December 21, 2007

Teacher Gifts

I have been way over-stressed about teacher gifts this year. From the way I have been fretting and storming (did you see my rantlet in the comment section of a Maybe Painted Pink post? oh good, don't go look), you would think I was under the impression that the gift I give teachers is what will MAKE OR BREAK their Christmas. "This gift from Rob's mom is CRAP," the teacher would say. "Christmas is RUINED." She'd go home weeping, shaking her fist at the sky. She'd snap at her children, sulk on the couch all through Christmas morning, and cry in the bathroom during Christmas dinner. She would go back to school in January, but the light would be out of her eyes and she would be considering going back for a degree in architecture instead. And who would be to blame? SWISTLE.

It is my own fault I feel this way. After years of having a wonderful time choosing gifts for teachers, I thought I'd go online to find some fresh ideas. And what I found out is that all the gifts I was giving were considered total crap.

I was pleased to find I was not bottom of the barrel. I give good-brand candles, good-brand soaps, good-brand chocolates--better and much more expensive than what I buy for myself. As one of my teacher friends cheerfully put it when I turned to her hoping she'd say the reports online were by an unrepresentative sample of rogue teachers (she did not), I'm at "the good end of the Bad Gift Spectrum." Oh good.

49 comments:

Erin said...

It's a tough one for sure. There's so much pressure! These are people who care for and teach your CHILDREN, who spend more time with them than any relatives. Who are responsible for their EDUCATION for christsake.

I go exclusively with gift cards and a nice note, written in glittery pens so it looks especially warm and festive. I don't know if this is less thoughtful than something more concrete, but I figure the note makes up for the generic nature of the gift card.

I do try to get the gift card to somewhere I think they like. Like this year for my boy's babysitter, I got her a gift certificate to an Italian place I know she likes and also a movie gift card, because her and her husband like to go see movies. And then I clench my fists and bite my nails and hope she likes it. Because it MATTERS to me.

Erica said...

You know, I think it's pretty shitty that teachers and other child care givers get all uppity about the gifts they receive. What happened to it being the thought that counts? Gifts for these people are not mandatory, but are something that parents and children give to express their gratitude and appreciation. Who cares if they don't get the exact kind of gift they want? Or, God forbid, a crappy gift? It's not like that's all they're getting for Christmas. I'm sure they have family and friends that will get them the presents they obviously feel they deserve.

I've read post after post this season from parents who agonize over these gifts and it makes me sick. In polite society, we don't go around complaining about gifts that we receive. I'm not going to post about the gifts I got for Christmas and why they're crappy. That's just not right.

Omaha Mama said...

Since I teach older kids, I don't really get that many gifts. But I think ANY token is a nice gesture and it's crap to say that candles, candy, and anything else is a BAD gift. That is greedy. And we all know that teachers aren't in it for the money. Or the Christmas gifts. I'm sure that any gifts you've given have been much appreciated. Don't stress over it another minute!

Swistle said...

Erica- I know, and it's probably just a FEW teachers who do complain/mind, but those few are so LOUD! My mom was a teacher, and she said it never crossed her mind to think bad things about gifts she got: if she didn't like them, she just passed them on to a friend, but she still very much appreciated receiving them. Probably MOST teachers feel that way. But the few who don't are making me feel stressy!

Welcome to our World said...

UGH... I dread this prospect... On the other hand I could just DO nothing which is what we mostly did when I was a kid. Hmm, maybe a nice card and very happy/smiley thank you directly to his/her face while shaking his/her hand is best (or a hug from the child...) I guess I will cross that bridge when I get there...

Someone Being Me said...

I quit reading about other people's teacher gifts after reading one lady's agonizing decision of whether a 100.00 is enough of a Christmas bonus for her daycare provider. SERIOUSLY? I made Chex Muddie buddies mix and packaged it nicely for all 5 teachers(you can look at my blog post from Wednesday for pictures if you want) and added a $15.00 Target gift card for the lead teacher. She gave me a hug and seemed very happy with it.

