Stop! Don’t spend money on your kids’ teachers
I started teaching in 1997. It’s often a thankless, frustrating job, so when students remember their teachers for the holidays and at the end of the year, it definitely means a lot. It is less about the gift and more about the appreciation and acknowledgment.
Teacher gifts are very predictable. I have received dozens of candles, silver picture frames, baked goods, filled chocolates, and ceramic apples. The gifts that stand out the most are personal notes from my students and their families. Although I can’t say I still have any of the candles or picture frames, I have every note a student has ever given me.
I’ve also been on the other side of this equation. As a Solo Mom to four kids, sometimes it was hard to make sure I could cover gifts for my kids. Buying teacher gifts often seemed overwhelming and budget breaking. In recent years, some districts have prohibited gifts above a certain dollar amount, which came as a relief to me, as I sometimes felt my kids would somehow be perceived as ungrateful if they did not participate in the gift-giving rituals.
Taking off my mom hat and putting on my teacher hat, I realized that a simple note or handmade card means a lot more than the kinds of gifts that can end up left behind in the faculty lounge or forgotten soon after they are consumed.
Here are a few ideas for free, meaningful gifts your kids can prepare for their teachers. You can help if your child is too young to write or needs a little extra support. These can be done in a handmade card, on a cool postcard, or on a blank piece of paper in an inexpensive frame. Including a picture of your child is also a special touch.
- Make a list of what your child has learned. Teachers are there to impart knowledge. What better gift than to help your child articulate what he or she has learned from this teacher?
- Name five or six adjectives that describe the teacher. What comes to mind when you and your child think of this person? Let the teacher know.
- Are you and your child thankful for this teacher? During the holiday season, list the reasons why you are grateful for this teacher.
- If your child is younger, conducting and transcribing an interview about the teacher can be amusing—and touching. What does your child think a teacher’s job is? How tall does your child think the teacher is? Does your child want to be a teacher when he or she grows up? Why? Be creative.
- Write down your child’s favorite memory from the school year. When I left my last teaching job because of a cross-country move, my students made me cards with some of their fondest and funniest memories from their time in my class. Those notes are some of the best gifts I’ve ever received. They bring a smile to my face every time I look at them.
- Have your child draw a picture featuring your child with the teacher. If you can take a picture of the two of them ahead of time, you can include a photograph with the artist’s rendering.
- For older kids, creating a comic strip can be fun, especially if the teacher has a sense of humor. I have received a few over the years, and I enjoy looking back on my students’ perceptions of their time in my class.
- Communicate the growth your child has experienced in the teacher’s class. Maybe your child was painfully shy and is now outgoing. Maybe your child struggled with reading, and now loves books. Older kids may be able to express this growth on their own.
- Make a collage of items and words that represent the teacher.
It is easy to feel obligated to spend money on your child’s teacher. As a teacher, I can tell you with certainty that the best gifts I’ve received didn’t cost anything but a little bit of time and thought. Teaching is often a thankless job, so hearing about the impact we have had on your child—even if it is just a fun memory—is priceless.
Danielle Bostick, a former Solo Mom and ESME’s Wellness–Mental Health Resource Guide, is a Latin teacher, an advocate, and a mom to six kids in Winchester, Virginia. When not working as an educator, Bostick writes about the National Football League for various sites and sexual assault and child sexual abuse for the Huffington Post. You can find her on Twitter: @danibostick, and on Facebook: Dani Bostick.
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