While this post isn’t 100 percent green and frugal, I thought the readers with school-aged kids would find it helpful.
It’s that time of the year where parents let out a collective groan–and I’m not talking about the upcoming school-free, winter break, when your kids will be looking to your for their daily entertainment. No, I’m talking about that holiday teacher gift.
If your child is in preschool or elementary school, then you know what I’m talking about. You’re likely in one of these two situations. You’ve got an over-anxious classroom parent who has just started sending secretive messages home in backpack mail about chipping in for the teacher gift, and she hasn’t given you a lot of time to think about how much you want to contribute. Or, you’re anxious all on your own because you have no idea what to buy the person who spends six hours or more a day educating your child, and since no one has reached out about a collective gift for Mrs. Smith, you’re going to have to do some solo shopping.
Fret no more. I’ll help you navigate the etiquette of teacher gifts and come up with ideas that are appropriate, based on your child’s age, and her teachers likes and dislikes. This information should put your mind at ease—and make your gift shopping much easier:
When my girls were in daycare, we gave their teachers and the classroom aides each a gift certificate for a manicure. I figured that these teachers were using their hands all day long, either changing diapers or doing hands-on projects, and they could use the pampering. Some confided in me later that they’d never gone for a manicure before, and our gift was a wonderful and welcomed present. Best of all, at most strip-mall manicure shops, you can treat a teacher (or anyone else, for that matter) to a manicure for less than $20.
NURSERY OR PRESCHOOL
While preschool or nursery school teachers might enjoy a manicure as well, when my daughters were in preschool, I would give the teacher a book to read or a gift card to a local bookstore. Either way, each gift would come with a personal note. For the book, I might write, “I thought this book was such a great page-turner that I wanted to share a copy with you, in hopes that you would enjoy it as much. Happy reading!” With the gift card, I would write in the card something like this: “I hope you can use this gift card to treat yourself to a book you’ve been dying to read.”
I still love the notion of a gift card to a bookstore—especially if I can support a local business. However, these days I might choose a gift card to the local coffee shop instead, whether it’s a chain like 7-11, Wawa, Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks, or the mom and pop “Joe’s java” shop near to the school. This is an especially relevant gift if I’ve run into one of my children’s teachers there in the morning, when I stop in to get my daily java. Then I know for sure that they’ll love and use this gift on their morning coffee run—if not this year then when they come back to school in the fall.
Another gift idea is a bit of a twist on the traditional, and I can thank my daughter’s long-ago first grade teacher for inspiring me to give this kind of gift.
Believe it or not, on back to school night in September, she talked about, of all things, teacher gifts. During her presentation the teacher told the parents straight out not to plan on getting her any gifts at the holidays or at the end of the year. “I’ve been teaching for 30 years and really don’t need anything,” she said. What she did need, though, were new board games for the classroom—games that the children could use during indoor recess. She then pulled out a Connect Four box that was haphazardly taped together to prove her point.
That year our family bought a new Connect Four for the classroom, and I believe many other families selected the gift of board games as well. We made the same gift choice in second grade, and we might go back to that gift idea this year if we discover that our children’s teachers aren’t coffee drinkers but instead favor Candy Land or Chutes and Ladders.
MIDDLE SCHOOL & HIGH SCHOOL
In most instances parents feel that they get off the teacher-gift hook when their kids make the transition to middle school and high school. I think that this is because their kids have more than one teacher throughout the day and the parents don’t develop the same repertoire as they might have with an elementary school teacher who has their son or daughter seven hours a day. In addition, they might feel overwhelmed with buying gifts for seven or eight teachers.
Even though both of my kids are in middle school, I’m still giving gifts. And I know that teachers appreciate it because so few families do.
Last year I stuck with my tried-and-true gift card to the local coffee joint where I know teachers stop in the morning. However, I did change the amount I put on each of these gift cards because of how many I had to buy. Instead of the $25 I might have spent on the solitary elementary school teacher, this time around I did $10 per teacher.
This year, the money is a bit tighter but I don’t want to let those teacher gifts slip by the wayside. So, since I know that good causes are also feeling the pinch, I plan to make two $50 donations to two education-related organizations in the teachers’ names, and then let them know that in a hand-written card. My causes of choice, by the way, are the local public library and our school district’s education fund.
How are you handling teacher gifts this year?