November 21, 2010

Reader Question: Group Teacher Gifts

Laura writes:
I turn to you in the hopes that you will be able to give me your opinion on this gift giving question. Will you please, if you are inclined, let me know what you think of this pitch from the kindergarten room parents at my daughter's school?

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One of the standard practices at Blank Elementary is to collect money from parents to pay for gifts for Ms Smith during Teacher Appreciation week, around the holidays, and at the end of the school year. Parents find that doing a group collection is an efficient way to handle gifts. The Room Parents put together an budget for how the money will be spent during the year and determined that $35 per child is the right amount. As each event comes up, we'll ask for ideas and and opinions so the gift-giving will be a group decision. If you'd prefer not to take part, that's perfectly fine, but please let us know so we can plan accordingly.
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I have never heard of such a thing, but I am new to Massachusetts and perhaps they really -do- have a "standard practice" like this. However, this is Ms. Smith's first year at the school, and so I am skeptical (in addition to being slightly appalled).

Oh, I'll tell you what I think all right: ACK. That is what I think: ACK. My coloring is HIGH PINK right now. I don't like the tone of it; I don't like the wording of it; and I think $35 per child is a ridiculous amount. If there are ten students, that's THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS for teacher gifts in a single year---and in my kids' kindergarten classes there have been more like fifteen (FIVE HUNDRED AND TWENTY-FIVE DOLLARS) or twenty (SEVEN HUNDRED DOLLARS).

Furthermore, "group decisions" on gifts tend to SUCK. If my previous experience with such things is a guide, what will happen is that the room parents will come up with several ideas nobody likes (including the teacher), and no one will be up to arguing about it, and so the room parents will just make all the decisions and everyone will feel dismayed at the way their money is being wasted.

I would absolutely "prefer not to take part." I would say, "No, thanks, we'd prefer to do our own shopping for gifts!" in a cheery voice. I would also talk with other parents if I knew them: I've found that with things like this, sometimes everyone thinks everyone else is okay with it and they don't want to be the only one "preferring not to take part." I don't mean starting a bitchfest behind the room parents' backs---just a casual, "Did you get the thing about $35 per kid? I'm not doing it, are you?" Some parents probably WOULD find it easier (and even a relief) to just write a check for the whole year, but a lot of parents are going to be thinking what we're thinking, which is "WHUH???"

If the suggestion were, "Look, we all know the teacher would rather have a $100 Target gift card than twenty $5 ornaments and boxes of chocolate, so let's pool our dough," I would be IN---and also HAPPY, because this seems sensible. But that's not what this is. This is the room parents asking for, say, six hundred dollars of other people's money, which they will then have control over---and in the process removing the actual feelings of generosity and appreciation from the gift-giving occasions. DO NOT LIKE.

57 comments:

StephLove said...

Is that $35 for the whole year, or will they be asking for $35 three times a year? It would make a difference to me, although, even if it's the whole year figure, it seems high.

Jane said...

Swistle (and Laura): This post's timing could not be better! I am the room parent for my daughter's preschool class this year. My kids go to an Early Childhood Education Center, and we have been enrolled there for more than 4 years. My daughter's class has 3 full-time teachers and one teacher who comes at lunchtime and then stays until 6 (the other three teachers arrive between 7:30-8:30 and leave between 3:30-4:30) About 2 years ago, the "Parent Organization" (which is run by 2 mothers and sanctioned by the school) decided that they were going to begin mandating how holiday collections would be handled. While on one hand this makes things easier (blame the exorbitant amount on them! Blame them that teachers' aids are excluded!), it has also made things exceedingly more difficult. The holiday letter that I, as room parent, have to distribute, asks for a "voluntary" donation of $37 per child. $36 will be divided equally among the three teachers, and $1 will be included in a pool to be distributed among the "other staff that helps" throughout the year. The teacher who is there from lunchtime until 6 is not factored into the count of three, so she gets lumped with the "other staff". In past years, I have voiced my dissatisfaction with this method of collection. About half of the parents in the classroom will contribute the named amount, some will give half that amount, and some will do their own thing. If I had my druthers, everyone would just do whatever they thought was the best for their family. Our school is expensive, and many of the people who send their children there work for the University and spend more than half a paycheck on tuition each month. I love the teachers and thank the Heavens every day that my kiddos are in the school, but I cringe any time there is a fundraiser or anything else having to do with money. My obligation as room parent to follow these ridiculous parameters (and distribute the letter, blech) makes me crazy. I would love to re-write the letter, telling people that they should feel free to celebrate however they see fit and not worry what everyone else is doing. In the meantime, I will avoid making eye contact with the other parents, begrudgingly collect the money, and present it to the teachers before the break. Incidentally, we send out the same letter at the end of the school year, too.

ComfyMom~Stacey said...

