It’s that time of year. You have a list of gifts to get and three weeks to do it. Be sure to add to that list your child’s teacher. Let’s remember that that person spends more time with your child during the week than he/she does with his/her own child, so showing your appreciation would be an extra special surprise. As a teacher (and a parent) myself, I decided to come up with a list of things you might want to avoid getting your child’s teacher, and a list of things you can’t go wrong with. I have received just about anything you could think of from a porcelain cow to a clock with the Virgin Mary on the face. My teacher friend even received thong underwear from a parent once. (Don’t do that. Ever.)
But let me interject and say that ultimately, your child’s teacher will appreciate anything you give because it means you took time out and thought about them, which is a gift in itself.
So let’s get down to it.
What to Avoid:
So I read somewhere that the tradition of apple giving came from the 16th-18th centuries when parents would pay teachers with food. Believe me, if you want to pay us we prefer actual money or chocolate. Funny that the symbol of Eve’s disobedience with God and the Evil Queen’s attempt to murder Snow White is the same as that for the symbol for the teacher. Let’s just all around avoid the red-skinned evil fruit, shall we?
Cheesy Teacher Picture Frames
Let’s average that each teacher receives 3 picture frames a year (pretty normal). Okay, times that by the number of years teaching and you get 3 too many. There’s only so much bookshelf space a teacher has, and I guarantee these frames aren’t going to be displayed at her house. Just know that if you get her a frame, she’ll display it this year, but next it will more than likely go in the garage sale pile or in the donate box to Goodwill.
Teacher Coffee Mug
Most teachers I know do drink coffee. However, most teachers I know bring their own in a travel mug because we don’t have coffee pots in our classrooms. And using the equation used above, chances are your child’s teacher already has a bagillion teacher mugs in her cabinet already.
With this one I will say it kind of depends. I still have the ornaments my students have given me over the years and put them up every year. I write on the back what year I received it and who gave it to me. They are special to me, but I do have a lot. And I will just be getting more. We can’t have Christmas trees at school, or else I would get a mini tree and display them all on one. If your child makes it, all the better.
Teacher-themed Apparel (Do you see a trend here?)
Please don’t take us to the dark side of becoming that broomstick-skirt/sweater vest/wooden block necklace/clog-wearing teacher all of us youngins dread becoming. My husband swears someday I will walk around with eye glasses hanging from a beaded string atop my “You can’t scare me, I’m a teacher” sweatshirt with an embroidered collar. I vow I will not travel that dark road; I will remain a trendy girl that still wears J Crew and New York & Co. clothing. Just avoid any apparel that includes primary colors, chalkboards, or the word ‘teacher’ anywhere on it.
Okay, so the teacher-themed stuff is pretty much a no-go. Not that we don’t appreciate it, we will graciously accept anything your little one brings to us with a huge grin on our face just to please the little tater tot. But, it’s nice to get things that are actually useful to us.
What to Get Instead:
I’m not sure if you know this, but teachers don’t make a lot of money. I have probably spent well over $400 just this school year on my students so far (and the year isn’t even halfway through yet). We don’t have to spend so much, but in many cases it makes things easier. For instance, it is SO much easier for my students to have binders where they keep everything, but my school does not provide them for our grade level and they are not on our grade level’s supply list. So, I went to Sam’s and bought binders for every child plus the dividers to go inside. I didn’t have to, but it is much easier on them and me, and I think it helps prepare them for upper elementary.
Here are the top gift cards to get:
1. Teachers Pay Teachers – This is an online marketplace where teachers create lesson plans, activities, management items, etc. and sell them to other teachers. It is a BOOMING site and most teachers I know use it today. (You can find my TPT store here.) I buy more teaching stuff on this site than I would any online teacher store. They will only do gift cards through email, so if you are going to give one I would suggest giving her a card that says to be expecting one, THEN order it and have it sent to her work email address. She can then use it with her own account. She will love you forever, I promise.
2. Any teacher store
3. Staples or any office supply store near you – About halfway through the year supplies begin to dwindle and teachers begin scrambling for extras. At my particular school we are not allowed to ask parents for extra supplies, so we’re kinda left on our own to get materials that may not be provided by our school supply manager.