Jen4 @ Amazing Trips said...

I bought my first teacher gifts yesterday ... for the triplet's gymnastics teachers. I kept it easy, $10.00 gift cards from Starbucks. If they don't like coffee, they like tea. If they don't like tea, they like cookies. And if they're weird and don't like anything of that nature, someone on THEIR gift list surely will.

Badness Jones said...

I stressed out about it this year too, and then it was the last day before her last day of school and I hadn't bought anything, and I thought "OH crap." In the end I let the Princess pick out a really nice tree ornament for each teacher and we wrote them each a nice card. What are they gonna do? Fail her from Junior Kindergarten because they didn't like the Christmas gift? I don't see them buying me anything for providing such a lovely girl for them to teach, thus ensuring their job!!!!

tulipmom said...

I stress about these too. Partly because I've been on the other end receiving the whole spectrum of gifts. NEVER in a million years would I complain about anything a parent or student gave me; I appreciated all of it and wrote thank you notes promptly. And it's true that the handwritten heartfelt notes mean the most. But I have to admit that of all the actual presents, I liked the gift cards best. And so that's why I stick to those when buying gifts for my son's teachers and aides. Which brings me to the second reason I stress out about these gifts. When your child has special needs, it's important to go the extra mile especially for those teachers who do so everyday. And so while I always contribute to the class gift, I also give a separate gift card to a place I know they'll enjoy.

Merry Christmas!!

Alice said...

hee. it's sort of cracking me up how heated and stressed out everyone is over this...... but that's clearly because i don't have any kids, and thus no teachers to buy for. i shall be doomed when my day comes, no doubt.

donna said...

You know, when I was a kid, it never occurred to us to get gifts for the teacher. Now it's an expectation and it's harder than choosing your pediatrician.

Our girl just started Mother's Day Out LAST WEEK for god's sake and we were on the hook for a gift. Luckily the teachers there had a wish list for the classroom. So I bought a couple things from the wish list for the room and then got a small box of chocolates for both of them. If they don't want to eat the chocolates, they can give them away (they are in cute packages suitable for gift giving). But they did both hug me and thank me for the gifts. So even if they hated it, they had the good grace not to let on.

Sarah said...

Swistle - this should be easy for you. Target. gift. card. How much would YOU love that? Ergo, so would everyone else! I long ago got over my 'but it's not creative' worry about gift cards - I love them, and I've heard others do too. My friend is a teacher, and although super nice to have individual gifts, you really should see just how many Bath & Body works products she has. Target is where it's at! :)

Karly said...

I was once in a dressing room trying on clothes and could overhear a woman in the other room talking on her cell while trying clothes on. She was bitching and moaning about how she doesn't need any more lotion or soap and if she gets one more candle she'll scream, blah blah blah and I just wanted to throw something at her and say WE DON'T KNOW YOU! WE SEE YOU DURING DROP OFF AND PICK UP AND IF WE DON'T KNOW WHAT THE EFF TO GET YOU, JUST BE APPRECIATIVE THAT WE THOUGHT OF YOU IN THE FIRST PLACE! Gah. They get paid (admittedly, not a lot) for what they do. I don't think parents should be expected to purchase extravagant gifts for them. Its the THOUGHT that counts. When I worked in a medical office no one ever bought me a gift for scheduling their 150 appointments throughout the year.

Um, sorry. Now I get to have a little rantlet in YOUR comment section. Whee! Christmas is FUN!

chickadee said...

none of those sound like bad gifts to me. i was a teacher and i don't remember ever thinking a gift was crap. but maybe things are different now. i even still have a few of the gifts i got like a calvin and hobbes book of comics and a few ornaments.

Marie Green said...

I gave chocolate last year, before I was *ahem* enlightened. Now I feel like the teacher has been rolling her eyes about me ever since (Like- "oh, there's that Marie. The CHOCOLATE giver. SIGH") THe girls have the same teacher this year, so I still see her all the time.

This year? Gift cert. for Barnes and Noble.

Tracy said...

