Thursday, June 2, 2011

End-of-Year Teacher Gifts

In the last few days, I've seen Facebook discussion threads asking for teacher gift suggestions, talked to a friend about what she's doing this year for her child's awesome teacher, and sent my contribution in towards my daughter's class gift.  End-of-year teacher gifts are a hot topic right now - and, as a former teacher, it's a topic that's close to my heart.  Especially in this economy, especially in the current climate of cuts to education and de-valuing of the profession in the comment section of every online article, it's so important to thank teachers for a job well done, for a year of tending to our littles.

So, what do the teachers want?

Here's what they don't want:

  • a mug.  Trust me, they have received 1,000 mugs already.  No, really.  1,000.
  • anything apple-themed, no matter how nice it is.  (I once received a beautiful, expensive, lovely crystal apple from Tiffany & Co.  I exchanged it.)
Here's what they do want:
  • a gift card.  Most especially a gift card to a bookstore.  (Do you know ANY teachers who aren't personally passionate about reading?  Me, either.)  This is great because they can buy books for themselves, books for their classroom, books as gifts for others, books for their own children or family members, or any of the other sundry items that bookstores sell, like cards, coffee, calendars, music, home decor, stuffed animals, magazines, etc.  Bonus:  get the gift card to a LOCAL bookstore and feel especially good about supporting a small business.  
  • an item (WITH GIFT RECEIPT) that you are quite sure they would like/use based on your knowledge of their hobbies or their life.  This one is trickier, because you really have to know the teacher in an outside-the-classroom way, but if you do, you can pull it off.  I was happily gifted with a great running jacket, a silver charm bracelet, a gift certificate to a nearby fancy restaurant, a Nigella Lawson cookbook, a spa day, and a Kate Spade purse over the course of my career, and I loved every single one of those gifts.
  • a small, personalized or homemade token (homemade granola, cookies, picture your child painted) PAIRED WITH a gift card in a similar theme.  This is a creative option if you're the crafty/baking type.  For example, you could make some biscotti, wrap them in cellophane, attach a little "Thanks a Latte!" card, and then include a gift card to Starbucks or your local coffee shop.  See how it's thoughtful (and a little more effort than just a gift card), but still allows the teacher to buy whatever they like the most?  Win-win.
  • a donation in their name to the school foundation or annual fund.  This is great for a teacher who probably doesn't need or want much in the way of consumable goods, and it's a nice way to publicly recognize the great year your child has had as well as your financial support of the school.

No matter what gift you choose to give (or even if you're simply contributing to the class/group gift) the most important thing is that you include some type of personal note to the teacher.  This is not just a generic "You're #1 Teacher!" card; this is an actual, handwritten note that specifically thanks the teacher for the ways in which they have nurtured your child this year.  At the end of a long, exhausting year of teaching, it is so affirming for a teacher to hear that you recognize, value, and are grateful for the important work they did.  

Tucked into Nigella Lawson's How to Be a Domestic Goddess, I still have one of those notes, an excerpt of which reads as follows:

M and I would like to thank you for a job beautifully done.  A had her problems adjusting to the demands of second grade and a brand new teacher.  You gained her confidence quickly, showed her how much you cared about her progress, and before we knew it, we had a beaming second grader, ready to burst out the door each morning to start another busy day in Mrs. D's classroom.

I have a note somewhere, too, from a long-ago student which reads:

Dear Mrs. D.,
If I had the choice of getting thirty dollars or coming to live with you, I would come to live with you.

The point is this:  It's June, and there's probably a teacher around that deserves an end-of-year gift.  So go buy a gift card, take the time to write a sincere note, and make a teacher's day.

1 comment:

  1. Some years I've had my kids write down everything they remember about the year. The things they remember are so assorted, they can end up unintentionally funny---or even surprisingly touching.

    I like to combine these with a Target gift card. Because TARGET. Who doesn't like TARGET?