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The write gift
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Mark Lawton Thomas is both a former Connect Savannah columnist and local teacher. He now teaches Language Arts in Augusta, Ga., and is the author of the best-selling children's book When Farts Had Colors.

I LOVE this time of year. The holidays mark the halfway point in a teacher’s year. I’ve gotten to know my students, and my students have gotten to know me.

One of my little urchins even told me, “You know, Mr. Thomas, you aren’t all bad.” I must be losing my touch.

I try to follow that old teacher’s rule: Don’t smile until Christmas.

But like the holiday commercials, my smile seemed to air a little earlier this year. Gotta watch that.

And the gifts, or in some cases, the bribes, also seem to be piling up on my desk a little earlier than usual. Starbucks gift cards, homemade cookies, pretzels festooned with M&Ms.

One ingenious kid brought in some rum balls so strong, so lethal, I called off homework that Wednesday after eating just three. 100s for everyone!

And if you want to know which teachers are loved and respected by their students, just walk down the halls and check out the teachers’ desks during the last few days before Christmas break.

Some desks begin to take on the look of a holiday department store window, while others, I’m afraid, remain just as empty as the hearts of those teachers who sit behind them. Maybe they’ll get the hint this year and change their Grinchy ways.

Of course, I have kids who would like to get me a little something but simply can’t afford it. Unfortunately, there seems to be more of them this year.

And every Christmas season there are a few of them who catch me during locker break or during my precious planning period, and interrogate me about what I want for Christmas.

Knowing full well they haven’t got the financial means to get me anything, I tell them they can give me some peace and quiet starting in January.

It’s an affordable gift but one that has never been afforded to me. I might as well ask for a Porsche.

I teach 6th graders, after all. It’s their job, their raison d’etre, to be noisy and disruptive.

After a bit more pestering, I finally let them in on a little secret. I inform them of the perfect present for any teacher.

It’s the one I never regift. It’s the one I take out of my desk drawer when I’m having one of those why-in-the-heck-did-I-choose-this-job days.

It’s the one gift I read over and over again.

I tell them to just write me a thank-you note. That’s the gift I want.

Make sure it’s legible. Also, put in there a promise to continue working hard in school.

And sign your name.

And if they can’t manage that, I tell them to go steal me some more rum balls.

Happy Holidays!