I find teacher gifts such a challenge.
& my husband IS a teacher!
Because my husband is a teacher I have had a lot of people over the years ask me about teacher gifts. Though I do find it tough sometimes I have figured out a few things out along the way. These are my observations & ideas, thoughts on teachers & gifts. I love to think about these things & share my ideas, take them or leave them. I consulted my husband on a few points but all opinions are mine from observing 15 years of teacher gifts & 6 years of being the mom of someone in school. (So, don't get mad at him, blame me & my super honesty!) I really do hope they are helpful...
(& if on the last day before Christmas break you see someone who looks like me frantically pushing her kids out the car door & racing to the grocery store to buy Amazon gift cards & signing her kid's names to them & then racing back to the school & sneaking them into their backpacks...you must be mistaken! & also, shhhhhh!)
Let's talk about teachers for a second, shall we?
They work hard, usually more hours than they are paid for & they do it with at least 20 children asking 32,000 different things from them for 6 hours a day. That being said, they are not generally expecting huge gifts from their students. Their job is challenging & they signed up for it. They don't get holiday bonuses & they are okay with it (or at least they accept it). All that to say that you shouldn't feel pressure to give your child's teacher a gift. It's seriously fine.
That being said, giving is fun & I asked my husband what he would LOOOOOVE to receive as a gift from a student &/or parent. He said 'If they are happy with how I'm doing I would just love a note telling me that. If they're not happy then a coffee mug.' Okay, he didn't say the coffee mug part, but for real, he just wants to know that he's helping the kids. If you like your child's teacher & they have helped your child, let them know. If you have observed them doing something really great, let them know. If your child has said something awesome or funny about them, let them know. It takes a little time but it means so much to a teacher to hear it.
The End (kind-of)
I could end right there, right? Write a note & you're finished! Go pour some wine! Your job here is done! But I know for me, sometimes I want to go a little further with my thanks. Lucky for you I have 16 years of Christmas, teacher appreciation & end of the year gift experience! I'm going to be as kind as I can but there may be some times when I just have to be truthful (read: coffee mugs. No matter how cute they are.). I'll be gentle.
Also, I'll be referring to my husband as Mr. Teacher. There is no good reason for this. I just like nick names.
Here are a couple of things I have learned:
In kindergarten my son decided that he wanted to get his teacher a snow globe. I was silently against it. A snow globe is kind of a personal thing, if you like them then I assume you want to pick out your own & if you don't like them, well, you don't like them. I asked him every few days, hoping that he would change his mind, trying to sneak in 'Mrs. W really seems to like chocolate don't you think?' every once in a while but he would not be swayed. In the end we got her a snow globe & I made sure to include a note that said he thought of it & picked it out & was SO excited to give it to her. If your kid has an idea & you can afford it, just do it.
Teachers get a lot of things & they are not expecting diamond necklaces (well, my husband isn't, at least). They love their students & know how kids think. Mr. Teacher has received many, many things that might not be his taste, but he is always grateful that his students & their families thought of him. & if you're embarrassed or think it is cheesy, write a little note like I did. They will totally understand. & if you can afford a little extra, throw in a gift card.
This also applies to crafts. If you're into it & your kids love doing it, do it! The effort is sweet & kids are so proud. (Need some craft ideas? Type 'Teacher Gifts' into Pinterest & I'll see you in 18 months)
Giving is Good
If you're a super busy person but you want to give a little something to the teacher & you're at Target & you see a gift pack with an array of cuteness & treats, I say pick it up! (even if it has a coffee mug in it). Thinking of your child's teacher is always kind & it doesn't have to be specially tailored to their preferences for it count. As stated before, most teachers are wonderful people, hard working & thankful to be remembered. Even better: a gift card from the big gift card rack. A restaurant card is always nice & Starbucks or another coffee place pretty much works for everyone (if they don't drink coffee they can pick out their OWN mug)
A Little Extra
If you have the time there is a little more that you can do to ensure that your gift will stand out in a sea of coffee mugs (I know you might think I'm hitting the coffee mug thing a bit hard but you have no idea. If I had saved 16 years of coffee mugs we would have the awesomest sculpture in the back yard but we still wouldn't really be using them.)
~Food Glorious Food
I know that the food issue is wrought with allergies & difficulties. If this is the case with you, skip this one. It's not worth the pain. You'll do something else, don't worry. If food is not a hot button for you & you enjoy baking & cooking, this is often appreciated. Plates of cookies & fudge are so homey & sweet. Soup mixes & dips are delish. It's true that teachers might have allergies & if you have the chance it might be good to check but even if you're not sure, they can always share with other teachers & their family. It's a nice effort & if it's your talent I say share it! Last year a student made Mr. Teacher one perfect cupcake, she decorated it beautifully & presented it to him. It was the sweetest thing. She loved doing it & he loved that she did something she loved.
~Get to know your kid's teacher.
