3 06/24/2012 parenting

The Perfect Present

I was going to write a post with great advice on what to get your child’s teacher for an end of school present. But then I realized that only the procrastinators (read: me) are still running around picking up teachers’ gifts so late in the game. I also know from elated Facebook posts that for many of you, summer holidays have already begun and the gift-giving boat has already sailed.
So instead I’m going to write — from a teacher’s perspective — about why it doesn’t really matter what you got your child’s teacher anyway. 

In the past few weeks, I’ve had three people I know ask me for my opinion on the “perfect” present. As a teacher myself, I often get asked for advice on finding that special teacher’s gift — you know, for those times when a Tim’s card just won’t do. In my youngest sister’s case, her oldest just finished the first year of preschool and this is their first time giving gifts to a teacher. My other sister wanted to mark a wonderful year with a remarkable teacher by giving a special gift that stood out from the crowd. My girlfriend was similarly looking for advice on something “that a teacher would really like – you know, something other than a gift card.”

Truth be told, I have a really hard time answering! Call me typical, but I just love that little stack of Starbucks, Indigo and Tim Horton’s gift cards, and a bottle of wine never goes amiss with me. So hey: if your child is ever in my class, you can breathe a sigh of relief and pick up my present at the gift-card kiosk in Shoppers on the last day of school without a worry!
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I recently saw this hilarious ecard on Facebook and actually spewed coffee everywhere while guffawing out loud. It’s irreverent and rude, but as a gift-card and wine-loving person, it tickled my fancy.
But as a parent, I have felt the pain of trying to find a meaningful, personal gift for a very special teacher. If you’re lucky, you have the time to be active in your child’s classroom and you can get to know the teacher a little bit on a personal level – buying a personalized gift is a lot easier then! Or maybe you have a very observant child who will let slip some kind of gem that will inspire you. But beware of child-inspired gifts – it may well be that the fact your child’s teacher has a pet tarantula is the main topic of conversation in 25 homes and has been for the past decade. I know my older daughter’s teacher has a suspiciously large collection of spider-related nicknacks in his classroom – mugs, mouse pads, personalized nameplates, pencil holders…and so on. Although he told my daughter that we have the distinction of being the only family (so far, anyway) to have given him a spiderman Christmas tree ornament! Still – you get the point. Even something you love can get old pretty fast if it’s the only thing you get. Imagine how special that Tim Horton’s gift card would seem amongst the pile of 25 spider-related gifts!
Then there’s the homemade route. Many moms I know are really keen on making crafts for their child’s teacher. Or having their child make a craft for the teacher. That’s fine, I get it. You (or your child) put more energy and time into making a craft than buying a gift card, and therefore the gesture is considered to be more heartfelt. As a parent, I am drawn to this idea – heck, I love to make cards…why not make a stack of cards, tie them up with a pretty ribbon and give it to teacher? Or have little Suzy make something precious and adorable and pass that on as a reminder of a great year together. 
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Here are the infamous crayon monograms — actually, I think they’re adorable. My teaching partner this year has one and I frequently admire it in her room.

Yes. It all makes sense. But still…I’m here to tell you that it actually doesn’t matter what you give your child’s teacher, or even if you give a teacher’s gift at all.
Okay, don’t get upset or call me ungrateful. I need to make something clear: teachers are not in this profession for the gifts we get at Christmas or the end of the year. Trust me. We’re also not in it for the working hours or the holidays or the money (although I can safely say that few would do it for free). Write report cards ONCE and you will know beyond a shadow of a doubt that — despite gifts and summer holidays — this is a hard job, and you have to truly love it in order to stick with it. In truth, the only reason a teacher continues in this profession is because of the children. So in a way, we get our reward every day we go to work. The real gifts aren’t the bottles of wine or boxes of chocolates or cute mason jars you filled with brownie mix and decorated with fancy paper and ribbons. The real gifts of this profession are the children you entrust to our care every day, the moments when their eyes light up with understanding, the ways in which they touch our hearts, and the opportunity to be a positive influence in their lives. The rest is just icing.
The point I’m trying to make in the end is this: it really doesn’t matter what you give your child’s teacher at the end of the year, because you already gave him or her the best gift on the first day of school. And as the year draws to an end, teachers everywhere are reflecting on the amazing growth and transformation we’ve been privileged to be a part of over the past ten months. We give your children back to you a little (or maybe a lot) taller and wiser, and we hope that what we’ve left them with is not only the nuts and bolts of their schooling, but also many colourful brush strokes in their education, and hopefully also some fond memories to last a lifetime.
So my advice when selecting teacher’s gifts? Don’t stress over it too much! 
  • kelley

    Having been a teacher, I remember that the first couple of years, I loved all the crappy knick knacks and assorted junk. Then I got tired of finding a place to put them and hated the guilt of getting rid of things I didn’t like. I much preferred it when the parents got together to give one gift (like the LL Bean canvas bag with all their handprints on it) and a gift certificate to somewhere. Now that you can get gift cards practically anywhere, I think they are the best gift, especially if you know something that the teacher likes. But even if you miss the mark, the teacher can easily re-gift a card and then that is one less thing s/he had to spend money on! This year, my kid’s teacher was an organization lover. I gave her a little gift bag with some colorful office supplies and a gift card to the container store. She loved it!

  • Tracy

    You need to give these ideas in the beginning of June so the Moms of private schools can take from your ideas too. I would have LOVED to do the crayon initial!! Next year I hope!

  • Donnella Perkins

    Absolutely true, the best gift is the year a get to watch these amazing people grow and discover their world while appreciation of the work we do is gratifying, my best gift so far has been a simple heartfelt hug. And I’m lucky enough to get them every day.

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