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That Time Of Year

As many know, I run an after school club at Quaker Ridge School in Scarsdale.  I've been doing it now for nearly 12 years.  I've worked in other schools, camps and programs and I've always held up a tradition of giving lollipops out on the last class.  When I first started I used to give mini chocolate bars, but one day, I gave them out and a mother complained because her son had a peanut allergy and said I was irresponsible.  I then turned to Charms blow pops and did that for two years.  Then one day a mother told me she thought I was out of line giving children candy with gum inside, because her child is forbidden to chew gum.   Ever since, I have gone to Dum Dum pops.  I figure, it is candy, but they are small, so no harm.  I usually give three to my sports kids and five to my tennis kids. 

So today, like I've done, what feels like hundreds of times, I stopped class about three minutes early and gave them out. I tell the kids at the beginning of the class that I will hand them three and if they want to exchange they have to trade with their classmates, as I don't have time to let each kid select their three.  As is always the case, I have a handful of kids come up saying they didn't like the flavors they received and wanted something different. I tell them to trade.  I also give out one to each sibling who might come in the gym with their parents to pick up their brother or sister. 

So today, my class of 17 was eagerly awaiting their treats.  I called them up one by one and handed them their three lollipops.  Almost immediately the complaints and attempts to trade started.  Seventeen children, two thank yous.  Two!  Last year, out of 56 kids, I got three.  Of the two this year, one was prompted by a parent and one was done on the child's own.  During this moment that looked like an auction at a county fair, a mother approached me.  Her son is new to the school and she was unaware of my tradition.  She watched in horror as the kids complained and begged for exchanges.  She said, "You are too kind, this is appalling.  You don't have to do this and none of them seem grateful.  Typical Scarsdale, they feel entitled."  I laughed and gave her a quick, "this is actually pretty good." One kid, although he didn't thank me, immediately walked over to his sister (before I could offer) and handed her one, then asked his mother if she wanted the other.  Manners might be lacking towards me, but at least he did a nice thing. 

It always shocks me that the children don't thank me.  I remember I taught a class in Rye at the Milton School years ago.  Twenty two kids, about 16 of the children were Japanese.  Every single child, every one, thanked me.  No parents in the gym and all of them.  When I was six or seven years old, if someone handed me something as a treat and didn't thank them, my mother would have taken it out of my hand, handed it back to the person and would say "thank you for your generosity, but he doesn't deserve it."  I thank people for things that are expected.  It's the way I was brought up.  The funny thing is the people who don't are usually the haves and those of us who show respect and courtesy are generally the have nots.  It's the way the world works.

Many parents have told me I should stop this tradition, due to the lack of respect.  I've considered it, but the lollipops have become such a tradition that even some of the teachers have joked when they see me with the bags.  I do it, because for the most part they are great kids. We have fun and they deserve some recognition for their efforts.  I remember last year, I had a class of fifth graders (which is unheard of).  They had been with me every year since kindergarten and one of the kids thanked me and said "I don't know what I'm gonna do next year after school.  I've gone to your class every year for six years, it's gonna be weird.  Plus, we won't get lollipops!"  Made me realize that despite the older guys being wise asses, they value our time.  I recently saw a kid who is about fifteen.  I hadn't seen him in six years, but the first thing he said to me?  "Do you still give out lollipops?"  I laughed and realized then, that the little gesture is going to keep going, regardless of how many thank yous I get.


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