The university I work for has a ban on gifts from students to professors in classes for credit. The most I’ve ever gotten from a Freshman student I teach is a balloon animal to give to my daughter after someone completed a project, or a caricature of myself done on a piece of scratch paper at the end of the semester. Students might have poor ethics when it comes to taking tests, but gift giving bans are enforced and policed by the students themselves.

Contrast this to my wife, who just finished making lunch for my daughter’s kindergarten teacher. My daughter is going on a field trip and picnic today, and it was my wife’s job to make food for the teacher. This was assigned to us because we were the last family to join the class, and all the easier parent assigned tasks had already been divided up by the parents of the class. My daughter isn’t in competition with the other students because she is too young. I don’t think there are grades yet, so there aren’t any “stakes” to this meal, but Korean parents complete in everything else.

Adding on to the list of things my wife wants to do to make a good impression at the school, she is working extra hard to do a good job. I think  she should just go to a fast food place and buy something, or give the teacher a coupon for something near where they are going. There is a “PTA” of sorts that confers with the teacher whenever there is an activity in the classroom that requires the cooperation of the parents, and the longer someone has been enrolled in the class, the earlier their opportunity for picking something off a list. We got the last spot, so we get the more intensive job.

If I had to pick  a job where I had to decide between getting gifts and teaching small children, or teaching young adults and getting none, I’m taking the young adults every time, so perhaps I shouldn’t complain.