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Teacher Gifts, Part 2

Monday I ranted (a teensy bit) about end-of-year teacher gifts, and how they’re often stressful – and unnecessarily so.

Today I’m here to make some suggestions.

I spoke with a few friends, all of whom are teachers in the public school system, to get their input on this thing. Here’s what they had to say:

By far the winner here is a gift card. I know that sounds cold and calloused, but your teacher will really find them useful. Many schools have “Teacher Likes” lists in the teachers’ lounge, with things like “favorite color” or “favorite stores” filled in. But even if you have no clue where your teacher likes to shop, it’s hard to go wrong with places like Starbucks (they sell smoothies and tea also!), Target (something for herself or her house or even just toilet paper), and Staples (think school supplies). And if all else fails, a Visa card cannot go wrong.

One of my friends commented that a whole class going in on a gift card is super excellent; that way she doesn’t have twenty five-or-ten-dollar gift cards stuffed in her purse. So if you’re class mom, consider pulling that together instead of a fruit basket.

Second on the list of “likes” was things for the classroom: dry erase markers, pencils, cool push pins or paper clips – anything useful or fun to brighten up her work space. You may not find a gift basket of dry erase markers sexy, but when a teacher spends her own hard-earned cash on replacement markers mid-school-year because there’s no budget for new ones, trust me, she sees those markers you give her differently.

Several of my friends also said that they’ve received unique, personal gifts that have really touched them: a necklace in a style she’d openly admired, a fancy frame when she’d just gotten married, that sort of thing. This definitely takes knowing your teacher, though.

And by far the most personal thing you can give a teacher is a hand-written note, telling your teacher what sort of impact she’s made on your child’s life. Everyone I spoke with said they keep these notes forever, and these notes keep them teaching through some dark times.

Which brings me to the subject of what NOT to get your teacher, because my friends had plenty to say about that.

Please, they have all begged, do not give them any more bath products or scented candles. They have more than they can use in a lifetime, and in many cases the scents are not ones they like or are in fact allergic to.

Second, food. This is a tough one, because I personally bake to show people I love them. And if you have a close relationship with your child’s teacher and know how much she loves chocolate chip cookies and you really rock a homemade chocolate chip cookie, then by all means whip her up a batch. In general, though, my friends have said that many of them watch what they eat, and are constantly battling the yummy fattening food come in (because where’s the fun in making something healthy?) and wanting to give in and not wanting to waste food and not wanting to hurt feelings and . . . it’s just hard.

Third, I had two teachers tell me that one of their least favorite gifts is anything with an apple on it. Sorry. Guess there’s a lot of those gifts out there.

Finally, please understand the sheer volume of stuff that a teacher receives from students. One of my friends has a mother who has taught for decades, and if she kept all the precious hand prints and homemade drawings and crooked pottery such that her students have given her it would fill a warehouse.

She does not have a warehouse.

Stuff will get freecycled, or thrown away, or passed on to someone else. Hence the request for cash.

If all this leaves you feeling a little crabby – why can’t these teachers just be grateful they get anything at all? – remember that gift-giving is optional. But if you are choosing to give something, don’t you want it to be something that will get used? And remember my friends that said they’ve got every personal note ever written?

That’s what teachers love to get the most. The knowledge that they are making a difference.

Tomorrow I’ll wrap this up, I promise, and let you know what I’m doing for gifts this year. Yep, concrete examples that don’t break the bank.


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