So it's $35 for a year's worth of gifts? There are 22 kids in my sons 2nd grade class, that is almost $800! But I suppose teacher appreciation, Xmas & end of year for her plus something for her helper, maybe. I'd feel a lot better about giving that money if the letter said what sort of gifts were being bought. If it said "To pay for gift cards, chocolates, breakfast one morning during teacher appreciation week & a personalized ornament from the whole class" I'd totally give them the money.
But just a 'hey give us the money & we;ll let you know how we spend it'. No.

Steph the WonderWorrier said...

I don't know... being a teacher myself, I've seen some parents get together and do group gifts that have turned out amazing.

I'm not opposed to the group gift idea, if what is chosen is practical and nice for the teacher. Also, it sounds like this group is just trying to make things a little easier on parents as a whole... and $35 spread between three gift times is only $11.60 per teacher gift, which you may spend anyway (or more) on your own. Also, with the opt-out option, you don't have to be a part of the group gift, so it seems fair enough. Just don't do it if you don't feel comfortable, that's okay too.

In other personal experience, my mom always spends about $20 on a gift certificate at Christmas, and the same amount again as a gift at the end of the school year... so she's spending $40 on the teacher anyway on her own. (This is for my youngest brother who is just in grade seven).

Teachers don't actually care if they receive a gift, but if they are going to receive something, it's nice if it's practical/useful/a treat OR if it's something close to the heart (like just a letter and drawing from the student). Sometimes, parents feel obligated to get a gift, and believe me, in that case... it's a little better to have an organized group thing, because at least the gift might not be wasted.

I've felt awful when I've received something that unfortunately, I just cannot use... such as lotion and soap sets in a scent that I'm too sensitive to.

So, I guess I see it from a different perspective... it doesn't sound like the parent group is trying to do something wrong... and if you're just not feeling comfortable, don't participate. Easy peasy.

I don't think I like the way it's being run at your place, Jane, but that's because it's different in a childcare setting with so many special people involved than a classroom with only one teacher.. for sure!

jen(melty) said...

I always stress over what to get the teacher. Last year my daughter drew her teacher a picture for Christmas, and even got a thank you note for it. I didn't get her anything. For the end of the year there were 2 groups of parents pooling money. I'm not sure what one group got them, but the other group got her a coach bag and wallet that was really nice. She was shocked and really loved it. Daughter wanted me to knit her a stuffed bunny, which I did. I hate the feeling of obligation and I know it's just more "stuff" for them and I hate using gift cards because then it feels tacky if I can only give $10 per teacher (it adds up fast!) So I guess if the parents collecting the money had their head screwed on right, I wouldn't mind $35/year total per child. Some people like shopping for gifts, other people shake and cower at the thought.

Nicole said...

I always, always, ALWAYS do my own thing when it comes to gift-giving. I give gift certificates attached to small containers of nice chocolates, like Lindor. I do not like giving someone else control, and being room parent for both my kids, I do not want to spend someone else's money (so I do not organize group gifts).

Years ago, someone gave me a very hard time for opting out. She said "I think they would rather get a large gift then a whole bunch of small gifts" but since I was giving a $25 gift certificate, I thought that was an assy thing to say.

I agree, agree, agree, with everything you've said in this post. Like if a few people wanted to get together to give a particular gift, great! But you have to know the people personally to know that you're getting something you agree with.

Di said...

I've been wondering about this too. At my daughter's school (which is nursery through grade 12) they have a teacher's gift fund. Donations are as much as a parent wishes to donate and then it's divided among the teachers - although I don't know how it's divided. I'd assume the nursery teacher would get a different amount than say, the high school history teacher.

Last year, we opted out, and C decorated cards for her two teachers and I got gift cards from sbux for them. (via the school's gift card fundraiser.)

I am probably going to go with the teacher appreciation fund this year, since it seemed most families went that route.

Heidi D said...

I don't know about pooling money together. My concern would be one or two of the designated parents taking all the credit for the gift. But that's just my pessimistic view.
I'm glad my school doesn't do that. Every year, I've given a gift card and school supplies (our teachers have to buy all of the supplies out of their own pocket if the parents can't).
If it were me, I'd just opt out. :)

Beth said...

I am in the minority- I like the idea especially since it covers three gift giving occasions. If this covered my daughter's 2 teachers for each occasion I would consider this a bargain for the money and a relief in not having to select and wrap and deliver six little dinky $5 gifts. From a gift receiving point of view I imagine it would always be preferable to the teachers to have one big thing. My sill is a 3rd grade teacher and she gets a load of dollar store mugs and hard candy every year. She keeps the kid- made gifts and tosses the crap. Harsh but true.

Mama Bub said...

If they were to have given a guide saying what the money would have been spent for, I might be likely to sign on for that. I'm a gift card giver myself knowing that I can't possibly know the teacher's personal preferences. AND, even if I do know that she likes a certain thing, what's to say that she won't get 20 of that thing? I kind of know that I'm going to spend $35 or more throughout the year given that we have holidays, teacher appreciation and the end of the year (and only one child in school,) but I prefer to have some control over the spending decisions.

d e v a n said...

I would be much more inclined to donate $35 if I was told what it was for. (a gc for christmas, an xyz for end of year... or whatever.)

