May 3, 2007

Teacher Gifts

As the end of the school year approaches, I am turning my mind to the subject of teacher gifts. I enjoy buying gifts, but usually I know the teacher only in her teacherness--nothing personal that would tell me what she might truly like for herself. This means I buy the "hostess gift" type of present: things that most people like or can find a use for, such as candles, soaps, chocolates. I try to go for good stuff in those categories: Yankee and Crabtree and Lindt. But my goal is "nice treat" as opposed to "compensation for year spent with room full of brats": I aim for about $10 per classroom teacher, $5 per assistant teacher.

Here are a few things I never give. (1) Plants. I don't like giving someone something they have to take care of. (2) Any gift such as an ornament with the child's face on it, a craft made by the child, or a framed piece of the child's artwork. These are thrilling to parents only. (3) Teacher-themed gifts, such as wooden apples with "#1 Teacher!!" painted on them.

Other people might be avoiding the things I choose, for equally good reasons. A teacher might be diabetic or dieting. A teacher might not be able to use scented items, or might not like the particular scent. A teacher might have sensitive skin and only be able to use particular types of soap. I think of my ideas not as "safe" but as "safer": they may still fail, but they're a better bet than the 8x10 glamor shot of my child's face, and they're easier to regift if they're not right. On the other hand, one year I was looking online for ideas and I found a teachers' message board where teachers had written things like, "I have all the scented bath crap I can ever use!" and "Yay, more candles."

I'm always looking for more "do" and "don't" teacher gifts, so weigh in. You don't have to have school-aged children to give an opinion on this. If you're a teacher, do a whole post on it! Even if you have to hurt my feelings a little with words like "scented bath crap."

44 comments:

Melospiza said...

I am terrible at gifts (TERRIBLE). But the teacher gift I've stumbled upon, and which I give when I remember to give a gift at all (TERRIBLE), is a gift certificate to Barnes and Noble. Now, ten dollars isn't exactly enough to go out and buy a nice hardback, or even a CD, but still, it says thank you. Go treat yourself.

At least, that's what I hope it says.

nowheymama said...

Some of my friends who are teachers say that they appreciate useful gifts for the classroom. I don't mean a handmade quilt for the storytime corner, I mean consumable supplies s/he likes to use that might not be covered by the school budget and have to be paid for out of pocket. What these are varies from teacher to teacher, but they are usually easily within the $10 range - stickers, markers, glue sticks, etc.

Katherine's preschool teacher asked us where we purchased a Clifford bingo game K. brought to school because she wanted one for the classroom. That's what we're getting her for a gift so she doesn't have to buy it herself.

My word verification word is "nearipy." Definition suggestions?

el-e-e said...

I just did this (a week early, come by and see how stupid I feel)! I buy like you do, lotions, little notepads (not "#1 teaacher" ones), chap-stick. I like to do gum & breath mints, too. With the hope that they realize I've never been close enough to know if they need that stuff. Heh.

penny said...

Since when was it required to give the teachers gifts at the end of the year? I have just recently learned of this trend. I don't remember ever giving my teachers gifts, and my classmates were the same way.

That said, if you must give a gift, I'd go with locally-made soaps. Always cute, usable, and easily wrapped with a colorful piece of ribbon. Plus, usually meets the $10 rule.

Beth Fish said...

Gift cards, baby. My mom is an elementary school teacher and every year hauled home bags of stuff she didn't want or need. Bookstore, Target, local mall.

Bunny said...

I am a former teacher and I used to teach in an affluent area and so got a lot of gifts. It is sad to say, but I worked with another teacher who joked about how she had two boxes sitting next to her when she opened the kids' gifts. One was for the good presents, the ones she would keep. And the other was for the "bad" presents, the ones she would return, regift or somehow else get rid of. The best presents are the ones that say you appreciate how much work the teacher has done, because they are the only other person, other than you and your husband, who has stayed up late worrying about how your child is learning and what should be done to help him or her. That said, the most meaningful thing could be a hand written note or card thanking them for their hard work. Teachers save these for years. Many of them have a special box or folder in their classroom where they keep really special notes and pictures drawn by kids so they can look at them when they are having a hard time.

But the actual gift itself? I personally like bath stuff, nice candles and nice chocolates. And I would advise that you, like Swistle, go with nice brands of these. They will appreciate that more and just in case? They could return it.

One of the best gifts I got was a box full of personalized notepads. Teachers write notes all the time and something pretty with their name on it is a great idea.

If you are spending more money, go for gift certificates. The best ones are the most versatile: bookstores, target, the mall.

