Lord knows that I try my hardest to give thoughtful gifts to my kids’ teachers. This is partly because I just love to give a gift that’s well-received, and partly because my children are hellions (and as I can’t just give out the large wads of cash their teachers so richly deserve, I have to make do with what I have).
So you know that I couldn’t pass by this question:
Lovely Mir, please help me. I was foolish not to take advantage of the deals you had previously highlighted as being great gifts for teachers. Now I am looking for something to give to my children’s teachers (and also their assistants) for the holidays that would be both appreciated by them, and inexpensive for me. I admit that last year I gave mugs, and although they were very beautiful mugs, I do not want to give mugs again. Please help me find creative ways to say thank you to their teachers!
(Also, I have several people that I usually give little token gifts to during Christmas, and if I could just give the same to everyone, well, that would be beyond wonderful.)
Many, many thanks -
The first thing I’ll do is refer you back to this post, because many of my favorite ideas are in there. But let’s break things down by category a bit.
Disposable pampering. Bath stuff and candles are a bit dicey for teachers, because—like mugs (sorry)—they probably get a lot of them. On the other hand, if you know the teacher and know she truly enjoys that sort of thing, why not? At least—unlike mugs—these are things that get used up, so it’s not as though they’ll accumulate endlessly. Just know your recipient.
Edibles. I’ve heard teachers come down on both sides of the fence on this one, but I maintain that edible gifts are good for the same reason as those in the above category: they’re disposable. If a teacher loves gifted food, great. If not, they can share it, give it away, or throw it away. Now I’m going to look down my nose at you and add a caveat to this. Give gourmet (purchased) food or really good (homemade) food, only. If you’re baking, make sure it’s something people have raved about before. Just sayin’.
Teacher tools. I’ve mentioned buying labelmakers and books here, before. But just about every teacher I know is more than happy to receive school supplies. Depending on your child’s grade level, that gives you huge latitude; everything from puzzles to software to lab supplies are fair game. I’ve yet to meet the teacher who claimed to have everything she needed for her class generously covered by the existing school budget.
Storage. Who doesn’t need more storage? Whether it be a snazzy solution for the classroom or a funky tote bag (show me the teacher who doesn’t have loads of stuff to cart to and fro and I’ll… well, I’ll be incredulous), this is always—to frame it in Thomas the Tank Engine terms—a Very Useful Gift.
Holiday-themed. This is another tricky one, because you don’t want to be giving Christmas ornaments to people who are Jewish or otherwise not interested in the holiday. But if you are certain that your target is a devotee of all things Christmas, you can buy an ornament or a CD of Christmas music or something like that. I buy pretty ornaments on clearance in January (right now I have a stash of Lenox porcelain snowflakes in my basement, in fact) for just a dollar or two apiece, then I use them as the decoration when I’m wrapping up a plate of cookies or whatever.
Handmade from the kids. I’m conflicted about this option, because on the one hand, most teachers really do like it when the student puts in the time and effort to do something for them. On the other hand, unless they plan to build their homes out of lopsided clay sculptures and such, there’s only so many of these things they’re going to want. Sometimes I split the difference on this one by letting the kids “cook” (translation: I supervise them making cookies or dunking pretzels in chocolate), and then we have both “handmade from the kids” and “edible/disposable” covered.
Gift certificates. This is a great option because most teachers are thrilled to be able to go out and eat or buy a book or pick up supplies on someone else’s kindness. But this is a mediocre option for kind-hearted bargain-hunters because 1) it’s very hard to get GCs on sale and 2) no matter how well-intentioned, sometimes it just feels very impersonal. I’m not saying don’t do it; heck, I’ve done it. But… well, you have to decide what works for you. I generally feel a little warmer and fuzzier going the gift certificate route when there’s a group of us chipping in; that way it doesn’t cost me much and I rest assured that the resultant gift is sufficient to really go/do/buy something.
Collection-themed. If you know enough about a teacher to know that she has a thing for frogs or she collects miniature lighthouses, you can go this route and find the just-right, perfect gift. Maybe. Only do this if you know the teacher well. My daughter had a teacher two years in a row who loved all things pig. We bought her a variety of pig novelty items over the years. I wouldn’t try that with a teacher I wasn’t as friendly with, you know?
Most of these are things you’ve probably already considered, but I hope I’ve come up with a few new ideas for you. The old adage of “it’s the thought that counts” is true, but not the way people usually use it. It’s not that you thought to buy a gift that counts, it’s that you really try to find something you think the recipient will enjoy. Do that, and you’re unlikely to go wrong.
Whenever you give a teacher gift, it’s best accompanied by a short but personal note that conveys your appreciation. That is the best gift of all.