Gift-giving shouldn’t be so complex. Yet, when it comes to thanking your child’s teacher, either at the holidays or at the end of the school year, figuring out what to give can be more difficult than your child’s hardest homework assignments.
To make matters worse, in recent years some parents have upped the ante, going way beyond the traditional tin of homemade cookies to big-bucks gift certificates and elaborate gift baskets. That leaves the rest of us wondering if we too should be providing these kinds of expensive gifts for teachers.
Here are five unique – an affordable – ways your family can say “Thanks” to a beloved teacher:
1. Band together. “We recommend group gifts from the whole class,” says Ames Martinez of the National Parent Teacher Association. While some groups of parents pitch in to buy a big gift, you don’t have to spend a lot. Parents and students could wash teachers’ cars, collect items for the classroom or even create a huge poster that says, “We have the best ‘supply’ of teachers and staff around!” If you are collecting funds for a teacher gift, provide a range (say between $5 and $10) so parents have an option to give what they can, and it doesn’t go overboard.
2. Do your own thing. While group-giving may be convenient, it’s not for everyone. “If you don’t participate, you don’t need to provide a big explanation, and you shouldn’t even feel a tinge of guilt,” says Stacy DeBroff, author of The Mom Book Goes to School. Just tell parents who ask for your participation in a group gift that you’d “like to give your own gesture of appreciation.”
3. Think outside the box, or at least outside the traditional classroom. Most homeroom teachers receive dozens of gifts. While you’re in the gift-giving mood, remember the librarian who selected the novel your son loved, the language teacher who taught your daughter to say “I love you” in Spanish, or the nurse who read to your sick child until you could pick her up from school.
4. Give early. By receiving gifts before a school vacation, teachers can wear the gift, display it or, in the case of food, share it with other staff at the school. A big plus for parents: By sending in gifts a few days early, you help eliminate the chances that you’ll find the teacher’s gift squashed at the bottom of your child’s backpack at the end of the vacation.
5. Write. Teachers appreciate handmade thank-you or special occasion cards from students and thoughtful notes from parents. Better yet, if you’re particularly pleased with your child’s teacher, write a letter explaining why and send a copy to the principal.
Whether you’ve stayed up all night sewing a quilt or hastily purchased a plant, most educators agree: The real gifts are the grins on children’s faces as they deliver them to their teachers.
Updated August 2012