SM said...

I live in Massachusetts and I don't think the teacher can accept a gift with a value of over $50. She could accept 20 separate gifts of $50 each (one separate gift from each child) but not ONE gift over $50. Maybe just semantics...but still..I don't think it's legal.

Last year all the parents of my daughter's second grade class were asked to give $5 each for the end of year gift. I was thrilled! But the organizer had to give 2 gifts to the teacher--one from 1/2 the class and one from the other 1/2 because we were over the $50 limit.

Brigid Keely said...

One of my best friends is an elementary school teacher. She's diabetic and doesn't eat candy/baked goods/fancy coffee and has sensitive skin so doesn't use most scented soaps, lotions, etc. She also drops big bucks on school supplies for her classroom. Her favorite gifts, and this seems to match up with other teachers I know, is something the kids themselves have made (she has a box full of cards and letters and drawings kids have given her), cash, and gift cards to places like target and book stores.

If this cash was being collected to give the teacher(s) whopping big gift cards, things for the classroom, or something, that'd be awesome. But it sounds like the parents are buying a pig in a poke, as people have pointed out already. I can see it being useful as it takes the pressure off piddly shopping multiple times (multiple? really? when I was a kid we just did Christmas gifts and nothing else, now it's multiple gifts?) but to me it's a big chunk of money all at once and what's it buying? It's a mystery.

This deal sounds like a class/regional one.

Tina said...

Ugh. This whole thing is annoying. My son's in preschool - this year will be our first real foray into teacher gift giving. I got the teacher and the assistant a little chocolate truffle box in a cute holiday tin. Hope that will do...as it's not a COACH PURSE. lol I dunno. I find some of these "room parent" types to be obnoxious. Sorry if I've offended any room parents...but I am perfectly happy to choose (or let my child choose) a gift for his teacher. It's the thought that counts. As much as I appreciate what a teacher does, I'm sorry but when did it become normal to buy teachers gifts worth hundreds of dollars? Seems excessive.

Jen said...

Maybe I just live in a really cheap area or something but I have never been asked to give money for a group gift. The concept confuses and frightens me! $35 per child? That seems like an insane amount! We don't give Christmas/holiday gifts to teachers in our family. Instead, throughout the year we buy supplies that are needed in the classroom and that the teacher would otherwise have to pay for out of her own pocket. We've found that a well timed package of glue sticks or a bottle of hand sanitizer is always appreciated.

CARRIE said...

I'd be gettin all up in someone's grill over this.....

Having been a teacher, I know bigger gift cards that go further are preferable, but some of the sweetest gifts I got were from poor kids who made me ornaments because they didn't have enough money for gift cards or whatever.

Um, isn't "going in on gifts" what Facebook is for? I just emailed 4 mom friends of my daughter and asked if they wanted to go in on a gift card. No pressure, no problem.

barb. said...

I'm with SM on this -- I also live in Massachusetts and know for a fact that what is being suggested to Laura is illegal now, at least as far as public schools are concerned (I don't know how/if it applies to private education). It's a recent law, less than a year old. Even so, this is the third year I've had my child in a school that's located in a fairly well-to-do community and I have never had any room mother ask for more than a five or ten dollar donation to pay for special class projects through the year (but not for a teacher gift). This year I've not received any requests, as the school district has made it clear that parents cannot solicit money for a classroom fund.

Nancy said...

I have experienced that choosing the group gift is generally a nightmare. When my son was in 3rd grade, one parent wanted everyone to chip in $7 to give the teacher and his wife a gift certificate for a local bed & breakfast with mystery dinner that she OWNED. A lot of parents thought if she wanted to give this to the teacher, she should have just done it and not expected everyone else to pay for it. Some parents were so outraged, they organized a separate group gift. So then we were then being asked to donate to 2 "group" gifts. I did, because it was $7 for one and $5 for the other, but that was the last time I participated in any group gift situation. I generally do Target gift cards, unless I know the teacher well and know there is something else they want.

And there are 30 kids in my daughter's class, so at $35 a kid, yikes. That had better be three awesome gifts.

Maureen said...

I think this is a ridiculous idea-$35 per kid, at this time of year when money can be very tight for people? My biggest beef with this is that it totally takes my kid out of the gift giving process. When my daughter was young, we would go shopping, I would give her some choices of things we thought her teacher might like, and she would pick it out. Then she would go into school and GIVE her teacher the gift. All her teachers were kind enough to act THRILLED by whatever she gave them. I guess I always thought the point of the teacher gift was for my child to express her affection for the teacher, not have some room parent make all the gift giving decisions.

Erica said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Blondie said...

My kids' school has a registration day about a 3 weeks before school starts. Everyone is REQUIRED to attend registration, and there are 15-20 booths to stop at around the gym as you move through the process, preparing for the year: signing forms, paying for books/lunch accounts/school bus, etc.