I have found a good gift (and affordable) is a mug from Anthropology. It has a letter on it, so I get the first letter of their first name. I fill it with chocolates, and then put a Starbucks GC inside. Providing they like coffee(I am starting to think I was the last one to get on the coffee band wagon), it is nice because they can get a great warm cup to warm them during the cold winter. You can also not get the GC and buy indivdual coffees or hot chocolates to stuff in there.

K in the Mirror said...

I taught sixth grade for four years and got very few gifts, which I understood since the kids were bigger and the gifts were usually bought by them personally rather than by their parents. Sometimes they were strange little gifts, but I always loved them because the kid was thinking of me.

Now I run an in-home daycare and I agonize over what to get the parents. I am with their kids SO MUCH during the day and I really want to give something nice. The past few years I've taken pictures of the kids all year and then put together slide show DVDs. Last week my laptop crashed. So we baked this week and they're getting boxes of cookies and fudge that their kids helped make, with little notes detailing some of the cute anecdotes of the year.

As far as what they get me, it really is the thought that counts. I've had some families who have treated me about the same as the guy they take the dry cleaning to, and some who say I'm an extension of the family and give $200 gift cards. I'd like to not get the TOTAL SHAFT (as Tessie said in one of her gift rants) but I honestly don't care what it is or how much it cost as long as they smile and say they appreciate the work I'm doing with their kids.

And I would never say a gift was crappy, but I might possibly regift it at a white elephant exchange or something. There are lots of things that are perfectly nice and just not my style, and I would never complain about that.

End of rant...

Mary said...

I'm with 'someone being me.' We either give food or gift cards, this year the latter. Take heart! One wise teacher told me that she honestly believes what she tells kids: it's not the gift, it's the giver. Every last thing then is precious. Hey, I'm a teacher (college)! And all the candy canes I got made me very happy!

Tina said...

Swistle, I was a teacher also, and I never complained BUT, there is a human limit to he number of soaps, lotions, candles, mugs, apple ornaments and chocolates a person can use. But the smiles on the kids were priceless, and I always appreciated their spirit. Now, as a matter of fact, today I gave a modest Target gift card to each of the 3 preschool teachers. We ALL love Target, right? My 18 yr old son thought it was lame, but I told him he's not a female over age 30. I also like to give movie tickets and book store gift cards, as well. No gift was always fine with me. In fact, I think the schools should have a no gift policy to reduce all this controversy.

Tessie said...

I have thought about this a lot more since the comment you left on my post on this topic, where you said that parents shouldn't feel obligated to supplement the teachers' salaries.

I think part of the problem is that some people (parents AND teachers) feel that holiday gifts are part of the salary of the teacher and therefore not a "gift" but an obligation.

When I thought about it more, I realized that this was at the root of my angst over teacher gifts.

You would think I would save the naval-gazing for MY OWN blog, but you'd be WRONG.

Anyway, it was a great comment and also I love this post and will be obsessively refreshing the comments.

Swistle said...

K in the Mirror- One of the things I keep in mind when choosing a teacher gift is regiftability. So if I get, say, a Yankee Candle gift set, I don't write "TO THE TEACHER WITH MUCH LOVE FROM THE SWISTLE FAMILY" in permanent marker on it. I leave it as perfect as possible. Teachers don't make much money, and so if they don't like Yankee Candle at least they can check a gift off their shopping list.

Tina- I know there's a limit, but of course those items can be re-gifted, donated, or tossed in the trash. There's no reason for teachers to be MAD about receiving SO MUCH.

Oh, Tessie, I TOTALLY AGREE (with your agreement with me). And I think that's why the gifts can seem so crappy and insufficient: who can possibly adequately reward a teacher for spending 3/4ths of a year with those awful little brats? NO ONE. And so if anyone tries to do it with a gift, or interprets a gift as an attempt, everyone looks bad. I think the way to supplement a teacher's salary is with LEGISLATION and VOTING FOR NEW TAXES. I think the way to wish a teacher "happy holidays" is with a token such as CANDLES and CHOCOLATES and TOKEN-PRICED GIFT CARDS.

sarjeaoco said...