I hope I have helped. Sorry this is so long....I don't put my "teacher" hat on much anymore these days lol.

LoriD said...

I like to give the "Cookies in a Jar" (just Google Cookies in a Jar recipes)kind of gift. It's homemade, which should equate to thoughtful, consumable, and inexpensive. My mom was a teacher and I remember being so excited when she got that as a gift.

Laurie said...

I don't have school age kids yet, but for teacher gifts I've heard and read in articles that teachers might like something that pampers them - gift cards to spas, out to dinner, or to the movies. I've also heard they like things for their classrooms. I have no idea though what I will do in the future...

Kathi said...

My husband is a teacher-his favorite gifts are gift cards from Starbucks. He loves Starbucks but isn't always willing to spend the money to go there so having the card is an excuse for a nice treat. He usually gets the $10 ones and coffee is the type of thing where $10 doesn't look too cheap. He also likes (and saves) notes from parents and kids.

Kelsey said...

I'm headed over to my blog to work on this right now because I have a lot to say about it. . . I was only a teacher for four years, but I have many teacher-friends!

Jennifer said...

I always liked getting gift cards to bookstores. That way I could buy a book for my students and put the gift givers name inside so I'd remember him/her.

I only received 2 of these, though. Most gifts were homemade treats or NOTHING.

Shelly said...

My MIL is a teacher who is both diabetic and has highly sensitive skin, so while she would appreciate your gift, she couldn't use either (except the candle). I echo the gift card idea, especially the bookstore.

Swistle said...

I like the gift card idea, too, although I worry that it looks skimpy. Someone in my son's class last year thought ahead and sent home notes with everyone saying that she was going to get the teacher a gift card to B&N, so if anyone else was waffling on the subject, they could get the teacher a B&N gift card, too, and then the teacher could combine them. I thought that was pretty smart.

I like the notepads idea, especially personalized.

Penny: I think it varies a lot by area and even by school. I was caught by surprise by it, too: I don't remember ever giving a teacher an end-of-year gift when I was little--though we did do baked goodies at Christmas. I love the idea of locally-made soaps or some other local crafty thing.

Bunny: GREAT stuff!

Kathi: I like the Starbucks idea.

Kelsey: I can't wait!

4andcounting said...

I bought little baskets w/lids at the craft store and put a package of blank note cards, a "nice" pen, and some chocolate in it. They could eat the chocolate, use the note cards for whatever they wanted, and a pen is always handy. The baskets could then be used to hold cotton balls in the bathroom, or potpourri, or used again for another gift. Each basket with loot was less than ten bucks. Our craft store has a section of stuff that costs a dollar, including the stationery.

Shauna said...

Gavin is a teacher, too. I have to admit that a lot of the food we get (while very much appreciated) is brought into MY office because it's just too much for us to eat before it goes bad. And some of it just isn't what we like.

We like gift certificates - the mall, bookstore, starbucks, restaurants. They all add up. And the nice thing is that we can use it on things that we like/need when we want/need them.

So, that's what we give as gifts.

Mommy Daisy said...

Swistle, I think you're doing fine. As a former teacher, I would love any of those gifts you mentioned. And the bad gift list you made, right on. I like the ideas that many people have already made here, so I won't repeat it all again. Bunny's ideas where great. I second that.

Mona said...

You those mini-bottles of tequila and pain-go-bye-bye juice are like $1.50. You could go to town with that!

Ashley S said...

OOo this site
http://www.myexpression.com/giftsmoreindex.cfm
There are some great stationary sets and their recipe cards are way too cute. I would personally get a set of the recipe cards and fill out just a couple with your favorite recipes. i would love to receive something like that.

Tia said...

I never taught at any schools where I got a ton of stuff but the best gift I ever got (and the most surprising) was defintely a gift card, which I used to buy Origins Fret not bath bubbles to soak my tired teacher bones in. :O)

Bless your heart for thinking of the tired teacher bones out there to treat kindly.

theflyingmum said...

"nearipy" is where you set a cake, of course!
As for teacher gifts? I really didn't know I was supposed to get one, so thank you for the heads up! Yes, I think UN-scented candles are good, just extremely hard to find anymore.

Black Sheeped said...

Am I an ignorant ass? When I was in school no one gave end of the year gifts, and I'm sort of shocked this is a trend now. I remember giving gifts during the holidays, but not for end of the year. I'm not saying it's bad, I'm just surprised. And I feel sort of grossed out that teachers have to find ways to dispose of this stuff after they receive it if can't/don't want to use it. I think I'd try to find something that would be good for locals and the environment (break out the hippie!). I wonder if there are local shops/organic markets where you could get locally made and natural lotions/bath stuff/etc, or gift certificates for locally grown vegetables. Or something else equally granola. :P The stuff would surely be good, and it helps the community, too.

jen said...

