I've been a mom of a kid who has been in a school of some form for 10 years. I've been a preschool teacher for 4 years. I've been a giver and a receiver in this annual teacher gift trauma and I'd like to help make things easier... for ALL of us.
Yes - we should all be happy for what we get and it's the thought that counts. Amen and right on. But if you're reading this, chances are that you are truly interested in what teachers really do and do not want. You don't want to waste your time and money doing things or giving things that won't be appreciated as you intended.
Our school is brilliant and keeps a book in the front entryway that holds a survey all the teachers filled out at the beginning of the year of their likes - favorite stores, snacks, colors, restaurants, et cetera - and "wish list" items. Ask if your school has anything like that and you are golden.
I asked teachers, and here are their actual responses when I asked them what they DON'T want:
- Mugs. Overwhelming, number 1 response. In the name of all that is coffee-related, please don't give us any more mugs.
- Teacher-related picture frames. We don't really keep pictures of past classes in our homes (that seems a little creepy) and we don't have space in our classrooms to display years' worth of class pictures. Ditto to apple and school bus related items.
- Baked goods. I was surprised by this one. I'll eat pretty much anything you give me. But in talking with others, I realize that some folks are pretty picky about eating food that was prepared in the home of someone they don't know very well. Also, your teacher may be dieting and this is already a difficult time of year for that. Others said no chocolate, which I do not get, AT ALL. You show me a bag with the words "Ghirardelli" or "Godiva" peeking out, and I am all good.
- "No-name" lotions or body sprays. If your teacher specifically asks for lotion, then okay, but make sure it's the good stuff. Picking scents for other people is always tricky, and I've gotten more than my fair share of bath products that I turn around and put in some donation basket somewhere.
- Jewelry. I rarely wear it. If I've learned anything about people who DO love jewelry is that they are very meticulous about picking out their own stuff. As a friend of mine mentioned, no rhinestone encrusted Christmas tree brooches, please.
- Crap. Just... stuff. It is clear when you are giving somebody something just to give them something. Just to fulfill what you feel is an obligation. I know for a fact that a teacher would rather receive a $5 gift card somewhere than another thing to dust or clutter up their house. When in doubt, "Golden Rule" it - would you want to receive this item?
- Items of a religious nature. Unless you know - KNOW - your teacher's religious preference, steer clear. A Jewish friend had someone give her an Easter Bunny figurine at Easter one year. An avowed atheist is not going to have the same take on "the reason for the season" as you.
What DO teachers want?
Not to be crass, but gift cards. These people work hard. As I mentioned before, if all you can do is spend $5 on a teacher present, that teacher will think of you fondly when they purchase that latte on their way into work that morning.
Replenish their supplies. I think we all know that most teachers spend a lot out of pocket for their classrooms. At this point in the year, supplies are run through or badly abused. As a preschool teacher, I would be thrilled if someone sent in a 12 pack of paper towels or a case of baby wipes. Teachers of older children will appreciate pre-sharpened pencils, dry erase markers, Sharpies, hand sanitizer and the like. Want to be a hero? Find out from your school how much a roll of laminating plastic is and spring for that, or go in with some other parents. That stuff is gold in our school.
Buy them lunch one day. This was big among teacher friends. Set a date with them where you will pick up a meal from their favorite restaurant and bring it to them at school. Can you imagine what a treat that would be?
Find out what their favorite healthy snacks are and make them a basket to keep in their classroom. Emphasis on "healthy". Protein bars, water bottles, dried fruit... things that will not add on pounds or make their blood sugar spike through an already busy day.
Mani / Pedi gift certificates. Several said this would be great, but know your teacher. This gift would be completely lost on me and I would probably end up passing this off on a friend. Also, some people are picky about where they get their service from - see if you can find out where they like to go and get the gift certificate from there.
Did I miss anything? If you are a teacher, let us know of any really thoughtful gifts that you truly appreciated!
Granted - your teacher may go against everything I've written here. If your teacher welcomes an ever-growing mug collection and is all rhinestone blinged out every holiday season, good on ya.