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Teacher Gift Guide – From a Former Teacher

Teacher Gift Guide from a Former Teacher

Recently, the mom world has been abuzz about teacher gifts:

What do I get? Which teachers do I get it for? How much do I spend? (Pause for mental math.) That’s more than I spent on my kids for Christmas!!

As I former teacher, let me ease your mind: teachers don’t expect gifts from their students.

They don’t keep a tally. A more awesome holiday gift doesn’t get your child first choice of seating when the next seating chart comes out, nor does spending above an imaginary line get that extra 0.1% grade bump for the next letter grade come end of term.

What is most meaningful to a teacher is to feel appreciated.

Teachers deal with a lot crap, sometimes literally. (I see you, kindergarten and preschool teachers!)

With shorter winter days here, many teachers see sunrise and sunset in their classrooms—endlessly tweaking lessons and finding ways to meet the needs, both large and small, of your specific student.

With increasing class sizes, the grading pile grows exponentially taller. Did you know that area high school teachers average at least 125 students? If it takes 3 minutes to grade each paper (and spoiler alert: it takes much longer), that’s 6.25 hours of grading for each assignment given. Often those papers go everywhere with the teacher—sacrificing personal and family time to complete grading every spare moment.

That teacher, that life-changing teacher that pours all of herself into her classroom, and that teacher who genuinely knows each of his students and challenges them to stretch further—they don’t get paid any more than they would if they moseyed in right before the bell and left at the final bell. Public education offers no bonuses on the end of year paycheck. These teachers go the extra mile marathon because they care and they’re passionate about your child.

Don’t get me wrong, a gift card is nice. But the most desired gift is appreciation: a reminder that what they do is noticed and it matters.

For those of you thinking,

“Yeah yeah yeah, but what do I give them?”

Well, you missed the point. But if you must know what tangible object you can purchase:

The most fitting gift for any teacher from any child is a bottle of wine with the child’s face on it. However, schools frown on bringing alcohol on campus (understatement of the century), so the perfect gift is destined to elude you.

Have your child take notice of what the teacher likes: One of my students noticed that I frequently snacked on pistachios between classes, so she brought me a bag of pistachios. Another noticed that I liked to coordinate my scarf with my outfit, so she brought me a pashmina in a color I didn’t have. Not only were these gifts practical, they made me feel seen as a person.

Small gift cards add up: Even $5 or $10 gift cards to everyone’s favorite places like Target and Amazon add up. I like Target particularly because the teacher can use it on something for the classroom but will hopefully use it towards a well-deserved treat for herself.

Collaborate with other parents for a group gift: Preschool and elementary school classes often have room parents that coordinate a gift from the class, but with some effort, it can be done for older students as well. When everyone pools their pennies, a significant gift can be given like a gift card for a nice evening out or something practical, yet trendy, like a pair of Rothy’s.

Do not send anything apple-themed, scented, tchotchke-like, or home baked. Just don’t.

But most of all, write a note to go with the gift, AND encourage your child to write a note.

These people are changing the world. The least we can do is cheer them on.

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