I have to say I'm surprised too. I do like the idea of a thank you note and something from the child. Do you get something for all the teachers? Or just for the younger kids who only have a few teachers/aides?

spryngtree said...

My favorite gifts when I was a teacher:

1) a handmade basket (with help from the child) filled with pens, pencils, index cards, tape,stickers and advil. (no really they included advil)

2) a stained glass rose window hanger made by the child's grandma with help from the child.

3) an expensive pen with my name on it from the whole class

4)Gift cards to BandN...I usually bought kids books for the class with them. I think any gift card is appreciated.

5)pictures of the kids (though an 8x10 would be weird) I never got one but my friend got this...an album with a picture of every kid in the class. She loved it.


I think most teachers think its nice when they get anything, but honestly I didn't much use the various soaps, candies, candles etc I got and I only taught for a few years, anyone teaching for a long time already has too many #1 teacher things and candles. And I guess I go against some of your rules because I liked photos and things done by the kids, you have them every day for a year and then they are gone, its nice to be able to remember them. Sorry :)

Oh my favorite present of all time though was a sparkly evening purse from an immigrant family. They didn't speak much english and someone must have told them it was a tradition to give gifts. It was so out there and strange I just loved it. (eventually it ended up in a dress up bin though...it was a bit sparkly to actually wear)

Its good to keep it to 10 dollars or less, the few larger presents I got were a bit embarrassing, unless they were from the entire class.

Swistle said...

Mona: Best teacher gift idea ever. Who needs a big swig more than they do?

Black Sheeped: It's new since we were kids. I didn't know things had changed until I had kids in the school system.

Jen: You know, I hadn't thought of it. I guess I've been assuming it was a younger-kid thing, when they still have one main teacher. I can't see picking out, say, SIX gifts for middle school or high school teachers.

lisa said...

Right now I live in Japan, and in Japan they have 100Yen stores (which are NOTHING like $1 stores) which have GREAT stuff (dishes are my gift of choice- who cant use a few nice dessert plates from Japan?) If only I could start an export business.....

Have you looked at Esty.com for gifts? Once I leave this shopping haven I think it will be my shopping spot of choice. I like that it supports individual artists/crafters and you can find some unique stuff (personalized notecards, natural bath products etc)

But, to go with something simple- I agree with the Starbucks card or stuff for the classroom. I have friends that teach and they seem to have to kick in a lot of their own money to buy things for their classrooms.

Blueberry and the Bean said...

my husband is a inner city teacher and even though most of those kids don't have much they still occationally give him gifts. usually its nothing he actually can use but it really is nice that they wanted to give him something. one child gave him a christmas ornament that him and his grandmother made- that was really nice.

we have many teacher friends. several of them love it when they get gift certificates to the education supply store in our town. believe me, teachers spend TONS of their own money on stuff for their classrooms, any help they can get with that would be welcome! also, books or games for the classroom would be nice.

Omaha Mama said...

I also teach and would call no gift crap. Since I don't get many gifts, I can't say what my favorite is. ALTHOUGH, I did get some nice gift cards for eating out - that was fun. But hard to do for $10. Gift cards to the bookstore were also fun.

Your gifts sound good too - cliche but true, it's the thought that counts.

Omaha Mama said...

BTW, I linked to your site from my blog. Just thought I'd tell you since you could google it, right? Didn't want to seem stalkerish, just wanted to give props to what I thought were excellent before/after shots. Talking about before/after pics in general and your digging out pictures. It's what got me hooked to your blog. Obviously not expected now that you are 52 months pregnant - but it was the initial hook for sure. Then it was the deep brownie discussions that kept me coming back. :0) Well, beware - one of my 4 loyal readers may come to see your blog.

Katie said...

GIFT CARDS!!!!!!!!! My mom is a teacher and she gets a lot of these and LOVES them. Especially ones for Starbucks!

Katie said...

Oh--I forgot. My mom's all time favorite gift was someone scheduling a school night to deliver a complete dinner for the family to my mom's classroom for her to take home that night!

Kris H. said...

Ok, I am REALLY late to this party and unfortunately don't have time right now to read all of the comments, so I am probably repeating...

I always give gift cards...Target usually. I figure most people like to shop, teachers don't make enough money, and with a gift card they can shop with someone elses money and get exactly what they want...

