By Leslie Gaar of www.pailsandfires.com
I’m going to give it to you straight: Teachers get a lot of crap over the years. Like, a LOT. I’m not talking about inexpensive stuff– I’m talking about gifts from all of the holidays and all of the students, accumulating year after year, creating clutter, driving us batty and making us wish the phrase ‘Teacher Appreciation Week’ had never been invented.
It’s not that we’re not grateful– we are. Truly. We just wish that parents “got” what we really want if they’re going through the time and expense of getting us something. Kinda like you felt when your grandmother used to give you socks for Christmas every year. So, please … before you go down the Pinterest wormhole of teacher gifts, give this list a once over. Your kid’s teacher will thank you.
Gifts We Never Want To See Again… EV-AR.
1. Apple-themed anything
I’m not sure who came up with the teacher=apple thing, but I’d like to punch them in the face. I can’t even count all of the apple things that I’ve received over the years: apple notepads, apple paperweights, actual apples. Just no. Enough with the apples.
2. Pun-ny/Rhyming Things
I know, I know, teachers love rhymes and puns, right? Well, maybe, but it’s kind of like the apple thing– it’s just done to death. As an early childhood teacher, I got so much rhyming stuff that I ended up turning in my resignation letter in rhyme just because it was the only way I could talk anymore:
Violets are blue,
So is the sea,
Not sure who’ll be teaching here next year,
But it won’t be me.
The mere thought of getting a gift mug as a teacher made my blood pressure rise. And yet when it was time to give my kids’ teachers a Christmas present this year, I somehow instantly thought, “Oooo! How about a nice mug with some homemade hot cocoa mix inside?” Argh! It’s like we were all brainwashed by some weird mug-manufacturing cult. Resist the temptation. Fight the power. Don’t fall into the mug trap.
4. Lotion sets
Oh, lotion sets. How many of you have I regifted over the years, even when you had been sitting under my bathroom sink for so long that your contents were reduced to raspberry-scented sludge? One year I got so many lotion sets that I briefly considered opening up a Bath & Body Works branch out of my garage to supplement my income. I know, I know, they’re easy and pre-wrapped and ready to go, but please–step away from the lotion sets.
5. Gifts the student clearly had no part in planning
I guess these gifts are cute, and I’m sure there are teachers out there who genuinely like them– I just wasn’t one of them. To me, they always felt like they were more about the parents than the kids.
Buying clothes for someone else is tricky. It can be hard to figure out people’s taste, and the size thing could end up getting real awkward real quick. Plus, I never knew what to do with the stuff I didn’t like. Should I donate it? Should I keep it in case I run into the gift-giver over the summer–you know, while I’m lounging around drinking my Sunkist out of my apple mug with my Dr.Seuss-themed flip-flops? Unless you know the teacher well and what he/she really likes, best to skip the clothing gifts.
7. Cutesy kits
Again, is this about the parent or the kid? And, like, I have a towel and cheap flip-flops and sunscreen at home.
What We Really Want
1. Thank-you notes
Sometimes it really is the simple things that count. I have received hundreds of gifts over the years, but the handful of thank-you notes I got from my students and their parents stick out in my mind more than anything else. Why? Because they reminded me why I did what I did. Because they often came from the most unexpected places, like the student whose case I was on all year or the parent who could barely sign her name but somehow managed to put her feelings down on paper. Those gifts are priceless and will be treasured for years to come. Yes, even more than the subscription to the Apple of the Month club.
I always appreciated receiving flowers because they were beautiful, they smelled nice, and they went away after a few days. There was nothing for me to have to find a spot for or feel bad for giving away if I had no use for it.
3. Monogrammed items that are actually useful
Teachers often have to spend their own money on classroom materials, so any time you can give them something that they will actually use in their classrooms, you are hitting a home run. The best gift I ever got from a principal was just a simple flash drive with my name on it. That’s the other thing–teachers’ personal things tend to walk away if they don’t have their names on them, so monogrammed stuff is extra appreciated.
4. Gift cards
I hate to add gift cards to the list because they are so impersonal, but I know many teachers are a fan. If you go this route, consider going in on the present with other parents so that the card goes a little further. It’s also a good idea to give a gift card for somewhere the teacher regularly goes, like her favorite restaurant or yoga studio…or bar (see number 6).
5. Personalized class gift
Gifts like class books with the pages made by individual students really touch teachers. Not only can they see the result of all of their hard work (“Dammit, Billy! You still haven’t figured out which way the letter ‘s’ faces!”), but also these mementos help teachers remember their students long after they have left the classroom.
No, seriously, teachers like to drink–wouldn’t you if you were in their position? Now you’re probably not going to be able to send your kid to school on the last day with a 6 pack and a bow, but you might be able to classily present a nice bottle of bubbly to the teacher at pick up. I’m going back on my rule about kid involvement on this one, but a little celebratory booze would probably be much appreciated.
So that’s it. Good luck on your gift hunt. And remember, even if you give your kid’s teacher nothing else, you’re already giving her the best gift of all: a blissful summer with not a student in sight.
About the Author
Leslie Gaar is a mom of three, former educator, current writer, and perpetual smart ass. Mostly the last one. She blogs at www.pailsandfires.com, and has been featured in The Washington Post, Scary Mommy, and Babble. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.