Those 'you shouldn't have' moments

Fake diamond earrings with greenish deposits. A used nylon slip worn by a child's mother. A shelf of dolphins carved out of resin. These are a few of a teacher's least favourite things.

Staff often find such gifts in their stocking at the end of the autumn term bequeathed by well-meaning pupils.

Peter, a West Midlands primary teacher who asked not to be identified, lists some of the treasures he has received on his website, Cheesygifts4teachers.

These include a hand-knitted woolly mouse and a reindeer which excretes chocolate. The earrings, slip and dolphins were given to other teachers who contributed to the site.

This season's offerings include a model elephant and an Alsatian figurine.

"It's got a bell on a pedestal, and it's a pen-holder. It's probably got 1,001 uses," he said.

Peter said some visitors to his website do not understand that teachers can laugh at the gifts they receive but still appreciate the gesture.

"Many people are supportive and find the site humorous. Others think that I am the spawn of Satan and should not be allowed near children," he said.

Showing too much enthusiasm for a present can be dangerous, as Viv Morris, a teacher at an east London primary, found after being given a clay sheep - a tribute to her Welsh roots.

She said: "It was so grotesque and strange, all the children fell about laughing. The little girl's bottom lip was trembling and I felt so bad for her that I made a fuss, saying I had never had such a lovely present. I really went to town."

Her pupils believed her and bought her another 10. Each time she had to appear to be delighted as another lumpy package appeared on the desk.

At her current school, the fad is for cats: cuddly, ceramic, plastic and even cardboard. She displays the feline army on her office windowsill.

Most presents can find a loving home, says Peter, but sometimes only through charity shop intervention.

"I've got a lot of stuff still at home. My mother comes round and sees all the figurines and she wants them. One person's tat is another person's treasure," he said.

London's world-famous store Harrods is capitalising on the difficulty in finding just the right present for teacher. It stocks specially-designed gifts, mugs and festive baubles inscribed, "World's Best Teacher". However, these gems may not be within reach of all budgets, retailing at pound;12.95 and Pounds 4.95 respectively.

The store also suggests buying teacher a hamper. Prices start at pound;12.95 and reach pound;5,000 - just the ticket for the ultimate teacher's pet.

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