The end of the school year is fast approaching, and along with all the planning for activities, camps, family vacation, childcare or just coping with your kids full-time for two months, now you have to get a gift (or maybe two or three or four or – gulp – more…depending on your past fertility) for your child’s teacher.
First and foremost, teachers do not expect gifts.
It’s stressful. I get it. I’m a parent first; a teacher second. I know the dreadful realization – the night before the last day of school – that you don’t have a thing for your child to give his or her teacher. Never mind the fact that you’re out of juice boxes (junior can drink water from the fountain): this is an emergency!
Let me put your mind at ease. First and foremost, teachers do not expect gifts. You may find this hard to believe (if you do, I encourage you to check out this post I wrote earlier), but let me assure you: it’s true. We do this job because we care about children and we’re passionate about education and for a variety of other reasons. But whatever those reasons may be, I can guarantee you that “teacher gifts” is not one of them.
I’d be lying if I said most of us don’t enjoy and appreciate the gifts we do get, though. So if you or your child feels moved to show appreciation at the end of the school year, here’s a list of tried-and-true hits and sad-but-true misses to help you plan your (hopefully not last-minute-panic) gift-shopping. Each one comes with not only my personal recommendation, but the endorsement of many of my colleagues from across the country.
Sure to Make Top Grades
A Heartfelt Note or Card:
Believe it or not, those construction paper, heart-emblazoned, sticker-covered masterpieces that say, “YOUR THE BEST TECHER EVER!!!” in crayon are always going to be number one. I and many of my colleagues keep these treasures in a special file that we can pull out when we’re feeling overwhelmed or discouraged (or sometimes just for an indulgent smile) and the effect is an instant pick-me-up. A sincere note of appreciation from your child is free to you but truly priceless to his or her teacher.
In a similar category, this one is free but offers a lot of mileage. Often the last day of school involves a busy class or school-wide celebration, early dismissal and frantic cleaning out of desks or lockers. Kids are chomping at the bit to start their summer holidays and ready to snatch that report card out of their teacher’s hands and run for the doors and then on to freedom. A quiet moment, a hug and “I’ll miss you” is more than ample thanks.
If you or your child want to give something material, then consider a gift card. Starbucks or Tim Hortons are always a hit; ChaptersIndigo is another popular choice. I know many people see gift cards as impersonal or overused, but you have to appreciate the quantities of caffeine and books that teachers ingest on a regular basis; even during the summer holidays. I have yet to meet a single teacher who would put a coffee or book store gift card on their “thanks but no thanks” list. If you know that your child’s teacher is a music fan or a movie buff or an athlete, consider a card for iTunes or the movie theatre or a sporting goods store. The amount doesn’t matter. A $5 gift card is more than enough for the most indulgent of bevvies at Starbucks and the teacher will think fondly of your child while enjoying it.
I don’t mean a book for the teacher to read (I find it too difficult and therefore stressful to try and guess what other people will enjoy reading) – I mean a book for the teacher’s classroom library. Choose a book that your own child would like, or even better: a book your child already loves. Have your child write an inscription in the cover (something like, “to the future students of Mrs. Appleby’s class: I hope you love this book as much as I did! Love, Ashley. June 2014”) One of my favourite teacher gifts ever was a copy of Tolkien’s children’s classic The Hobbit presented to me by a grade five student after I had read the book aloud to the class. I still love to open it and read his inscription, knowing that I had a small part in inspiring his love of literature.
Wine (or a bottle of something else):
For some reason, giving a bottle as a teacher gift is not that common, but if you happen to know that the teacher enjoys a drink every now and then it’s a great choice. P.S. If you want to know what we give each other, this is the ticket.
You Might Want to Reconsider
Especially popular at Christmas, the box of chocolates is easy but can be a hit-or-miss proposition. First of all: nobody needs that much chocolate. Secondly: as with books, it can be hard to account for personal tastes. Take me for instance: I’m not at all fond of Ferrero-Rocher chocolates, and yet by some trick of Murphy’s Law, I always end up with at least half a dozen boxes of them. At my school, a staff member always offers to round up the excess boxes of chocolates to take to the homeless shelter. And if you think of it, indirectly bringing sweetness to a homeless person’s day is a good thing. It just may not be what you intended when you bought those chocolates.
I know I just said that teachers drink a lot of coffee (or tea or soy steamers or whatever), and yet somehow no teacher on the planet needs another coffee mug. Trust me. Every staff room in every school in this country has several cupboards just bulging with coffee mugs given by well-meaning students. Yes: even the one with little Cooper’s handprint that you made at the paint-your-own pottery place. There’s no real explanation for it (although I sort of suspect they multiply in the dark when nobody’s looking).
Perfume, Lotion, Bath Salts, Toiletries:
Again: accounting for personal tastes is a real challenge and I get too stressed trying to decide if my child’s teacher will like cucumber-mint lotion or cucumber-melon body spray or cucumber-lime hand sanitizer. And by the time I’ve spent enough time in Lush or Bath & Bodyworks to debate the merits of each I have a headache, my eyes are stinging and my head is spinning. I’m not alone in feeling overwhelmed by the strong scents in most bath products: many schools are moving towards scent-free policies (mine has been scent-free for two years now) due to increasing awareness of allergies, irritation, etc. Play it safe and take a pass on this one.
A few years ago, my partner teacher got four (yes, FOUR) of those crayon monograms on the last day of school. They’re adorable and it’s great that you love crafts. But in the handmade gift category, a card made by a student will always trump a craft made by a parent, no matter how awesome it looks on Pinterest. The same goes for all the flower pots or mason jars or paint buckets stuffed with pencils or chocolate bars or hand sanitizer.
There is one exception to the no-Pinterest rule, however: