If there’s one thing we’ve learned as parents over the past few years — educating children is much more complicated than we first imagined. Our kids’ teachers are great and deserve some credit for their efforts this Teacher Appreciation Week.
The teachers are handling more than usual and making it appear easy. Is there a way we can find the perfect present to express our eternal gratitude? What should we get them, and how much should we spend? In all honesty, there is no simple solution to this problem.
Teacher Appreciation Week is May 8-12, so now is an excellent time to start thinking about them again. Fortunately, we consulted with some friendly educators who filled us in on the specifics of classroom gift-giving (the truth: don’t buy scented candles).
You’re better off with gift cards, as that was a general opinion. We also asked worldwide etiquette and contemporary manners expert Sharon Schweitzer for her thoughts, and she provided us with helpful advice for giving back-to-school presents.
Note: Although this advice was designed with holiday gifts in mind, it is just as useful for Teacher Appreciation Week or the end of the school year.
What should you buy for teachers?
We found that most educators would rather receive gift cards than other types of presents—particularly those redeemable for educational resources (unfortunately). So, refrain from buying the teachers useless trinkets. A local educator in the Hartford, CT area has confirmed that odd-smelling candles, chocolate of any kind, baked cookies (apologies, mothers!), and other miscellaneous gifts from home items are not appropriate. Less is more!
Schweitzer, an etiquette expert, advises parents to verify the school’s gift-giving guidelines before making a purchase. The norms around gift-giving at schools can vary widely. In some instances, specific types of presents are strictly forbidden. Although cash and gift cards can be used as currency, they are generally frowned upon as attempts to influence a student’s academic performance, regardless of whether they are given or received at a public or private institution. Asking the front desk is a safe bet.
Having room parents coordinate group gifts eliminates the need to create an original present for each teacher. When resources are pooled, bias is eliminated.
It’s up to the parents to decide how much of a contribution they can make. A typical gift card contribution is between $50 and $100 per set of parents. Don’t empty your bank account on empty gestures, and contribute from the heart.
One educator told us, “As a teacher, the nicest presents are gift cards I can spend on things for the classroom.” Amazon, Target, and Michaels are examples of such places. “Truth be told, we already spend a good chunk of our own money on your kids before we’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting them, so gift vouchers to aid with supplies would be very appreciated.”
“I never have any expectations,” one primary school educator in California told us. “I want them to have beautiful memories, emphasize kindness, and perform their best in my class. To that end, I’ll say that the parents of our school’s students tend to shower their professors with gifts and love. I think gift cards are the most frequently given present. More than half of the students will contribute between $25 and $100, while the other pupils may get presents. Teachers who receive gift cards can afford to pamper themselves more frequently than they otherwise might. I enjoy receiving presents from my students because they are usually thoughtful and often reflect things they have observed me eating or heard me mention as favorites in the class.”
One kindergarten educator in California received Tiffany jewelry and a Coach handbag as gifts since her students attended a private school. But she also got gift cards to Target and Starbucks.
Typical gift cost
Let’s talk about something that bothers most parents: What is a reasonable or typical cost per educator? It’s unnecessary to go into debt to show your gratitude, as our resident etiquette expert is here to remind parents: “A heartfelt word of thanks can often mean more than any material gift.”
However, if your kid has the same teacher all day long, $50 could be nice (and we prefer a shared present) based on the school’s policies. Paying $10-$20 is fair if your kid only has that teacher for one class.
When determining the amount to put on the gift card, be sure to take into account where you intend to purchase it. Don’t offer the instructor a gift card to a pricey store or restaurant if you don’t want them to have to spend their own money. One educator shared, “I had several gift certificates for years since I could not afford to come out of pocket to utilize them, and I didn’t feel right regifting them.”
Teachers in higher grades get smaller presents because their students take more classes.
You shouldn’t forget those in higher grades
It’s common to shower teachers in the early grades with presents, but you should remember secondary school educators. Your child may have more of them, but that doesn’t mean they don’t like to feel valued just the same. One Los Angeles high school teacher told us that she never anticipated gifts but that occasionally students would send in small tokens of appreciation, sometimes valued up to $20.
But the finest things she received were all free: excellent behavior from the kids! “All I ever asked of my students was that they give it their all and treat each other with respect. I wish for just one day when the youngster truly pays attention and tries hard.” She adds that parents don’t have to break the bank to show appreciation for their children; a simple card or message would do the trick.
The high school gift from parents can be whatever they choose. Even a small gift, like a $5 gift card to Target or Amazon, can be pretty meaningful to a group of teachers. You can’t go wrong with a gift card, even if you think you know the teacher’s preferences. However, the cost of all that adorable personalized merchandise can add up quickly.
One educator reflects, “I remember getting a small craft box loaded with holiday candy and being so thrilled someone remembered me.” The teachers of older students often wonder why don’t parents include them. Having six or seven teachers to shop for might burden some families. Some parents may lose interest once their children reach middle school.
One middle school educator chimes in that it becomes more challenging for parents to buy this many gifts because their children have more teachers. I love it when parents send us $5 on a gift card! The occasional $50 card is a pleasant surprise, but I usually receive ones between $5 and $50.
What if there’s a unique circumstance – like the youngster dislikes the teacher or the teacher dislikes the child? As far as Schweitzer is concerned, it is irrelevant. She emphasizes that parents shouldn’t consider whether or not the teacher is liked by their child when deciding what to provide.
Teachers should be seen as collaborators in the upbringing of children. Put aside your emotions and express your appreciation for the work this individual does to help your children succeed in life. The recommendation is spot on.
If you have the funds for more presents, who else at the school should you give them to? After all, the educator in your child’s classroom isn’t the only person invested in that student’s success.
It’s important to remember that your child learns from more than just their school teacher. People who do more behind-the-scenes work are often overlooked.
An easy-to-follow gift guide for babysitters, teachers, and school staff is provided below:
- Principal: a card and baked goodies or flowers in a pot
- Secretary of the school: coffee shop gift certificate, card, or a little present
- Assistant/aide: group gift, gift certificate, or card
- School teacher: a group present with pooled resources and a handwritten note from the kid
- Multiple teachers: pooled cash for a group present
- School nurse: a café gift card, a modest present, or a gift certificate
- Instructor or private music tutor: Cafe gift card and a handmade thank-you note
- Daycare staff members: a card from your child, with cash or a group present
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