I'm a teacher and I can honestly say I appreciate each and every gift I receive. Yeah, I have a closet full of mugs and "World's Best Teacher" magnets, but I can tell you who gave each one of them to me. My favorite gifts? Just a nice little card with a note telling me how much they appreciate what I do for their child. I keep those in my smile file to look at all year. It's just nice to be remembered during the holidays, you know?

Vicky said...

I was a teacher before I had kids. I always appreciated the gifts I got. Teacher do get a lot of chocolate, candles, and soap. If you want to go the gift card route, don't think you have to spend a lot. $5-10 to starbucks is great. My favorite gifts were the homemade things from the kids.

Dawn said...

I usually stress about teacher gifts, but I wasn't worried about it this year since we know them pretty well (my preschooler's been with the same teachers for 2 years and my kindergartener went there before him)...until I was given the stink-eye by another mom for my "huge" gift when "all she did was shop."

Our "huge" gift? Was a platter of cookies and a Target gift card. And that mom can stick it. There is no good enough way to thank the ladies who voluntarily spend their days in a room full of incontinent preschoolers. I wasn't aiming for "huge." We just wanted to show them how much we love and appreciate them.

And BTW, all three teachers LOVED their gifts. So phooey on the teachers who talk down about food and gift cards. I would never complain about the gifts my clients give me (and there have been some weird ones!) because it's enough to know that they thought of me. Talk about petty.

Natalie said...

#1. I agree with Erica.

#2. Is it bad that I have had a particularly rough year and was not able to get a gift for my son's daycare teachers this year? I mean, do they expect it, or do they just see it as a nice gesture? They aren't going to be shitheads to my boy from now on are they?

laughing mommy said...

This is my daughter's first year of Kindergarten so this is my first time worrying about teacher gifts. I asked my best friend, who is a 5th grade teacher what she and her co-workers like to get.

She said they don't want any more Bath and Body Works lotion... nobody can use THAT much lotion.

No more "worlds best teacher" ornaments, no more "worlds best teacher" knicknacks.

No baked goods... too many teachers or their family members have allergies (milk, nuts, wheat, etc). Plus, they don't want to get fat any more than the rest of us.

She said what they like the most is gift cards. When the kids leave on the last school day before Christmas they meet in the teacher's lounge and compare how many gift cards they got.

For a second option I asked at work what my co-worker's thought would be a good teacher gift. They said Bath and Body Works lotion or a nice "worlds greatest teacher" Christmas tree ornament. Anything with the word teacher on it, or anything that relates to the teaching profession.

I guess what we think teachers want and what they actually want is totally different?????

Woman with a Hatchet said...

I solved the problem of teacher gifts this year by not giving any.

I know, I suck.

I blame the twins. Sigh!

Farrell said...

I have the same problem. In fact, in rush now to pick up something quick. must read comments first as to not get the wrong thing.

Cherry said...

I personally give gifts to my boys' teachers because I want my kids to experience the gift giving experience. I can remember baking giant chocolate chip cookies and writing some holiday message on them for my teachers, and I always loved the reaction of gratitude that they showed me in return. So with my kids I try to involve them as much as possible and maybe they too will get that same feeling that I can remember.

My middle son's preschool teacher this year is very special to him and he truly loves her so I wanted to do something a little extra special. I have literally been stressing over this gift since about April when I realised how much he loved her. I ended up not having as much money as I had hoped for the Christmas season though; so we gave her beautiful matching tree ornaments and a $20 gift card for a local mall where she can pick the store she uses it at. I didnt get to see her reaction, but I hope she enjoys it.

Of course this year I forgot about all of the "other" teachers in my oldest's life (gym, music, etc.) so two days ago he and I made up some christmas tins of baked goods for them. Then there was the crossing guard who is a volunteer at the school and it has become pretty much an obligation to give something to her. But I didnt stress over her as much and I just wrapped up a box of chocolates in pretty tissue and stuck on a bow. When my son gave it to her this morning though she gave him a big hug and he was really proud. So regardless of how crappy chocolates are as gifts, my son and the crossing guard demonstrated the real point of gift giving...

fairydogmother said...

