As the holiday season approaches, I have to admit that as a teacher, I get embarrassed by the gifts that the families of the children in my class give to me. Honestly, I love my job, and couldn’t imagine doing anything else…teaching is truly what makes me tick. Every year, at my school, teachers are given a fill-in-the-blank form that lets our room parents know our favorite restaurants, stores, colors, movie theaters – you name it, they ask for it. And, every year, I fill in the form and turn it in. Why? I guess because if parents are going to spend their hard earned money on me, (although I really don’t like the idea that my students should feel obligated to shop for me) I may as well try to make the process a bit easier on them.
As far as gifts…what do teachers really like? Here’s a practical guide to gifts at a variety of prices that every teacher will appreciate:
- Gift Cards: Although they can seem impersonal, they are the most practical gift out there. Restaurants, malls, big box stores, book stores, coffee shops, movie theaters – there are so many to choose from and with the variety that you can find at your local grocery store or pharmacy, the hardest part will be deciding which is the best choice. Last year, I had several families pitch in together and give me a gift card from a credit card company. I used it to buy my very first Coach bag and matching wristlet. I had a coupon and went to an outlet, but still – I NEVER would have considered making this purchase without the generosity of the families in my class.
- Spa Services: Teachers, in general, don’t spend a lot of money getting our nails done – knowing that they are too easily ruined taking staples out of walls, taking apart pencil sharpeners, or playing four square out at recess. It’s pretty easy to say that every teacher I know could use a bit of pampering every now and the.
- Picture Frames: As much as I love to have pictures of my family and friends around my house, it’s very rare that I will go out and buy myself a funky frame. The majority of the frames I have are pretty vanilla. I do have two frames, that when people come over, always seem to comment on and they were gifts from former students. One is peach with sparkly flowers and the other is pale yellow and says “Family.” Although I’m pretty sure that neither of them broke the bank, I do love how they look.
- Ornaments: If your child’s teacher celebrates Christmas, consider an ornament. Every year, when our tree is up and we start to hang our ornaments, I always come to one beautiful, blown glass ornament that looks like a present, wrapped with a purple glass ribbon. I know exactly who gave it to me, and it’s a great memory of a girl who, when she was my student, way back in 1997, was an absolute sweetie.
- Key Chains How many people do you know who have cool key chains? If you know the teachers well, you might be able to find one that reflects their personality or passionate.
- Pens: These are by far one of my absolute favorite gifts to receive and to give to my daughters’ teachers. I love fancy pens and think there something so special about pulling out one of my sparkly or sleek, fancy or chic pens. Anyone can use a ballpoint or roller ball, but how many people to you know who have teal and green polka dot pens, or gold glittered-mirror covered pens or wooden pens with Mickey Mouse? I do – and I love them all! I keep a different pen in each purse, because there’s nothing better than pulling out one of these babies when I’m in a meeting.
- Personalized Gifts: Notepads, stationary, desktop items – there are so many options to choose from and teachers love to receive personalized gifts. It shows that you’ve taken the time to have something made just for them. Just make sure you have his or her name spelled correctly!
- Favorites: Does your child come home talking about the favorite sports teams of his or her teacher? Is there one subject area that the teacher is particularly interested in? Do they love museums? Have your kids do the work for you, and find something related to the teachers favorite team or subject or place. It’s nice when kids notice what makes us tick. My middle schooler’s math teacher is a Green Bay Packers nut and Language Arts teachers live for the Steelers – you can be sure we’ll find something special for both of them!
- Words: There is one thing, that above any gift I’ve ever received, that is most special to me. Every year, I receive cards from kids, and every year, I end up with a few keepers. I’ve kept letters and cards from pretty much every single class of kids who I’ve taught (13 years, and counting…). And every once in a while, I find these cards, and I read them…and I wonder – what happened to my kids. I hope they are happy, and healthy. I hope that they have good lives. I hope that they are the kinds of people who I encouraged to do their best in life. I hope they remember that I always believed in them. Because ultimately, gift cards are spent, pens dry out, and nail polish chips, but the words that my students have written will be with me forever.