Saturday, November 26, 2011

So, Just What do You Give A Teacher for Christmas?

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With Thanksgiving finally over and Christmas allowed its full reign of supremacy (or during the onset of that dratted “Teacher Appreciation Week”), many parents find themselves struggling with the age old question...yeah, you know the one: What in the world can I get for that teacher who is educating my child?

Well, perhaps, after throwing up your hands in frustration (figuratively, not literally) and racking your brain for ideas you finally decided to turn to the Internet in hopes to find something - anything - that will help you as you try to find the perfect gift. Well, I’m here to yell you that you’ve come to the right place for the answer. But before we begin, please remember that most teachers don’t expect lavish gifts from their students—a hand drawn picture or a sincere ‘thanks’ as they exit the classroom can be the most valuable and cherished gifts your child can give, and these will most certainly be treasured by the teacher than many others simply grabbed off a shelf at the local Walmart and thrown into a shopping cart.

In a word or eight: gifts are nice, but they really aren’t expected.

With that being said, let us move on to what I call The Needed 9—I would have called it the Terrific 10, but 9 was all I was able to come up with for now…what can I say? It’s late and I’m tired.

Rule 1: If you wouldn’t like this gift, then there’s a good chance the teacher wouldn’t like it either.

Most people tend to forget that teachers are real people. They have interests, lives, and even things that they do outside of school. There are only so many paperweights and green neckties with 2 Teach is 2 Touch a Life 4 Ever emblazoned upon them that one can stomach. Sometimes, what a teacher wants is something that doesn’t have anything to do with school, but rather with them as a person.

Really.

Rule 2: Candy is a big no.

Candy is probably the WORST gift you could ever give. Many teachers are finding it difficult to stay in shape when trapped in a classroom all day—couple this with the fact that they sit, correct papers, and enter grades long after the students are gone. When they’re given boxes of Hershey’s Treasures for Christmas and four our five chocolate oranges you’re not doing them any favors; plus the fact that these things are, quite simply, about the most disgusting things on the planet.

I take that back, that title is reserved solely for Peeps.

However, if you do choose to get your teacher something in regards to sweets, remember that quality has much more value than quantity after you’ve reached a certain age…Heck, I remember being a kid and when given a choice between a pint of Ben & Jerry’s or a full gallon of Snow Star (the Safeway generic, flat, nasty ice cream) I’d have taken the Snow Star every time. When I was a kid the formula was simple:

More = Better.

This type of logic only works until puberty hits—or perhaps young-adulthood. The point is that somewhere along the lines one starts to develop taste and the cheap and nasty just won’t cut it any longer.

If you are planning on getting your teacher something along the sweet lines, try for something they like. Do a little digging, do they like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups or caramel-dipped apples rolled in Skor and Butterfinger? By finding out just what it is that the teacher likes through a little covert research, you will more likely give a gift that is remembered and valued. This is a much better alternative to those items dropped into the trash on the teacher’s way out of the classroom, or given freely to nieces and nephews who’ll eat just about anything provided that there’s sugar in it.

Rule 3: Knickknacks are a waste of everybody’s time, shelf space, and money.

Look around a teacher’s classroom. There are often little hints as to things that they like. Don’t go straight for the ‘knickknack paddy crap’ shelf where they’re displaying all of the porcelain dogs and Garfield mugs that have accumulated over the years—and are now gathering a layer of very thick dust. These are only there because the teacher didn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. They’re worried that Joey will come back after fifteen years and not see the shot glass he picked up at a roadside truck stop in Nebraska, and feel crushed that his teacher didn’t save it for all these years.

Can I just start now saying that I, as a teacher, don’t appreciate stuffed animals and toys? Things that tend to clutter shelves are not really my forte – and most of the other teachers I know don’t like having shelves teeming with this that and the other—a smorgasbord of the strange and dollar store.

As a friend of mine once was eloquently observed, it never looks attractive when it appears that “the Knickknack Fairy threw up all over the shelves.”