Mrs. M said...

a monogrammed apron or guest towels.

nail polish if you notice that she pays attention to pedicures/manicures.

what about a gift card to the movies? or maybe some popcorn with a giftcard to blockbuster since movies are nearly 10!

i like the candle/choclates ideas.

velocibadgergirl said...

I think the teachers I know would absolutely swoon over a Barnes & Noble gift card :D

Devan said...

As a teacher in my former life, I liked getting gift certificates, chocolate and thoughtful cards.
I think scented stuff is risky because some people don't like it or just don't like certain smells or are picky or don't use it. Candles are safer I think, and make pretty nice gifts. :)
Good Luck finding something!

Devan said...

Also, I wanted to add that where I taught, gifts were not at ALL expected. Nor did all the kids give them. I got some each year, but not a ton. I certainly didn't expect them, but it was nice.

nonsoccermom said...

I have given "movie baskets" before. Target was selling plastic containers that looked like red & white popcorn boxes, so I bought some of those and added $5 gift cards to Blockbuster, a couple packages of microwave popcorn, and a candy bar. They seem to be well received, and were pretty inexpensive to put together.

My mom is a teacher, and she always appreciates the lotions, candles, and gift cards (Starbucks is always a winner, as some previous commenters mentioned). Stuff she can use. She never knows what to do with the trinkets she ends up with (and there are a lot of them).

Mary G said...

From yet another former teacher:
Where the gift giving custom is strong so teacher gets a lot of gifts, gift certs. are good. If you have time, look for something different. Our local Health Centre has a fundraising drive on and you can get a 'Buy a Brick' cet. -- $10.00.
Best one I ever got? A basket the boy had decorated to look like a little truck, with fruit in it.

JMH said...

I am a teacher in an elementary school and I am always surprised when I get gifts at the end of the year (they are not expected by the teachers in my building)

I agree that gift certs are the best option. Even a $10 one is greatly appreciated. I especially like the gift cards to teacher supply stores, so I can stock up for the next school year.

A personal card or note from the parents and or students are my favorites though. They always make me cry. I have kept all of those during the past 12 years and they still make me smile. Plus, they are way cheap! :)

brandy said...

As a teacher, I just want to HUG you for refusing to give out teacher based gifts such as a wooden apple, like you talked about. I want to be that woman who says every gift is lovely, but there's seriously no room for such decorations, when you get them year after year from so many kids! I've enjoyed getting a)movie passes, b)just a nice card and note from the family or chocolates.

Carla said...

When I taught I loved the Teacher Devotional type books. Enough of the mugs already!
I always give a box of Thank You cards or all occasion cards.

Stacie said...

What I always liked best (and what I have saved all of in a box) were letters from either the student or the parent thanking me or telling me that I had made a difference for them that year.

Please, no mugs.

Courtney Tucker said...

I apologize for reading this late and not reading all of the comments to see if anyone else has already said this, but here's my two cents. I'm a teacher and I don't mind getting all of the chocolate, bath stuff, and notepads although I do get a lot. My favorite gifts every year are the ones where the parent gives us a gift card for dinner somewhere or Target or whatever, but the BEST are the parents who take our class to lunch one day so we can have 20 minutes in peace or even make us dinner to take home one night. I've had someone just bring me a frozen chicken pie before which is simply AMAZING and so thoughtful. This takes up a ton of time I'm sure and I certainly understand that not everyone could do it. That's just my honest opinion of which gifts I look forward to getting the most.

Anonymous said...

Just for the record, as a high school teacher, I am THRILLED beyond belief when ANYONE gives me ANYTHING. The "Day of the Teacher", which usually falls in May, is probably the best time to give us teachers a gift, as we are pretty much ignored on that day. So ignored are we, in fact, that many teachers don't even realize it's Teacher's Day! Imagine how I felt, then, when I received a handmade card from one of my students (she's from Iran) and a $25 gift card from another (he's from Korea). It's so silly, but I haven't even spent the giftcard yet because I'm so touched every time I look at it. Never would I expect a gift from a student or a parent. What I do is all part of the job. But it sure is nice to be thanked!

HeatherJ said...

I'm late to this party, too, but here are a couple more gift ideas:

A pretty picture frame

A nice dish, bowl or serving plate (I get them from Homegoods for about $10, sometimes less). Then I wrap it and put one of my favorite recipes on a card and tie it to the package.

I have had classes in the past where each person donates $5 and we buy a gift certificate for a spa or the mall.

This year I am thinking about doing a "have a good vacation" theme, and putting some things in a metal pail, like a magazine, sunscreen, lipgloss, etc. We'll see how this idea pans out.