One of the booths is the Teacher Gift Money collection table. The suggested amount per kid is $30, with a per family cap of $75 (I think). This money is pooled and distributed to the homeroom moms to be used for purchasing teacher gifts throughout the year. It is optional, though strongly encouraged. Reminder letters go out through September, encouraging parents to turn this money in before the "cutoff" date at the end of September... doesn't "feel" optional.

I've abstained from this practice and bought my own gifts, as it's frustrating to not know what my money is to be used for.

Steph the WonderWorrier said...

Sorry, just reading back through the comments... it does say in the letter that as the occassions come up, they will discuss with those who have contributed what gift to purchase. Doesn't seem so "wrong" or as if they won't let you know what the group gift is.

Teachers love the gift of school supplies! Things the kids can use in the classroom is the best... because we do shell out a ton of our own money for supplies. Sure, we have a budget we can use for our classroom, but you don't submit all receipts and sometimes to have really great supplies you just buy it out of your own pocket. What a great gift idea, especially pencils and glue sticks... because they are used up like crazy!

Also, just to clarify on a personal note, I don't "expect gifts" as a teacher, but I know from growing up, that teachers DO get gifts from many of their students at certain times of the year... it would just be better if family's weren't wasting money on things that will not be used by the teacher at all, that's why I didn't personally think the parent group organizing a group purchase was so bad.

I'm surprised that a State passed a law on gift amounts for teachers... how interesting! I'm in Ontario, Canada so I didn't even know this was an issue or big thing in the States. Also, "room parents" is a new term to me... we might have parent volunteers who come help in the classroom sometimes, but I've never heard of "room parents" as like, a specific entity.

Very interesting!

Anyway, I had to contribute $40 at my school to our own Social Committee this year for the purchasing of random gifts as special events come up for colleagues, that seems to be a similar issue, but it was what it was and I don't mind contributing in celebration of colleague's special milestones.

Monique said...

I don't think the amount is excessive as it is about what I would spend anyway, but I would not like not knowing in advance what it was for. When I have been asked to go in on a group gift, I was told up front what we were trying to buy, how much it was, and where the extra would go. The one time I organized a group gift, this is what I did as well. It was for my kid's kindergarten teacher and it was her first year so she didn't have some big ticket things. We were able to get a new color TV and the extra went to gift cards. (One of the parents had bought the TV at a Black Friday sale and got a REALLY good deal, and had no problem finding a use for it if the parents decided not). We also got her a DVD/VCR player at the end of the year - also a good deal - and some gift cards. Some parents gave $20 or more, some gave $2. Other years, we just do what seems right. A basket of pretty things and treats for the first grade teacher because she just loved that stuff, and a box of treats and a gift card for the 2nd grade teacher becuase she was an old pro and had every teacher geegaw you can imagine.

thellfamily said...

Personally, with 3 teachers in a daycare room I'd rather have someone organize a group gift. Our family ends up spending a lot more at the holidays than $35 to distribute across 3 teachers ($10/teacher from an individual doesn't seem like much, whereas $200 pooled does).

I often, for teachers or administrative staff, am the one doing the organizing. Usually I go for very general gift cards, e.g., to the mall, so the recipient can use as they please. And, I usually leave it open, participate or not, and give as much as you'd like. That said, there is often a huge range, from about $5 to $50 per individual. Which is probably fine if that reflects people's ability, less fine if people are being cheap simply because it's anonymous. Sometimes I give advice such as, last year, people gave between $10 and $20 (even if $10 is a lie as to the lower bound).

Very wordy response! What I meant to say is that I prefer groups, especially if I'm not organizing. I'd prefer to decide my own amount, but don't really mind being told an amount. And I generally trust the person who is committed enough to organize such a thing, to make a wise decision about the actual gift.

Swistle said...

Thanks to the teachers who continually remind us of it every single time there's a post on teacher gifts, I think we're all aware that teachers would rather get awesome perfect gifts they love (or better yet, cash) instead of the stupid cheap crap the children and families keep giving them. This is, unfortunately, not how gift-giving works. If it did, we would all add up what each of our family members were due, and we'd just write checks and skip the holidays altogether.

I am all for the idea that everyone should put their five (or even ten) bucks toward a gift card. But $35 PER CHILD is too much money, especially if it is NOT going to a gift card but will instead be used to buy a gift the teacher might be just as likely to throw in the trash. As others have pointed out, it also completely strips the occasion of input from the children.

At Christmas I give each single-classroom teacher a $10 gift card. I don't give an end-of-year gift (why would there BE an end-of year gift?). For Teacher Appreciation Week, I write letters and I bake or send in other food for the teacher breakfasts/lunches the PTA organizes.

Of course I value the work teachers do, and I willingly pay taxes, purchase the classroom things the teachers ask for (including, this year, two personal CD players, in addition to the endless hand sanitizer, antibacterial wipes, and kleenex), and I side with the teacher when my child tells me his bad grade wasn't his fault. If teachers also want $1000 each in gifts per year per class of 30 kids, that's where I draw the line.

Christy said...