So remember, if you ever walk into a teacher’s domain and think, “Wow, they have a lot of crap in here.” don’t be a contributor to the problem and pawn off more stuff they’ll have to display in the future. Believe me, they’ll thank you.

Rule 4: Mugs and ties = Lame sauce.

The mug with the teddy bear on the side sporting messages like, “Teachers bear the love of others.’ Just about make me puke. They don’t end up in my home, but usually wind up as proceeds in the box that makes it’s way to the local thrift industries store at least once a year.

I know; I’m crazy.

Just a quick rule of thumb, if it has a cutesy run-of-the-mill saying stamped on it, it’s probably lame.

(See again Rule 1).

Rule 5: Ask about the obvious.

One good thing to remember is that you can nearly always drop subtle questions and get the teacher to talking about their interests in books, music, or even the type of beverages they enjoy; doing this can ensure that you pick something they will most certainly love…a CD they’ve been wanting to listen to, or a book they just haven’t had the time to run out and get.

One teacher I know got a case of Diet Coke with lime for Christmas one year. She went on to say that it completely made her day…it was a gift she said she’d never forget.

Rule 6: Handmade is always appreciated.

What’s something that you can’t seem to go wrong with? Well, for me, it’s often something my students have made with their parents. I just can’t tell you just how much a pair of wooden bookends mean to me fashioned into the letter “Z.” Not only are these useful, they mean a lot because the boy who made them put in the effort. He even wrote a message on the bottom that I would find myself reading from time to time and remembering his quirky mannerisms and the good times when he was my student.

Other memorable gifts have been a pair of knitted gloves with open fingers for photo shoots when it’s cold, homemade magnets of the letter Z, a stuffed ‘Hobbes’ a student copied onto graph paper and then changed the measurements to create a more ‘real world’ sized version. These are just a few of the items that have withstood the test of time and have found a place of permanent residence in my classroom.







Rule 7: Gift Certificates are nearly always winners.

Even if you don’t want to take the time to figure out what a particular teacher likes, you can never really go wrong with a gift certificate to the movies, a restaurant they like, or an online venue like iTunes or Amazon. With these a teacher can pick what they’d like, or what suits their taste. However, getting a gift certificate to Jason’s Deli with no balance on it is probably not the best option.

It does send quite the clear message though…

Rule 8: Purchase something for the classroom itself.

One great item that you can always give that has lasting longevity is something useful for the classroom. For example, take a look at the teacher’s set of guided reading books and find a few titles that are starting to show signs that they aren’t going to last much longer...books being handled by students over the span of years - no matter how carefully they treat them - tend to wear out. Replacing a few books saves a teacher quite a bit of money and gives your child a gift they can use as well.

Another great way to get your child involved is to have your son or daughter select a few of their favorite books for the classroom library (provided your teacher has one), and then have them write a message inside the front cover (one they wouldn’t mind other students reading). The great thing about this type of gift is that it provides new book titles your child and their peers are currently reading - those the teacher may not yet be aware of. Also, it will be a present enjoyed by many others and not just another knickknack to sit uselessly on a shelf. (See Rule #3).

Rule 9: If in doubt, don’t.

Some people get that feeling inside right before they give a gift. It’s that little Jiminy Cricket voice which seems to whisper, “You really shouldn’t give this as a gift.”

That, my friends, is intuition. I say we should listen to this voice far more often than we really do. If you question whether or not a particular gift will be liked, just say no. Trust me, it seems that 9 times out of 10, that little voice knows exactly what it’s talking about.

Well, that’s about all for the moment…the Needed 9 that will (hopefully) help you in your quest to show that educator how much you appreciate them. But never forget, though gifts are nice, the best way to show your teacher you care about them is to tell them.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go dust and sort my porcelain unicorn collection…

P.S. Just for the record, one of my all-time favorite gifts from a student, I’ll call him Joey, was this.

57 comments:

Connie said...

Every parent should appreciate this list.
Enjoy your unicorns.

Kalei's Best Friend said...