As a former child care professional and preschool teacher, I can assure you that it truly is the thought that counts and for the most part teachers and child care professionals are under appreciated and therefore happy to be thought of at all, especially around the busy holiday season. I truly was touched by each and every gift I ever received at the holidays from children and their families. I loved receiving a nice candle or lotion, and high end chocolates would have been lovely!

I for one always appreciated the gesture, and the simple act of being remembered at the holiday season. And some years none of the families in my classroom/program acknowledged the teachers/staff at the holidays. We realize it isn't something mandatory, that it is the thought that counts, and that we were damn lucky to be thought of at all.

That is not to say that I never had a colleague who complained about such things, but more often than not those were folks who tended to be the bitch and moan type in general. And those who did complain did so in private, and still appreciated being thought of at all.

Anonymous said...

I am a teacher and gift cards to book stores or office supply stores and things to use in my classroom are by far my favorite gifts. I do not need or want anymore chocolate, candles, candy or teacher ornaments. My husband wouldn't even let me put half of the teacher ornaments up this year. There are just TOO MANY!
It's not that I am not grateful for "the thought" and all that...it's just that after 13 years of teaching I am drowning in mugs, ornaments and stuffed animals. It's just wasteful to me since a lot of it ends up in the trash. The things I've held onto over the years are class pictures in frames, pictures of individual students or "homemade gifts".
I don't mean to add to your stress...it's not something to stress over...it's not going to make or break my holiday:)

fairydogmother said...

Natalie, I can assure you that it is not bad that you were not able to get anything for your son's daycare teachers this year. You know what meant the most to me, as well as each and every one of my colleagues in daycare setting? A simple "Thanks for taking care my child, I really appreciate all that you do". You might be surprised at how infrequently child care professionals hear that in some centers, therefore it means a lot when they DO hear it.

Swistle, sorry to hijack your comment section.

Swistle said...

Laughing Mommy- I know! Evidently what teachers want is CASH. It's like wedding couples who don't want all those STUPID THOUGHTFUL PRESENTS, they just want CHECKS KTHANX. The news about comparing in the teacher's lounge makes me feel a little queasy.

Oh Fairydogmother! You are making me feel so much better! That's the way I WANT it to be: that there ARE a few who complain, but that they're the ones who complain about everything, and that all the other teachers are the way the rest of us are: happy to receive a present even if it wasn't what we would have chosen ourselves.

Anonymous- I understand that point of view (that teachers wouldn't want/need more x, y, z), but I don't understand the "So give us cash" response. It's icky and upsetting. I think I'd rather give nothing, if what I'm giving is crowding so many teachers' closets. Closet space is a valuable commodity!

Chraycee said...

I am a high school teacher, and let me tell you that I am thrilled to the core if one of my students gives me a gift. It doesn't matter what the gift is, even a simple Christmas card gives me the warm fuzzies in spades. I actually keep these cards (along with letters/emails from parents and administrators) in a special folder I have labeled "YAY ME!" that I turn to when I'm needing a pick me up.

By the time the kids reach high school it seems that parents are gifted out (something that is fine with me by the way - I don't need or expect gifts from students or parents) which is why it seems more special to me - the kid had to bring the item to school, (sometimes this includes carrying it in a backpapck all day) and then actually deliver it to me (which judging by the homework turn in rate seems to be a tricky issue LOL) at the risk of being made fun of by their peers. So you see, if they deliver a gift or card to me, it's because they mean it. And that is the best gift of all :)

Pann said...

The first Christmas when I was a teacher, I was extremely touched and grateful for each and every gift that I got. Other more jaded teachers around me were more obnoxious (Pann, they'd said, that bracelet is obviously just gold plate! Tacky!).

But the things that I saved, and still have, are cards with kind words written in them, and pictures of the cute kids that I taught. That stuff went into a scrapbook and is highly treasured by me.

