Monday, December 12, 2011

What Your Child's Teacher *Really* Wants for Christmas



This week, many children will celebrate Christmas/Winter holidays and then enjoy two weeks off from school. Most schools have Christmas parties and most kids want to bring their teacher a Christmas gift. I was a teacher for 5 years (and may go back some day), so I thought I'd share some insight into what your teacher really wants for Christmas.

First off, let me say this: Teacher's (99% of them) are really grateful to receive anything. And I mean that, anything. It just means a lot to be recognized for all they do on a daily basis. (I won't get on a soapbox here, but trust me when I say your teacher's three months "off" in the summer are spent working, attending training, getting a jump on next year.) So while this may sound like I'm telling you what not to buy, please don't take it as such. I'm speaking from my own experience here and from the experiences of other teachers around me.

What Not to Buy:

Lotion and Candles - I realize that these are probably the easiest and least expensive gifts you can purchase (and believe me, I'm not telling you to drop tons of cash - you shouldn't - it's not necessary and in some schools and districts, it's illegal) but I know that from experience, when I moved to Maryland from my home in Florida, I had candles to last years. That was 4 years ago, and I'm still using some of them. No joke. I ended up donating a lot of the lotion, because I have rhinitis and certain smells stuff me up to no end so I couldn't use them. We're talking bottles and bottles of the stuff. Goodwill loved me.

What We as Teachers Love but Would NEVER ask for:

A Gift Card to Dollar Tree - Yes, really. Twenty bucks goes a long way at the Dollar Tree and the best part? They have a teacher's section! You can get more than just school supplies - bulletin board borders, fun reward certificates, teacher stickers and stamps, classroom incentives, posters, charts, and on and on! If you'd rather not do a gift card, for an extra dollar you can buy a nice decorative basket at Dollar Tree and fill it up with goodies.

Get Personal - It will go a long way if you get to know your child's teacher on a more personal level. No, that doesn't mean you should have dinner with them at a local restaurant or try to become their best friend, that would be unethical. But you can  inquire about their dog, favorite football team, family outings etc. Then use this information to tailor a gift just for them! Do they love to bake? Make a nice gift basket (Dollar Tree!) of baking supplies! Are they the town football team's biggest fan? Grab some team swag like a t-shirt and cap. Do they love the zoo? Purchase some one time only passes for them and their family. Are they coffee drinkers? Buy an inexpensive mug and pop in a Starbuck's giftcard.

One year, a parent gave me a nice empty scrapbook and memory box since they know I love to scrap. It was gorgeous and inexpensive but they knew me well enough to get something that I'd like and I've used both!

Make Something - Or better yet, have your kids make something. A word of caution though, don't make Christmas ornaments. We get a lot of those. Enough to cover a tree. Really. One student painted me a little plastic sun-catcher and it still hangs on my sliding glass door.

Give Them Something They Wouldn't Buy Themselves - When I was teaching, I couldn't afford manicures or pedicures. I would never buy that for myself because it wasn't a necessity. A gift card for a manicure alone is a nice simple, pamper yourself gift that teachers don't always do for themselves.

The ultimate point is that if you make the gift personal, it won't matter what it is (even if it's lotion! ha!) or how much it costs. Personalized teacher gifts show you care about them as a person and recognize their hard work.

Lastly, if you don't feel a gift is appropriate (or you can't afford one), at least send a nice note or card. Some of my favorite gifts, haven't been gifts at all. The've been letters from parents sharing their appreciation.

It's not about what it is, it's about what the gift represents.
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