As long as it is a class gift, meaning no child is left out despite possibly not being able donate the money, I'm not opposed. In my experience, the room mothers are in the classroom a lot, and have a better idea of what the teacher might need/want. Holiday gift, teacher appreciation week gift, end of the year gift times 3 (for me) is just exhausting. I probably spend $10 per teacher at each gift-giving occasion anyway. I'd rather pay the money and let a room mom organize for me...as long as the whole class is involved in the gift giving/teacher appreciation/signing of the card.

Stimey said...

I agree.

My preschool did this (but $20 each for four gifts and a contribution to a silent auction prize). For elementary school, it just seems easier to do your own, especially because you know that a lot of parents probably give the $35 AND their own gift, so if you don't as well, you look like you're not giving a gift. And I know that getting credit is not the reason you give gifts, but still.

I give gift cards to all my kids' teachers. I imagine they like that just fine.

Steph the WonderWorrier said...

Oh dear. I didn't mean to offend you, Swistle... also, where I am, nothing is done about a Teacher Appreciation Week. Also, I've never asked the parents of my class to send in anything other than a Kleenex box for their child's personal use (to keep in their own desks).

I don't mean to come across as a greedy teacher or something... and also, much of my comments were related more to the practice of teacher gift giving that I did growing up and that my mom does with my brother, than my own experience as a teacher (which is a new experience).

I don't think teacher's mean to sound like they aren't appreciative, but since gift receiving seems to be a part of the job... if you do have the chance to mention what would be more practical, I think that's okay. To be very clear, I didn't receive gifts from all of my students at the end of the year last year, and some of my favourite gifts were my hand-written cards and pictures, absolutely. The teachers I work with are not greedy and do not talk about gifts they receive or what they think they should get.

Anyway, I'm sure that whatever choice anyone makes is fine by the teacher... it was just the opportunity to sort of discuss it in a practical way, and I think that it's okay to be honest when those times come up.

Bitts said...

Oh, Swistle, it is SOOOOOOO not about "teachers want." Not AT ALL. Speaking as a teacher, I NEVER expected gifts, I NEVER kept score as to who gave what and I NEVER, NEVER disregarded the thought that went into the gifts I did receive. There is no teacher gift scorecard they pass out to us at the last faculty meeting before Winter Break!!

In this thread and among parents I know, there seems to be a lot of one-upmaship about teacher gifting any more, and it sounds like it's more on the side of the parents / PTAs / Room Moms & Dads. I know FOR A FACT that the teachers (at least I, and all the ones I've ever worked with) do NOT care.

They do not care who gives or gets which gifts, how much money is spent and what, exactly, the items happen to be. If it's some thing delicious, lovely or useful, so be it. If it's gross, useless or offensive, well, that's par for the course in any gift-giving scenario.

That Coach bag business? Horrifying. Shame on the teacher for accepting such an extravagant, over-the-top gift. IMO, it's totally unprofessional to even consider keeping something like that.

My children are not in school yet, but when they are, their teachers will only ever be getting cards and notes made & written by my children and I (in addition to specific requests like tissues and sanitizer). After being out of the classroom for 4 years to raise my own kids, the cards and letters are the ONLY mementos I've kept.

Swistle said...

Bitts- OH, I know what you say MUST be true! My own mother is a teacher, and she was always happy to get any gift she got. But it's so discouraging when EVERY SINGLE TIME I write a post about teacher gifts, I get a bunch of teachers complaining about the "crap" they get! Every time! I think I've done about a dozen teacher-gift posts over the years, and there is always, ALWAYS, a group of teachers eager to tell me what a slap in the face teacher gifts are to them, and what a waste it is unless it's cold cash and lots of it. Sigh. I do know it's not everyone, though. It's just hard to remember that at the time, when the comments are coming in!

Beth said...

hand sanitizer and tissues are NOT "gifts"! neither are school supplies. it is a sad state of affairs that parents are now expected to pony up $100 per kid for manditory school supplies at the beginning of the year at a public school. this sort of thing used to be covered (when we were kids, i mean) by the tax dollars that funded schools. since this is no longer the case parents are required to purchase those things as part of their own child's attendance at school. if a parent wants to give extra supplies to the school throughout the year that is generous, but should not be considered a "gift" to the teacher. i have to buy my own paper and pens and printer ink, etc. for my home office, but i would NOT consider it a "gift" to get a box of pens or a stapler from my employer at christmastime!

HOWEVER a gift for the teacher is optional, and should be something thoughtful that the teacher will most likely enjoy. i think $35 per kid is completely reasonable, assuming the money goes toward something everyone who contributes agrees upon (gift cards seem to fit that bill). as i said in an earlier response: 2 teachers in my daughter's class X 2-3 gift giving occasions = 4-6 fairly nice sized gifts. everyone wins. no "crap" gifts, no useless trinkets, no endless shopping for $5 gifts. my mom was a school admin and she STILL has bins of $5 candles, frames, ornaments, etc in her "gift closet."

