Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Truth About Teacher Gifts

Guru Louise and I asked you about what most teachers really want for end of the year gifts. We got hundreds of answers on Facebook, Twitter and in the comments section. Many of the comments were from teachers. We asked for the truth and we got it. Thank you.

Here was our goal with this:
Figure out what teachers really want and need, so that we can all avoid dealing with stuff that is expensive, stupid and unnecessary. 

Here's what we learned:
Teachers like gifts and the thoughts behind them very much. They're extremely grateful when parents take the time to think of them and appreciate their hard work.

But consider the following:
  • They have lots of students.
  • They have lots of students every year.
  • They have a limited capacity to store trinkets and knick knacks from their students.
Do you see this mug? Teachers do not want mugs, teacher-themed knick-knacks or anything with apples on them. Imagine getting a mug describing your job (#1 Accountant!). Then imagine getting 5 or more of the pretty much the same mug - every single year.

Ditto with candles. Candles were mentioned over and over again. As were scented lotions, hand creams and body washes. It's a really nice thought but most teachers get tons of them and many prefer to pick the scent they use themselves. 

Also, while teachers appreciate the time invested in making something, they usually don't have room to keep all the craft projects and Pinterest-type presents they receive. And then they feel bad when they can't keep them and the point is not to make them feel guilty for not keeping something they don't have room for. As I am personally craft-impaired - this made me irrationally happy.

Another no-no? Home-made treats. While some teachers like them, many more stated that they rarely ate the home-made treats because they were dieting or were just very careful about eating food prepared in kitchens they were unfamiliar with. Totally understandable.

So here's a list of things NOT to get for teachers:
  • Candles
  • Mugs
  • Anything teacher or apple-themed
  • Craft projects (including Pinterest projects)
  • Large framed photos or art (limited room)
  • Home-made treats
Moving on to what teachers do want! The number one thing mentioned was not gift cards, or bottles of wine, or even cash... It was hand-written notes from kids or parents about what the teacher had meant to the student. Nearly every teacher mentioned that these notes and letters were the thing that they kept, looked at again and again years later, the things that really meant something to them.

Teachers also mentioned a lot that they didn't care how much you spend. This was a big relief to me & Louise because where we live, people can go crazy with the teacher gifts and frankly - we just can't compete.  

Next to a handwritten note, a gift card to a favorite place, a coffee shop near the school or a store where the teacher may spend their own money on classroom stuff is always welcome. Some teachers warned us to be thoughtful where the gift cards were for, as they may not get used. For example, buying a gift card for a mani/pedi at a place that's inconvenient or for a store that the teacher maybe can't afford (like a $10 card for a high end department store where nothing costs $10).

Many people mentioned that their schools or PTA's collect a list of what teachers like (or need) so you can do a little intelligence gathering that way. In fact, a mom I know just told me that such a list exists for our school and I never even knew about it!

So here's a very short list of things you SHOULD get teachers:
  • A note or letter recalling what their time has meant with your child. (We can not stress enough that this was by far the most mentioned, appreciated and wanted item.)
  • A gift card.
  • Something they need or really like that has been identified on a teacher wish list.
My take-away from reading all the comments was this:
If you want to hit a home run with your teacher's end of the year gift, have your child write a letter and pair it up with a gift card. The end.

Here's a few more things to keep in mind:
  • High school teachers: The older your kid gets, the less likely their teacher is to receive a gift. If a middle or high school teacher has done a great job, a note and a small gift card will be a great surprise and very much appreciated.
  • Day care teachers and child care workers: Day care providers are also teachers and they totally deserve some recognition at the end of the school year, too. With daycare, sometimes "the end of the year" gets muddled - because there is no summer vacation.  
  • Assistant teachers: Apparently, they don't expect to get the exact same present as the teacher. They're happy to get something that acknowledges their contribution to the classroom, which we all know is very important.
  • Special ed and resource teachers: These folks work really hard on behalf of our kids and are often over-looked. If your child is getting extra help, consider a little something-something for these hard-working teachers.
  • Non-tenured teachers: Sometimes the best thing you can do for a new or non-tenured teacher is something that costs you nothing. This was mentioned several times and seems like such a great idea - write a letter to the Principal or Superintendent of Schools praising what a good job they did. Make sure the teacher is cc'ed on the letter. It goes into their personnel file and could really help them when hiring and tenure decisions are made.
  • Support Staff: If your kid is always in the nurse's office or bugging the librarian - why not send them a nice note at the end of the year, too?
Thanks again for all your feedback! If we forgot anything to include anything - please let us know.
xo, Lydia & Louise

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2013