I confess, I liked the money a lot too, but that is not what endures!

fairydogmother said...

Swistle, I'm so glad!

I was feeling a tad upset in response to some of the comments on this post at first, and I was thinking "Great, just what child care professionals and teachers need is people thinking they are uppity and unappreciative!".

There is a slight possibility that some degree of PMS may be involved.

Erica said...

Fairydogmother - I apologize. I didn't mean to imply that ALL child care givers are uppity and unappreciative. It just seemed to be the majority of them because there are so many posts out there about gift giving angst. I had incorrectly assumed that these folks were angst-y because of past experiences with ungrateful teachers, etc.

Thank you for setting me and the rest of the readers straight : )

And to the rest of you teachers and child care providers, Thank You. I do not have a child that you teach or care for, but thank you nonetheless. What you do is so very important.

Natalie said...

fairydogmother - Thank you! I do appreciate the people who take care of my boy, and I will make a point of saying it when I see them again. I might also have him make a card, because from the sounds of it, most of you believe it's the thought that counts, and that is very comforting. I am really taken aback that people get sick of certain gifts. I have received duplicate gifts on many occasions, and not once did I feel like the gift giver was doing me a disservice.

Misguided Mommy said...

maybe a gift certifcate to a nearby nail place for a mani or something would be nice

Misguided Mommy said...

okay reading through comments i have to say the starbucks gift card is freaking genius and i'm writing this down right now, and second the gift card to an office supply store or target type store...also genius since teachers use their own funds for so much writing that down too

Angie said...

As a former teacher, the gifts you were mentioning sound great to me! The only ones that I appreciated a little less was the teacher-themed apple stuff. But, I thought it was just nice to receive gifts. The apple stuff just stayed in my classroom, rather than going home. (and, I've received worse gifts from family members. shhh!)

fairydogmother said...

Erica, no worries. I had Christmas candy with a side of soup for dinner last night, so I'm thinking I was just in an extra sensitive mood of the hormonally induced variety last night.

Natalie, I'm with you on the duplicated gifts. In fact, in my family it has become somewhat of an accidental tradition. It never fails that unbeknownst to any of us we typically have one or two items that are duplicated (or triplicated!). Usually a book or a movie. We actually find it humorous, and simply think of it as great minds thinking alike!

Jess said...

This is my first holiday season in the blog world and therefore my first exposure to this whole holiday gift thing that's being discussed, and wow are teacher gifts a minefield. How totally scary. It's enough to make me want to homeschool our kids. I feel like teachers must appreciate thought and effort of a gift, even if they don't like it, just like everyone else, and you clearly put that into your gifts. So I wouldn't worry too much. Or am I just being idealistic?

Kelsey said...

Oh dear. I fear I contributed to the madness with my "helpful suggestions." I never opened a gift from a kid and thought it was dumb or stupid or didn't want it. Many kids don't give gifts at all and it's not a problem. It is nice to be recognized and appreciated, and a nice (gift less) note does that quite well. I always felt kind of bad about the gifts you could tell you got just because the parents felt they HAD to get something!!!

MOST teachers are appreciative and find a good avenue for gifts they can't use themselves. Some of my "teacher" things are packed with our other Christmas stuff and I may not display all of it, but I certainly come across it each year and it makes me stop and think about that child and feel happy, even if it won't appear on my mantle that year.

If it helps, I always though badly of the teachers who whined about their gifts in the lounge -- the only person I ever talked with gifts about was my best teacher friend. And I always wrote thank yous that I meant.

If people are feeling stressed/worried about it, perhaps they should back away from the "suggestions" (and rudeness) and just do what feels good to them.

For my part, I am not going to take down the post I wrote, but perhaps I won't offer the link anymore!

Swistle said...

Kelsey- I was thinking more of the stuff I found where teachers were practically rolling their eyes about how stupid parents were to give them presents that weren't exactly what they wanted. Something I liked about your post is that it draws attention to something I'm not sure people take into consideration: that if YOU (the parent) wouldn't want an item ("chocolate-flavored" candy, enormous $5 bath sets, etc.), probably the teacher doesn't either. This is a good thing for ANYONE giving a gift to keep in mind.

angie said...

