusive thank-you notes and gave them token gifts, such as a box of fancyish cookies or a small bouquet from the supermarket. Another frequent gift was the soup mix sold by the 10,000 Villages shop. Usually I waited until the end of the year though sometimes I gave the gifts in December — but only one gift per school year.

    I never found preemptive gifts — such as Starbucks coffee and pastries brought to IEP meetings — at all effective. But the teachers in our district might be particularly immune to feelings of guilt.


    1. Thank you, it’s very helpful. I had no idea if Christmas gifts to teachers were acceptable. But I know they are not well-paid, so I gave them $50 gift cards from Target, and they seemed very happy.


  6. I send small gifts of appreciation to my kids’ teachers. Sometimes for Christmas, but always when the school year is over and the kid is leaving their charge. I also try to buy small Christmas presents for department staff; I took them all to lunch after they helped me with the organization of a workshop.

    I think as long as the gifts are small (I give $10-$25 Starbucks gift cards a lot), to me they clearly show appreciation rather than cross into the territory of a bribe.


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