Saturday, December 3, 2011

12 Days of Christmas - Teacher Gifts

December is a frenzied time where students and teachers alike are doing their best to make it to the end of each week and the goal being Christmas Break.  Each teacher usually has a class party where parents bring special foods and gifts, and each grade usually has a special program where the students perform for their parents.  Most parents are scurrying around doing their own Christmas decorating, shopping, and cooking while trying to figure out what type of gift for their child to give to their teacher. All these activities create a very memorable time for the student and parent, but f you have multiple children this can sometimes get expensive and overwhelming.  In my last job, I worked as the head custodian for an elementary school.  This position opened my eyes to the waste and disregard of most of the items that parents bring to their child's school.  Each afternoon I emptied the trash for an entire school with over 1000 students, which makes for a lot of trash!  Every afternoon I would be absolutely amazed and down right irritated to see what some teachers threw in the trash.  Each day my eyes were opened more and my spirit as a gift giving parent was crushed. Some of the gifts would still be in the gift bag, and bag and all would be trashed.  Sometimes others that contained candy or other small stuff would be dumped and they would keep the container.  Most home-baked items were just given to the custodial staff or thrown away. I don't tell you this to burst your bubble, or try to talk you out of buying gifts for your child's teacher. I just want you to be aware of the reality of what I experienced, and if your budget or schedule is tighter than you would like, and these gifts are causing you more stress than joy, then maybe it's time to re-evaluate your gift list.

A few of my suggestions would be:
  • If you have a strict teacher budget of $10.00 or less then don't buy a gift
  • If you have more than one child and they have multiple teachers (school, sport, piano, dance, church, etc) then don't buy a gift
  • If you or your child feel like there is a bad connection between the teacher and you then don't buy a gift (a gift will not strengthen the relationship)
  • If you are having a hard time buying for your own family, then don't buy a gift
  • If you have to purchase it on a credit card, then don't buy a gift
Our children's teachers are very important people.  They have a huge impact on what our kids learn, how they react to success, failure, and how they feel about learning in general.  They should be appreciated, respected, and supported, but that doesn't mean you have to buy them a gift.

Here are a few of my gift replacement suggestions:
  • Donate your time once a month to come in and help the teacher with something in the classroom 
    • Lamaniting special items
    • Cutting items out
    • Grading papers
    • Packing folders
    • Change bulletin boards 
    • Sharpen pencils (kindergarten)
    • Set the room up for the next day
    • Ask her where you can help
  • Support and defend the teacher to your whining child (even if you check matters out later)
  • Write a thank you email and send it to her principal letting them know how much you appreciate the work he/she is doing with your child
  • Save the money you would spend at Christmas, Valentine's and maybe their birthday and give them a nice end of the year gift with a true thank you note ($5-$10 isn't much of a gift at one time but at the end of the year you can purchases a nice $30-$50 gift)
  • Give them a nice fruit & veggie basket.  Even the pickiest of teacher has to eat.
In my son's 7th grade year his teacher and I didn't see eye to eye at any point in the year.  My son didn't like her because she was a "tough love" teacher, and that just is not his style.  At the end of the year I gave her a thank you note with a gift basket filled with Bath & Body Works items.  My son's relationship was over with this person and I was truly thankful for her assistance dealing with my difficult student.  She sent me an email later that day thanking me for the card and gift and saying how she really appreciated the thank you because it had been a very hard year for her as well, and most parents turn a difficult year into dislike for the teacher.

If you and your child's teacher are friends, and money is no issue for you then please, gift on!  There is nothing wrong with giving, and obviously not every teacher is as disrespectful as the ones I mentioned above.  It's only when we place ourselves in a stressful situation and put our budget in a hard place to give a token gift that it would be better to not give.  

This year, take an honest look at where you are financially and what the mood of the holidays at school are and take care of your family first.  Then, if it's appropriate, take care of that special teacher!

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