I am a teacher and the best gift I have ever receieved was a Starbuck's gift card. I always had Starbucks that year and I taught my kids that starbucks in the morning made for a happy teacher! One of my boys took this to heart and insisted that his mom get me one for Christmas...loved it!! But it's really the thought that counts...the fact that a parent even sends a Christmas card that says thanks for teaching my child this year is really all that I need!!

melissa said...

I am a teacher & this year I told parents that although I have gotten lovely personal items over the years that what I would really like (IF they were going to get a gift--they aren't required to!) was items to use in the classroom--board games, books, etc. That way the gifts/money wasn't being wasted and the students got to benefit too!

Julia said...

I'm a teacher, and I just wanted to suggest that you get your kids involved in choosing a present for their teacher. Even really young kids (2 years old) can help.
Even if you don't know your child's teacher very well (which I know is hard to do in some schools), your child probably knows a lot about him/her. Elementary school teachers tend to have interests that the kids have probably noticed- one teacher I know is obsessed with baseball, so a child got her a baseball-themed picture frame. My kids know I like hearts, so I get a lot of heart pictures and things decorated with hearts.
While I appreciate all gifts, they're so much nicer when you see the child is excited about it! You can tell which children helped pick out or make a present and who has no clue what's under the wrapping paper. I love getting drawings (of the child or me, or whatever) with a quote from the child- sometimes saying what they like about school or what I've taught them.
Presents that children make themselves are always lovely. While lotions and candles can make nice presents for some, I'm highly allergic to most fragrances- so I won't be able to use them (I wish I could). It's also much easier to keep items like drawings or homemade cards from children. One gift that I've kept for years is a tiny hand made pillow that a 4-year-old made for me. This little girl knew that I loved orange, so she chose a cute (and childish) orange fabric. The pillow was obviously sewn by the child, as the stitches are oddly spaced, but she obviously put a lot of thought into that gift. Every time I look at it I get a smile on my face, thinking about that little girl.
Frankly, I don't think any teacher would complain about a gift that was obviously chosen by a child. No matter how absurd, if they put some thought into it then it'll melt our hearts! Not every teacher is going to be the best match for your child, so some years the gift might be more special than others. If you're giving a less personal gift- like a gift card- still try to get your child involved. For example, if you're giving a book store gift card, take your child to the store with you and have them pick out a book for the teacher to go along with the gift card. They might choose a children's book, or something for grown-ups. No matter what the book is (as long as it's not blatantly inappropriate) write a little note saying why you/you're kid bought that book- maybe he knows blue is his teacher's favorite color, so he picked a book with a blue cover, or maybe he loves Clifford, so he wanted to give her a Clifford book. If you don't think she'll enjoy the book then include a gift receipt so she can exchange it when she goes to use her gift card.

Yap's Mom said...

I'm a third grade teacher and I work my butt (at my age we don't say "ass") off for my class. To get a note from a parent sending appreciation of my efforts to help their child goes a long way. Gifts that I especially appreciate are

1. cash (we are underpaid and over worked - this sends a message that parents acknowledge and appreciate us)

2. gift certificates to places that to us are luxuries such as Starbucks, or a Visa certificate that we can use in any number of places,

3. OK - I can't think of a third. It really doesn't matter the amount and I realize that some people do not have extra money to send teachers. Five or ten dollars is appreciated. Twenty (or more) dollars tells us that these parents do understand how hard we try to do the right thing for our students.

I will stress that to have a parent say something encouraging to a teacher - such as "my child has learned a lot from you" or "thank you so much for all you do" or "I know my child is high-maintenance and I cannot thank you enough for your efforts to build his/her self esteem" really are the best gifts you can give.

Thanks for thinking of teachers. We think of our students all the time. They are on our minds when we wake up and when we go to bed. We appreciate that you are even thinking of ways to let us know we are appreciated.