Before going to your other link, I kind of knew what a teacher would want... After working for teachers and having good friends that were teachers, they all mimicked the same.. To be appreciated, for everyone including students and admins. to realize how hard a job they have.. I see both sides and both sides have to see it as well.. BTW here's an article I read today in our paper...
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-banks-20101214,0,6152058.column

Linn said...

So I might have laughed hard several times during this post. So, so awesome!

Always gift certificates for me. I'm the room parent for all three of my kids' classes this year (yes I'm aware I'm insane, yes I'm a little overwhelmed these two weeks, yes I answer questions people don't ask) and I just go to the fine teachers and say the class really wants to get you something wonderful, where would like a gift certificate to? They look so relieved and happy. And then I collect money and give them something from the whole class.

Fabulous list.

Oh and "2 Teach is 2 Touch a Life 4 Ever"? I almost didn't recover from that one.

Shauna_Rae said...

Thanks for the advice and ideas!!!

Mindee@ourfrontdoor said...

My mom is a retired teacher. Her kids specialized in mugs and ornament. She could decorate an entire tree with teacher ornaments.

Her one big "no thank you" was for homemade food. She felt like, even if they were okay to start with, by the time the treats had made it to school on the bus in a 7th graders backpack they should not be eaten.

Anonymous said...

Sniffle. Give me back the unicorn. I can't believe you don't appreciate a ring holder when you see one. A key ring that is.......

I'll give it to Mr. M's teacher. I know HE'LL appreciate it! He's got a shelf full of them.

Kristina P. said...

What about a dart board with their face on it?

Cheeseboy said...

This is the PERFECT POST!!! So brilliant!!! Bravo!

Hope you don't care if I link to this post tonight on my blog. I'll totally hype it up.

Around November, I start dropping major hints.

"DANG, WISH I HAD SOME CHEESE FRIES FROM TRAINING TABLE TODAY! You kids have been so noisy today. That's really what I wish I had today".

Nicely done, Mr. Z from Mr. Y.

Jillybean said...

So basically what you're saying is that you would like a mug with a cartoon character and a sappy saying on it filled with cheap candy and a stuffed animal wearing a green tie with another sappy saying on it?
;0)

One year my daughter made flower pens in a flower pot for her teacher (who was always losing her pens) she loved them, and two years later when my son was in her class she was still using them. (He made her more of them because they were starting to run out of ink)

Mamma has spoken said...

Yes, gift cards are the BEST gifts for teachers.
This year as I put out my way to many Christmas decorations, it was a trip down memory lane since 90% of my decorations were gifts from students. Needless to say, after 26 years in the classroom, my house looks like someone threw up Christmas. There is not a bare spot to be found...

FabuLeslie said...

I'm so glad you posted this, and I wish I had thought of it! I got my first Christmas gift of the year today. (I will have to post a pic of it tomorrow with a link to your post, which is so informative that my readers will want to read it.) Anyway, the gift made me smile and warmed my heart. I have to be honest though: every year, everything other than gift cards and candy go on my shelf until the end of the year, when they get collected in a bag and go to goodwill. The candy goes immediately into the teachers' lounge, unless it's a holiday Reese's shape, like a Christmas Tree, Easter Egg, or pumpkin. The gift cards... now those, I dip in honey, I lick it off, and then use them with unabated joy.

Tami said...

Hmmmm.....while I generally applaud this post, I will have to add my own amendment. Candy is really good when attached as an embellishment to a gift card.

Also, when you said "couple this with the fact that they sit..." I did giggle a bit. I can't remember the last time I sat during teaching first grade (other than to read aloud). Maybe I should switch to fifth.

I wish this were required reading for all parents. At the risk of sounding ungrateful of course. Those homemade-thoughtful-I care about what you like-kinds of gifts are truly awesome.

I'll take a can of Diet Coke over a resin bright blue dolphin any day!

Thanks for the post.

cari said...

How about if I make a cool frame made of candy, propped up with a cute knick knack and put a picture of my son for you to have forever? :)

Nuttley said...

If by some awesome chance you do get PEEPS, I know someone who'll gladly take them off your hands...