If you can swing it, go by the classroom, check out the décor, look for clues, check the garbage can by their desk (just kidding?). My kids have had teachers who decorate with team colors (we got him a gift card to the Duck Shop), running bibs (gift card to a Running Shop & some running gels), Mary Engelbreit (thank you, Michael's Craft Store!) & sunflowers (something sunflowery). (& if there had been a teacher who we knew loved coffee mugs we totally would have added to their collection. But that is the only time.) A simple look around at drop off will give you some good ideas. Last year my son's teacher had a Keurig coffee maker in her room & I peeked at what flavor she liked. Every once in a while I would grab a box of her flavor at the store & send it in with him. It's a little thing but it's fun.
~Have your kids get to know their teacher.
We have done an array of things from simple 'Ask Mrs. N what her favorite candy bar is!' (this assumes that your child can remember what their teacher says from the time they ask to when you ask them after school) to more involved: having a little questionnaire for the kids to sit with their teacher for a few minutes after school & fill in (favorite candy, favorite drink, what they do on the weekend etc). This is nice in two ways: 1) your child is treating their teacher as a person & acknowledging that they have things that they like & enjoy doing. I mean beyond correcting 3rd grade math homework, of course. 2) You will be sure to get the teacher something they will like.
I'm not sure if i've been very clear so far so I will just say it: Gift Cards. Teachers do not make a ton of money, but they still enjoy doing stuff. Short of handing them an envelope full of cash (happened & was gratefully accepted but was a tad uncomfortable) a gift card is awesome. One time when I asked Mr. Teacher where he would want a gift card from he said “A book store would be great! Then I could use it to get some books for my classroom!”. This was his honest-to-God answer. I was like “What on earth?!?” Selfless people! Who can understand them? Anyway, we have had many a lovely date night using a gift card that he has received from a student. I can't say enough about them, they enable people to get whatever they want! (I might be more enamored with gift cards than the average person, but that doesn't mean they aren't great!)
~& On That Selfless Note...
I'm not saying that I approve of this idea because I think a teacher gift should benefit the receiver & only the receiver (& his wife) but something that Mr. Teacher loves is when a parent asks him what he needs for his classroom. Sometimes it's a certain book, or some pencils or a set of dry erase pens. I try to ask my kid's teachers & generally they need snacks for kids who don't bring them from home. & when I am at the store & I throw in an extra giant bag of pretzels into my cart knowing it's for my kids class, I feel so good about it. Probably more than I should for a $5 bag of pretzels, but there it is.
Over The Top (in a good way)
These are some examples of extra incredible things that Mr. Teacher or other teachers we know have received over the years. I'm not saying that you should do them, I'm just say that they have been talked about for years. They do require time, money & good taste. If you are in short supply of any of these, don't attempt! It's fine! There is no need to go into debt, sacrifice sleep or get your feelings hurt to show thanks to a teacher. A nice note is great (see above).
One year Mr. Teacher had a room mom who was crazy-awesome & at one point in the school year asked him to fill out a questionnaire. Then each day of Teacher Appreciation Week the kids brought him something from the list: on Monday each student gave him a bottle of Dr. Pepper, Tuesday he received 28 snickers bars, Wednesday they each wrote him a note. It took some planning but it was so tailored to him, it was awesome. & he had Dr. Pepper for months!
Another year a parent coordinated a bunch of parents together & got him a $100 gift card to a cool mall we have in the area. $100! It was incredible & awesome.
A friend who is a teacher was given the use of a vacation home for a week in the summer. Seriously awesome. Obviously this is not the norm but we're talking above & beyond & this fits the bill!
Not related to a specific time of the year but every once in a while a parent will offer event tickets to my husband. Football games, basketball games, the Circus & plays have been offered & happily accepted. If you have season tickets & can afford to, this is a really neat way to say thanks. One time, not only did they give us tickets to a game, they gave us money for babysitting. Hello Best Parents of a 5th Grader Ever!
A special note on Group Gifts:
I have witnessed some really great group gifts. (Also so many cute ideas on Pinterest) Giant platters with all of the kids thumbprints made into animals (we use it still), aprons with all of the kids signatures (great for barbequing), t-shirts with all of the kid's signatures. These are really fun & so neat to include everyone. I would just recommend thinking of the recipient in these cases. My husband is the owner of a hand print t-shirt, every child put their hand print on a t-shirt for him. The effort was sweet but what would you think if you saw a grown man wearing a shirt with a bunch of little hand prints all over his chest & back? Exactly. This also applies to art or décor of any kind. If your kid makes it & wants to give it to their teacher, totally do it. If you see something or have created something yourself just be sure that you know the taste & home décor style of the teacher. & even then, I might just skip it.
A special note about Coaches:
Coaches love sports & sharing the love of the sport with kids. They volunteer their time & talents & in most cases do not get paid. In fact they pay for their child to play the sport, too. So, not only are they giving their time & talents they are actually paying to do it. (do I sound annoyed? I'm trying really hard not to sound annoyed :). If you are grateful for the time & effort that your child's coach is giving, please let them know. A thank you goes a long way for a coach who has already worked a full day & then spent an hour wrangling 2nd graders around a field. I know it can feel like they owe it to you. After all, you've paid the money to have your kid play, right? But if you can muster it up, a thank you would be great!
Hooray for teachers!
Go forth & appreciate!
The fact that you made it to the end of this means that you care!
Pat yourself on the back & stay away from the mugs...