4. Wal-Mart – You think I’m kidding. Teachers use everything from food products to spray paint, so getting gift cards from all-inclusive places like Wal-Mart or Target works well.
5. AMAZON! If you are a military family overseas you may want to opt for an Amazon gift card. It is hard for teachers to find everything they need when teaching overseas, but Amazon usually has what we’re looking for and it will usually get to us pretty quickly. Even better, you can send her/him an Amazon gift card via email!
Teachers love homemade food! One year I had a parent who was Filipino and she would always bring me lumpia. Best surprise ever! Teachers love baked goods, especially those containing chocolate. Give a teacher a cookie and you will be her favorite. Forget the apples. Bake her cookies.
Nail or Spa Gift Certificate
My favorite teacher was my 5th grade teacher. I will never forget how wonderful she was, but I will also never forget her hands. She spent so much time pointing to things on my paper, helping me out one-on-one, and I never forgot what her nails looked like. Teachers like to have their nails did. We point to words to help kids read, we point out mistakes on their math, we walk around in heels with our toes popping through while students sit on the ground right in front of them. We like or digits to look pretty. Also, teachers are pretty stressed most of the time. Even a relaxing hand treatment would be heaven for a teacher. Give her an excuse to pamper herself.
Like I said earlier, supplies begin running out about this time of year, and some supplies teachers use way more than others. If you want to get her supplies, choose from the following:
1. Post-it notes. Post-it notes. Post-it notes. Every size, every color, all of them. No other brand. Nothing is worse than your Post-its not sticking to your desk (mine is covered with them).
2. THESE dry erase markers
3. MR. SKETCH Flip chart markers! The students LOVE when I use these and always want to smell them. Who doesn’t love smelling Mr. Sketch markers? And now they have many other scents besides the originals!
4. GEL PENS. I love grading papers in fun-colored pens!
5. REWARD STICKERS
6. CARDSTOCK!!!!! Teachers use this stuff ALL THE TIME and usually our schools do not provide it (or if it does, it’s gone in no time).
Most teachers I know are always trying to add to their personal classroom library, but books can be pricey. Next time your child brings home a Scholastic Book Order, think about ordering a few for your child’s teacher. Even if you duplicate a book she already owns, she’ll still thank you!
THIS is my favorite book to read aloud to kids. I swear, I have never seen kids laugh so much at a book!
Fancy Hand Sanitizer
Let’s face it, teachers work in a petri dish of germs. I can’t tell you how often I am up giving a lesson and look over to see little Johnny diggin’ for pirate treasure in his nose, or little Maria sneezing in her hand just to wipe it on her shirt (A kid actually sneezed on my face once.). Kids are dirty, and so I keep sanitizer on my desk at all times. Kids bring in the generic stuff, but it might be nice to get your child’s teacher the kind that smells nice, like those from Bath and Body Works. Throw in some lotion too if you want…that sanitizer makes for some really dry skin!
I am all down for personalized items that are unique and different. A great place to find items like this is on Etsy (which sells gift cards, I might add). I’m not really talking about the knick-knacky things, but items that are unique and special to the likes of your child’s teacher. For instance, a necklace with your child’s teacher’s initials or birthstone on it, or if you know she/he drinks coffee, a cute handmade coffee mug cozy like this one around an actual drink from Starbucks would be cute. (If you want to see a teacher smile just bring her a grande coffee from Starbucks. It will make her day and she’ll love you forever.)
I can tell you that the most treasured items I have ever received from students are those handmade by either the child or their parent. When I taught multiage I had a parent make me a wall hanging that all of my students signed. Another parent sewed this wall hanging for me with a picture of my class, and a beautiful message of thanks.
Both hang in my classroom every year and I will keep them forever. Even if it’s something as simple as a sweet letter from your child, it will be kept. Really love your child’s teacher? Write a letter to her yourself and send a copy to her principal. That’s just about the best thing you could do for a great teacher. That happened to me one year and it was one of the highlights of my entire year. Teachers live to help your child succeed, and when that is acknowledged and appreciated, it is a huge gift to us.
I hope these ideas give you a little guidance on what to get your child’s teacher for the holidays. Teachers spend a ton of their own time on making sure your child’s academic, social, and emotional needs are met, so I hope you will take a few minutes to give their gift some thought.