Beth said...

oh, and to clarify my above post, I do not think it is fair that teachers should (or need) to buy their own school supplies. i think that should be left to the school district, or (nowadays, anyway) the parents. that is a topic for another day, though. (i do wonder, for instance, why my 10 year old niece had to buy SIX glue sticks as part of her supply list. SIX GLUE STICKS)

Steph the WonderWorrier said...

Beth, I agree, school supplies are not "teacher gifts", but that's why I meant they were great at the gift giving times of year. Because they aren't meant for me, they're meant for the class to use.

We don't give our parents lists of supplies to buy... just another difference I think based on where I live and teach. So, if a parent surprises us with a donation of glue sticks at the holidays in lieu of a personal gift to me as the teacher, I'd be on cloud nine! I think most teacher's would be.

It really isn't about teachers wanting gifts... it's about the fact that it's sort of become a thing that teacher's get gifts, so then it becomes a discussion.

Naomi said...

My mother-in-law is a teacher, and every year she gets lots of scented soaps, bath products and lotions that she can't use because she has sensitive skin. HOWEVER, she's always so appreciative and humbled by all these tokens of appreciation, and couldn't care less that a lot of them are things she can't use. Every year, she puts all this stuff into a pretty package and ships it to me!! She herself has no use for it, but she gets a lot of fun out of knowing I'll be excited to get it!! :)

Swistle said...

Beth- Absolutely: I definitely don't consider my contributions toward the classroom (kleenex, hand sanitizer, supplies the teacher puts on the "wish board," etc.) to be gifts to the teacher---any more than I consider my tax contribution toward their salaries to be a gift. What I mean is that my disinclination to spend a large amount of money on a gift for a teacher doesn't mean I don't support her and try to help her and give her what she asks for throughout the year.

Magic27 said...

Maybe this is (yet another) cultural difference... Here in France, the "group gift" thing is the norm. It's organised by the Parents' Association and there's no fixed amount. The gift is almost always a gift certificate to a large (and quite swanky)department store (it would be a truly difficult teacher that couldn't find something he/she liked there...), unless it's known that the teacher is particularly keen for a very specific thing. Personally, I love the group thing - I have little time for shopping and don't know my daughters' teachers enough to know what to buy and would hate to give something unwanted. Maybe the asking for 35$ thing is a bit much, but I think the idea is great. You can always get your kids to draw a nice picture or write a poem or something if you really want the personal touch...

Cate said...

I'm also in Massachusetts, and my daughter's (public) preschool has cracked down on gift-giving because of some new state law that I don't completely understand. Something about having to declare gifts over a certain amount, and no cash/cash equivalents (i.e., gift cards.)

What our school has been doing is putting together classroom wish lists. The parents' organization does this, actually, not the school itself. Each teacher makes a list of specific things they want for their classroom. It's usually not supplies, exactly; more like games or toys or puzzles. At first it seemed weird, but now I kind of like it. We send in something they want, they use it in the class, everyone wins.

Jen @ Sunshine4Teachers said...

Save your money. Write a heartfelt note from you, as parents, or from your child if they're old enough. I haven't taught in 10 years and I have saved three gifts I got from families. I saved every single note I got from them....well, except for the ones that were just a signature on a card with nothing personal written. Take two minutes to do this and they will appreciate you much, much more. Put a smile on their face for Thanksgiving!

Lippy said...

Maureen's comment really struck me. Whether the amount is too much, or not, it takes the child out of the equation. I think the whole teacher thing got started as a way for parents to teach their kids how to show appreciation. That isn't happening with these crazy gifts. I teach high school and it doesn't seem to be a big issue at that level. I really can't imagine a coach bag! But thanks to Maureen I will have my kids a bit more involved and keep in mind the purpose of the gift. That makes a good way of getting out of the group gift, explaining that your child will pick the gift. Genius.

Amanda said...

I'm torn. I like the easy way out and would love for the teacher to get a fantastic gift - but sometimes I have a great idea myself and would rather do my own thing.

I guess the whole thing would depend on my mood.

IF each child did give $35 it would seem excessive. My daughter's gifted school handles fund raising for the year this way, write a check for $35 at the beginning of the year and the PTA won't bother you again until they need your time. No wrapping paper, no frozen pizza, nothing.
/tangent

Swistle said...

Amanda- I love "buy out of the obligation" stuff! I wish I could pay $25 for a Salvation Army pin I could put on my coat that would let me walk past the bell-ringers! And I'd love a "don't bother me for fundraisers" fundraiser.

DcMomma said...

I am sorry but 35 per student is excessive. Not that teachers don't deserve gifts they do. But, how about putting it towards something they want that isn't a coach purse. We already buy communal school supplies at the beginning of the school year for the class. I also donate extra supplies, support pta with fundraisers and the teacher with scholastic orders. I always make gift basket for the teachers with stuff they can use or want.

Maggie said...

Seems my comment got eaten? Apologies if I now post twice.

Am mildly hesitant to chime in on this thread, but since possibly sticking my foot in my mouth has never stopped me before...