I'm grateful for this post- it made me 99.5% sure you'll love your gift this year.

Oilfield Trash said...

Awesome post.

Teachinfourth said...

C - I hope so…unicorns are the bomb.

KBF - Appreciation is the best gift…now I'm off to check your link.

L - Room mom for all three? Holy Hannah…

Your method is a good one for gift giving.

S - No problem…hope you can find that perfect item.

M - There have been a few homemade treats that end up not consumed simply because I don't know if I can trust the kitchen they came from…I do do home visits at the start of the year, you know…

A - Curses! I was hoping you wouldn't see this post…

K - Only certain people.

CB - Post away. I'm flattered…truly. To be mentioned on Cheeseboy's blog? That's the ULTIMATE compliment!

J - Wow, you nailed it right on the head!

B - LOL…there are a few ornaments which hold a special place…

FL - I'm dying to know what it was. Looking forward to reading up on your blog and seeing the 'mystery gift' in a day or two.

Link away…I'd be honored.

Reese's cups? Back up the truck, I'll make room for a caseload.

T - Again, Tammy…see #2 (Quality verses Quantity).

I find myself sitting at the end of the day entering in all the grades and such…guess there isn't too much homework in first and second grades.

C - You know, it's funny…the gifts from your kids have lasted the test of time. There's just something about those things which carry that sentimental value.

Framed version of the M-Ster? Could Christmas get ANY better than that?

Parkour!

N - And I'd gladly hand them off…

99.5% eh? Them be some pretty good odds (spoken in a pirate voice).

Jen @ Sunshine4Teachers said...

I just wrote about the same topic on my blog. Glad to see I'm giving my fellow parents just what teachers want. www.sunshine4teachers.blogspot.com I'd love any other ideas you can suggest, Mr Z.

mintifresh said...

One of the best posts ever! Brilliant!

Now I know what to get my teachers-porcelain unicorns. No mugs, tho...that'd be tacky!

Teachinfourth said...

J - Amen! Spread the word…

MF - I don't know about porcelain unicorns, but those made of cut crystal? Perfect!

Vanessa said...

Beggars can't be choosers. Try teaching SPED and Secondary Ed. I got totally screwed. I longed for a bear in a mug or even a crappy piece of candy.

But, like I told Abe, I was Teaching 2 Touch Lives 4 Ever. That made up for it. That and my awesome salary.

Emmy said...

Oh perfect very timely post! Thanks. And don't worry no mugs will be given from this household.

Mikki said...

Very helpful indeed. I was just thinking today of buying some chocolate for my daughters teacher. Now maybe I won't, although she supposedly does like chocolate. I'll just invest in the good stuff as you suggest.

Stef said...

This was actually quite helpful and validating. This year we were doing a homemade card and a gift card to Borders.
Hope some of your parents are reading your blog...

Cheryl said...

Thank you! This is a great post! I make sets of handmade greeting cards for my female teachers every year and give gift cards to the men (only because I'm assuming the men don't like flowers and bling on cards). Glad to hear both are okay, and excellent to know that candy and homemade food are no no's.

I think I'm going to share this info on my blog, if you don't mind...

Joann Mannix said...

Love that Z bookend! What great homemade gifts. I usually give out American Express gift cards. That way they can spend it anywhere they well please. And I really do feel if there is one gift you should be super generous with, it is the teacher gift. Teachers are definitely under-appreciated financially.

tammy said...

*Phew!* I was worried to read this because my teacher gifts are already made.

Diet Coke bottles dressed up as reindeer and a gift card.

I love all the 'Z' things you have. But then I am kind of obsessed with initials.

Gerb said...

That stuffed Hobbes is amazing.

Pedaling said...

Great Post...after 6 kids, I think I got it figured out. Usually the same thing every year for the teachers we love, and even the ones we don't (except for in middle school, then it's only the ones we love)
Gift Certificate attached to a mega delicious caramel apple smothered in chocolate,that my kids help me make.

Impulsive Addict said...

Stopping by from Cheeseboy.

