What Teachers Really Want

. November 30, 2015.

As I flipped through a new holiday catalog over coffee with a teacher friend, I commented to her about how many apple items are available as teacher gifts. “I know,” she said, “I have most of them at home.”

Teacher gifts are on the list for many of us this year. Compared to buying for your parents or your teenage nephew, finding a teacher gift seems like a simple task. Many grab a gift card from the kiosk or some lotion from Bath and Body Works. Mission accomplished, right? Wrong. This is the person your child spends most of his time with during the school year and deserves a little more thought put into their gift. When selecting a gift this year, consider these tips before you go shopping:

Follow the Golden Rule – We have all received gifts that did not fit our tastes – knickknacks, scented candles, bath salts. When shopping for a gift, we naturally flock to something of our liking. This time, put yourself in the teacher’s place. None of us want to receive something that we won’t use. Unless you are certain of her tastes, avoid selecting a gift that may end up in her “re-gift” pile?

Finding the teacher’s interests – We want to get our child’s teacher something she will enjoy. Some parents prefer to come right out and ask the teacher in an email. While this is a direct approach, it may make some teachers uncomfortable, as if they are asking for gifts. A better way to approach it is to pick up on hints while talking to the teacher or visiting the classroom during the school year. When you take the time to get to know your child’s teacher, many ideas can be picked up in casual conversation.

A gift for the classroom – In most cases, teachers are the ones who purchase the posters, bulletin boards and books for the classroom library. By offering a gift for the class, you are taking that financial responsibility off of her. Some teachers offer a wish list of books or classroom materials at the beginning of the year. If you are unsure what to give to the classroom, choose gift cards to Amazon, Wal-Mart, or Walgreens and let her pick out something she needs.

Gift cards for the teacher – Teachers receive a lot of gift cards. They are an easy gift to pick up and it allows teachers to pick out something they want or need. Do your research before selecting a gift card. Don’t get your child’s teacher a gift card for a manicure if she bites her nails. Stay away from Starbucks gift cards if he doesn’t drink coffee. If you are not sure, consider a Visa gift card.

Homemade gifts – Do’s and Don’ts

Do: We all like to know that something we did, no matter how small, made a difference in someone’s life. Make a classroom scrapbook with personal notes from the students and parents. Take the time to tell your child’s teacher how much your child enjoys his daily knock-knock joke or how much you appreciate the teacher spending his lunch hour to help your child with math.

Don’t: Give your teacher a homemade tile coaster or individual artwork to display. Many teachers are moms just like you. As a parent, we find it hard to find a place to display all the artwork our own children make for us. After a while, the room starts to look cluttered with foam frames and colorful drawings. With 25 kids in the class, whose artwork would you choose to display? To be fair, the answer would be none of them. Your child’s homemade gift will end up in a box shortly after the thank you note is written.

When money is tight, give the gift of your time. Teachers can always use an extra set of hands to do the behind the scenes work to prepare for the day’s lesson. The holiday season is an especially busy time as teachers shift their classroom from pre to post holiday decorations. With the help of you and your child, your teacher can get the job done quickly and be able to start her winter break that much faster.

When showing your teacher how much she is appreciated, you don’t have to wait for the holidays to do so. There are several opportunities throughout the year to show your child’s teacher how much you value her. A simple and sincere thank you for her time and dedication goes a long way.

Pam Molnar is a freelance journalist and mother of three.
She enjoys giving gifts to the people who are such a big part of her children’s day.