My son is in second grade and this year for the first time I am a room parent. As part of my function, I collect funds from parents who are able to pay and use it to reimburse parents who buy their own supplies for a number of school activities like class Halloween party and craft projects throughout the year. At the end of the year, the class agreed to spend whatever was left over on a teacher gift. Since there are 30 kids in my son's class we decided to ask for $20 per parent to cover all of the parties, supplies, and possibly a gift. I don't track who has given the money and who has not. I figure those who can pay have paid, those who can't don't, and some who can afford more have contributed more than the asked amount, it doesn't matter to me one way or the other as long as the parents who have purchased things for school activities are reimbursed properly.

When it comes time to purchase a teacher gift at the end of the year, I think I may have to ask you a parent question and hope it gets passed on for comment so teachers et al can tell me the kinds of things that they really like getting since if it was up to me, every gift I received would be a Target/Amazon gift certificate ;-)

Lucy said...

I agree with Bitts. As a teacher, I don't need gifts. The best gifts are the words of appreciation from parents, and letters and drawings and words from the students. Priceless.

Alice said...

oh MY this is a surprisingly fraught comment section! i have to say, these posts pretty much ALWAYS convince me that when i have kids, i'll give their teachers a) a card/drawing BY my kid, and b) a small target gift card. THE END.

(while i've never taught a class, i did teach piano for several years. i've kept every photo of the kids their parents tucked into a card, as well as every hand-written thank you note from the kids themselves.)

LoriD said...

Teacher gifts are such a stressful thing! I used to think it was nice to give them a nice tree ornament or premium chocolates, but then I've seen comments on blogs like yours that actual teachers think these things are crappy and are often tossed aside.

I don't know why teachers don't just write a note at the beginning of the year telling parents that personal gifts are not necessary and that a gift or donation for the classroom, although not at all necessary, would be appreciated. It would take the pressure off everyone and it would eliminate any notion of Coach bags and gifts over $50.

Swistle said...

LoriD- For me, too! I used to think I was doing something really good by buying teachers things like chocolate that was more expensive than I'd ever buy for myself: going for small and quality rather than big and something I wouldn't want myself. But the comments on these teacher gift posts have sent me right to despair on the whole subject. Now I just do gift cards.

Anonymous said...

I teach at a private school where each grade level has a service organization that the students in that grade level serve monthly all year (nursing homes, public library, animal shelter, soup kitchen, etc.). The faculty and admin. of the school decided early on the planning and development of the school to encourage families to give to the organizations that their students serve instead of the teachers. Some families have an irresistible urge to give teacher gifts, so they do (and the gifts are ALWAYS nice things like sweet notes, coffee mugs, small gift cards or baked goodies). And that's always appreciated.

What is interesting is that the the families have begun to organize a gift tree (or an angel tree as their sometimes called). So you grab a few ornaments and the gifts on the ornaments are specific items that can be used by the organizations that the students serve (canned food, blankets, dog toys, etc). The students actually help think of things that are needed and the teachers relay that info to the parent group who organizes the tree. It's quite nice. The organizations are always delighted, the kids are involved on several levels (choosing gift suggestions and then helping their parents buy them), and there is less pressure for everyone involved in the teacher gift department.

Also, let me remind you that teachers are regular people. Some regular people are highly critical gift recipients. Other regular people love everything they get. And then there are the regular people who fall somewhere in between. Teachers who complain about gifts from their students probably complain about gifts they get from their own children!

Why worry about whether a teacher likes a gift or not? Do your best to show your appreciation and if that means giving a gift, pick one you think is thoughtful and move on!!

Anonymous said...

Gah. I mean *as they're sometimes called*

Meg said...

Wow, I was very unaware of the teachers/parents having to buy the class supplies... I'm from England and totally took for granted the fact its all supplied.
Anyway, I worked in a nursery School for three and a half years and the gifts that were by far the best were the picture cards (photos or drawings) the lovely letters and the home baked yummies.
One parent put together little goody bags with facemasks/packs in and dove body washome baked brownies and biscuits, some chocolate coins and other little gifts and these were buy far our favoritemakes a change from a rush brought meaningless item,sometimes
its better not to buy something than to paic buy and give something pointless.
My Mum is a teacher and I can't believe the amount of umbrellas she has recieved over the past few years... honestly, I have no idea why these seem to be the gift of choice!
I like what some of you have been saying about the schools getting gifts for either the class or for others in need, seems like such a good thing to do at Christmas, may have to suggest that here.

Meg said...

Ack sorry overwrite kept overwritting so that comments far from perfect!
I wouldn't like to feel forced in to buying or contributing though and you really should feel like you have the choice and do what feels right by you and your child who I suppose should have some say as its primarily their teacher....

Meg said...

Also also.... that wasn't ment to sound in anyway rude :S I was so worried by the spelling and everything kept getting over written :(
And now I seem rude ... and I was trying to say less is more and the little things are what counts and I can't believe the gifts some of the teachers get! wow.... I would be so excited with a gift card... and then probs have to resist the urge to hand it back lol! Handmade things,and very small gifts like mugs and chocolates and cookies are the norm here... Your Teachers should be very thankful :)
I will now refrain from filling up your comments with my paranoid pregnancyness!

kakaty said...