As a former teacher and now one of those stay-at-home mommy people, I LOVE LOVE LOVE your list and couldn't agree more.

I worked low income schools and I had more than my share of used stuffed animals and coffee cups. My kiddos even knew I didn't drink coffee.

Oh well. It's the thought that counts. I will give GREAT gifts to my children's teachers.

Yanet @ 3 Sun Kissed Boys said...

I was getting really worried until I came to the home made. I hope my homemade doesn't end up in the crap shelf.

Love the Zs & Hobbes!

Jayne said...

Just what I needed Jason! Thanks!

imbeingheldhostage said...

Thanks for the great tips, but--where were you three days ago? I gave one teacher homemade fudge (I made it just for her) and two football-mad teachers got their team's mugs with their names on them.

I guess I can at least be grateful there were no stuffed toys given :-/

Loved the Z gifts you've received!

Abby said...

Gotta tell ya that Hallmark is partly to blame for this. I went there once to get something for my kid's preschool teacher and the woman there immediately tried to get me to buy a teacher's mug. I said, "I'm pretty sure after all these years she's got A LOT of mugs." "Oh. Huh. Guess you're right. How about this desk sign that says 'Teachers are A-mazing'?" "No." So you see where all the crap is coming from.

RaShelle said...

Thanks for this post. I'm going to go with homeade, secret recipe toffee and caramel and chocolate covered pretzels as still being okay?? I understand about the staying fit issue, but it's sort of my "thing". I get raves and requests for recpies - so am I good??? =D

sinika said...

So does this mean dreamcatchers are out?

Funny post! ( Visiting from cheeseboy.)

Teachinfourth said...

V - Yeah, you're probably right about that one…sorry that your options become limited.

E - You are now my new hero! You go, girl…save the world one mugless teacher at a time.

M - If you invest in the good stuff, I think you're off to a good start and probably pretty safe, too.

S - I hope your gift goes over well. I've realized that the homemade stuff tends to become my favorite.

C - Share away…I'm all about spreading the love - and enlightening the masses (sorry, 'enlighten' is one of this week's vocabulary words).

J - Isn't it the greatest? There's actually two of them, but I didn't want to snap a shot of both of them. The idea of AE gift cards is a great one!

You go, girl!

T - I think you should switch over to Dr. Pepper - you should be safe then…

G - The kid who gave it to me was probably the original Joey…I'm glad he decided that I was worthy of it. It's one of my favorites. I should have also posted a painting a student of mine did of Hobbes one year - I didn't want to show off too many items, you know.

P - My friends make homemade caramel apples and they are FANTASTIC. I would probably bend the candy rule for one or two of those…

IA - Isn't it funny that sometimes we don't think of stuff like this until sometime later? I think that so often we just want to buy/give something to show appreciation and sometimes don't always think about it.

Y - You got my message…I'd take your homemade stuff any day!

J - Glad it made for good fodder.

I - Curse me for not posting this sooner! However, at least you didn't buy the stuffed animals. There could be redemption for you yet…

A - You know, I've had similar things happen to me before, too. Curse you, Hallmark!

R - I think that AMAZING homemade candy (from a safe kitchen) is probably alright. I did have a student who filled a pencil box with Goldfish crackers and gave it to me on my birthday. The sentiment was nice, but the few long hairs in the box and dirty crackers were somewhat stomach-turning.

S - I guess if they catch some pretty amazing dreams they might be alright…do they come with some sort of warranty?

The Church Lady said...

Popping over from Cheeseboy... These are great guidelines! I think I may be guilty of giving a few of these gifts in the past. You have a quite a collection of home made gifts! I love the Z's!

M-Cat said...

This information would have been helpful 12 years ago!!!

Actually, I was the crappy parent that unless we LOVED the teacher, I never thought to give a gift.
I know- I SUCK, but truth be told, most of my kids teachers were never as fantastic as you and Abe are. Had we been so lucky, you might have gotten tickets to Disneyland.

T said...

and I'm heading to the store tonight... nothing like last minute - looks like I'm going for cases of Diet Coke (and maybe one of Sprite...) though, so no worries that they'll be sold out :)

Lara said...

