The Teacher’s Gift

Okay, I’m responding to my first request…

An old friend from high school was looking for some direction as far as end-of-the-year gifts for teachers goes.

I might piss a lot of people off here, but I’m only being honest…

Over the years, I recieved many gifts from students.  To be perfectly blunt, most of the gifts I got were either regifted or, gulp, thrown into the garbage.  And this isn’t to say your thoughtfulness isn’t appreciated, it’s just that 20 students x Christmas and teacher appreciation and end-of-the-year gifts x 5 or 10 or 20 years of teaching = a lot of crap and nowhere to put it.

So, my advice is to avoid the following gifts in order to save your time and money:

1.  Anything that has the word teacher printed on it

Okay, maybe if you are a first year teacher you get excited by a world’s best teacher mug.  But there is only so much coffee the world’s best teacher can drink.

2.  Baked goods

Most teachers won’t eat the stuff you spend hours baking for them.  Many teachers are trying to watch what they eat.  And if the teacher has seen your child pick his or her nose or do anything else unsanitary, those cookies are going right into the garbage.

3. Jewelry

I can safely say when your teacher opens that box of swan origami earrings you got for her, they will most likely never make it out of the box.

So let me say that as a teacher, I never expected a gift.  And I know this sounds cliche, but a handwritten note about what you really appreciated about the teacher and how he or she specifically made a difference in the child’s life is the best gift, in my opinion, that you can give.  Of all the gifts I ever received, the only ones I have left are a small box of handwritten notes I received from parents over the years.  Throw in a gift card for a couple free cups of coffee or a small amount to the teacher store, and you have gone above and beyond.  And that leads me to one little story.

I’ve mentioned before that I used to teach in an affluent school district.  The parents there could often be brutal.  Open House at the beginning of the year was never fun, and it pretty much turned into an opportunity for the teacher to be grilled.  My school district had adopted a math curriculum that was a complete paradigm shift from the way most of us had learned math when we were kids, and the parents were kind of in an uproar over it.  One mother in particular gave me a really hard time. I knew she was going to be on me for the entire year.  Most of these moms I would ignore or dismiss.  But I was determined to break this one.

And I did.  By the end of the year, I had managed to completely turn this mom around, and in her eyes, I was pretty much the Best Teacher Ever. So on the last day of school her son gives me an envelope and wishes me a happy summer.  I waited until all the kids were gone to open it.

Some of the kindest words a parent had ever written to me were in that card.  It went something like this…

Dear Miss J,

Thank you for a wonderful 4th grade year.  Paul loved being in your class.  At the beginning of the year I had my doubts, but you really challenged him and you were right about the math curriculum.  We feel he is incredibly prepared for 5th grade, and want you to know we think you are the best teacher he has ever had.  Thank you for everything you have done for him.  Have a great summer.

Mrs. J

And if that were it, it would have been probably the best gift I had ever received.  But she included something else in the card…

A crumpled, dirty $10 bill.


I know she meant well, but come on.  I am one of the most influential teachers this kid will ever have and I have perhaps altered the course of his life and that is worth ten dollars???

I guess the fact that it was cash, in my mind, attached a dollar value to all the hard work I had done — an entire year, and that amounted to $10…

So like I said, if you want to give your teacher something they will appreciate, let them know the ways they positively impacted your child.  And if you really want to include something else — a gift they will use — I say go with the gift card.

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