I wasn’t going to comment because I am of the dissenting opinion, but I’ve let it marinate for a couple of days and I can’t help it.

Here's the thing about giving gifts to anyone: we often make it about us and not the recipient. We often buy stuff that WE like/want and not take into account what the recipient wants/needs. (Disclaimer: I LOVE wedding and baby registries. Unless you are a very close friend I would never assume to know exactly what you want/need or what would make the most impact as a gift).

So, when it comes to teachers we tend to think “Oh, this is a great little box of expensive chocolates! I would love to get these!” without thought to the fact that she may very well get 30 little boxes of expensive chocolates. And no one needs or wants 30 boxes of expensive chocolates. And gift cards are fantastic, but let’s just think about receiving 30 $5 gift cards to 12 different stores scattered around town. While very generous and useful - also a pain in the ass to use.

My mom has taught for 30+ years and she most appreciates the notes and cards. She is grateful for any and all gifts but as an outsider I can tell you that she keeps the mugs/ornaments/nick-knacks for a year or 2 out of pure obligation and then they get donated or tossed. While you may think it’s heartless if she didn’t she’d be on the next episode of Hoarders. Plus do you know what kind of tacky junk 8 year olds pick out? It’s one thing to get excited about an ugly figurine picked out by your own kid – something else entirely when it’s from someone else’s child.

Here is why I like the pooled gift idea and why I’d participate in a heartbeat: 1) It takes the pressure off me to remember to get a gift for the 3 occasions mentioned in the OP letter. 2) There would be a higher likelihood of the teacher using and keeping the gift if it’s a pooled gift. (I guess I’m also assuming the collectors would know the teacher’s likes/dislikes). 3) My child would still have the opportunity to show gratitude through notes/drawings/just saying so. (last year, I interviewed my 3 year old daughter about her daycare teachers and typed up the answers – they loved it and she had fun talking about what her teachers do for her).

These posts asking about teacher gifts pop up around the web every year and I think it’s very unfair to come down on teachers who chime in with their actual preferences. There isn’t a single teacher I know who expects a gift, and yet in my experience 80% of families give a gift. I don’t think there is anything greedy or unseemly about a teacher saying “please no more tchotchkes!”

Swistle said...

Kakaty- No, no, I think we agree on a lot here: I absolutely don't think it's the least bit heartless to get rid of things the teacher can't use--of course they can't keep them all! And I don't think there's anything greedy or unseemly about asking to not to be given gifts (though of course it should be phrased politely, without referring to how burdened the teacher is by all the tacky junk her students keep choosing for her). And chiming in with preferences is not only fine but VERY USEFUL and in the past I have ASKED for such input (though it would be nice for the teachers to give some good suggestions, rather than merely expressing contempt for gifts received in the past).

What I DO think is heartless AND greedy AND unseemly is saying "Don't give me this stupid cheap crap! Give me something good instead!"---and then complaining about the gifts that fail to please, as if those gifts are intended as insults. I DEFINITELY think teachers should send home notes asking for no gifts; in fact, I think the whole practice should be discontinued, since it's such a sore trial for teachers. I'd definitely rather not spend my money, so if they'd rather not receive it, that plan seems like a no-brainer. Let's start a school-contacting movement!

Farrell said...

I'm sorry if someone already said this as I didn't read all of the comments but you know what most bugs me about the email? The fact that they are asking you to respond if you want to opt-out. That way, THEY KNOW WHO YOU ARE. And depending on their personalities, they may mention it to the teacher in a snide manner, and/or hound you to participate - trying to talk you into it/make you feel guilty.

I would rather they say, "Please provide your money by X date to X person if you want to participate. Once we've calculated the yearly amount, we'll be able to collectively decide on appropriate group gifts for these three occasions this school year."

Doxie said...

As a teacher...Well... store bought gifts are thoughtful and sweet. But...not really necessary. I would prefer a nice note from the parent or a picture from the child. If you must buy a gift, buy a book for the classroom! We always need books and everyone benefits from that! Our budgets at school are being cut, so supplies for the classroom are great gifts. Like you say, the spirit of giving comes from inside...don't take that away.

CAQuincy said...

Generally, our group funds are about $5 per teacher per gift (and it's only TWO--x-mas and end-of-year) (and they ALWAYS tell us what they're planning on buying). It's ALWAYS optional. And the kids get their names on the cards even if the family decides not to donate.

My son's room parents this year asked each child to give $20 at the start of the year to cover the funds for ALL class parties (no more, "we need x bags of pretzels and y juice boxes for the halloween/valentines/x-mas/WHATEVER class party"--the room moms do ALL the shopping) AND for both the class gifts. So, $20 per child to cover two gifts and multiple parties? Those were some SMART room parents!

$35 per kid just seems so excessive--especially since you don't know HOW the money is being spent yet!