This is a very good and informative post. Unfortunately, I am giving fudge this Christmas because it got too crazy, and I did know better than to go out and buy a mug. My husband got enough of those during his 3 year stint as a middle school teacher that I know they're on the naughty list. :)

KyAnn (like Cayenne Pepper, only HOTTER) said...

This is awesomeness!

Momof5 said...

When I worked as a daycare provider, we always got gifts from the parents for Christmas and one of our parents was a teacher. Guess what we got? Yep, those things she didn't like. Sad, she always left the original tags on the presents, too. I know what ya mean.....

Serene is my name, not my life! said...

Proof I would make a lousy... and probably fat teacher.

I would be all over the sweets. Probably even have a chocolate donation box.

Serene is my name, not my life! said...

Oh... and I have to agree with you on the peeps thing. *shudder*

And admittedly, I don't like those chocolate oranges either. It's just WRONG to mix fruit and chocolate.

So wrong.

Marnie said...

Perfect post! I esp. agree with "when in doubt...don't"!

My daugther is in Grade 1. I taught her how to make soap and she made her teacher some soap(proper and everything). It looked wonderful. My daugther was very proud :0)

Mr. Hughes said...

Mr. Z,
You are wise beyond your years! I have enjoyed looking at your blog and reading your posts! I look forward to returning again and again!
-Mr. H

Jason, as himself said...

From one teacher to another: Amen.

I love all the Zs you have around...very cool.

Omgirl said...

Did someone really give you a Jason's deli card with no balance??? funny! Well, not for you.

I had a mom give me a Starbucks gift card. she was new to the state and lived in park city and, I'm sure, had no idea that the state is populated with non-coffee-drinkers. It took me a long time to each through $25 worth of starbucks treats!

Shannon said...

I know I'm way late on this, and it may be repetetive since I didn't read all of the umpteen comments...but I think that these rules should be standard for all gift giving for all people on all occasions...period. Now, do you want the battery powered resin water wheel I received for my birthday or would you prefer the frosted tealite lamp I was given for Christmas? You can have them both...really, you can.

tiburon said...

I am sooo glad that I scored on teacher gifts without even reading this. But I shall print it out as a reminder every single year.

Tracy P. said...

Ah, a well-timed reminder! It's a Barnes and Noble gift card from us. For their classroom, for them, for a game their family can play...there is something there for everyone. Even Godiva chocolates if that's what they really want!

Richard & Natalie said...

Always hating on the PEEPs....

I'm 100% you'll like your gift this year.

Heather said...

#10-Don't give scented lotions.

I've got so much lotion over the years, that even if you happen to pick I scent I enjoy, I'll never get through it all! Plus, is that a hint? Do I stink? Hmmmm...

I'm with you-sometimes it's a heart-felt card from the parents and student that can mean the most! I've saved my favorites for years and enjoy looking back at them and remembering the great students and families that have come and gone over the years!

Dina @ 4 Lettre Words said...

I did monogrammed storage for her classroom, which I know I would love as a teacher. Good?

Teachinfourth said...

T - Gift cards and games are always nice.

N - Yeah, Peeps are about the sickest things I've ever had before. I usually give those away...okay, I always do.

H - I get cologne every now and again and feel the same way about it.

D - I think that sounds like a GREAT idea...

" Hit It......." said...

Thanks for the information, it really helps. I stress every year about giving my kids teachers gifts. I like the Diet Coke idea or functional presents for the classroom.

I hope everything is well for you.

Miller Family said...

AMEN! :) I was a teacher and my most memorable gift was a pair of socks a kid got me. WHY? Because he told me "I told my mom you bought your clothes at goodwill and so you needed clothes."

I shared that I bought good will clothes to try to help the kids who had to shop there not be embarrassed.

Bless that mom's heart I am sure she thought I have no idea what size the woman is. . . socks were safe and inexpensive -good because I am sure the family didn't have a lot of money - but I treasure his thoughtfulness most of all!

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