I have been a teacher for 25 years now. Over the years I have received numerous gifts from students. I do not expect them, especially when the economy is in a slump and most of my students’ parents cannot afford much.I am just as happy when the students and the parents thank me verbally or write a note that expresses their appreciation. If you do choose to give a gift to a teacher, may I make a few suggestions of what not to give and what to give.
1. Any Item Shaped Like an Apple or Decorated With an Apple Motif
For me, it is a cliche. Very few people send a real apple to the teacher anymore, although I have had people do so, and I like it when they do. However, I have never decorated my classroom or my house with apples or apple motifs, so I would prefer not to get an apple placque or an ruler or pen with an apple on it.
Then again, if you know that the teacher likes to collect apple-themed objects or if you have observed that motif in the classroom, I am sure that she would enjoy such a gift. Isn’t that the essence of good gift-giving anyway–to give the person what they really like?
2. Anything That Says “Best Teacher”
Really. What is a person supposed to do with a placque that says Best Teacher in the World? If you hang it up, people might think that you put it up yourself and are a terrible egoist. Or they might think that some parent felt obliged to get the teacher something and were not sincere. I mean, who could even determine who the best teacher in the world is?
Some of my former students have said that I am the best teacher that they have ever had. Some of my former students probably think the opposite. That’s the way it goes. The ones who say that I am the best tend to be boys who are on the brainy side or who are interested in art or music. I can identify with them, and they probably identified with me. They had a special connection with me that makes them think of me as “the best.” But I do not believe that I am actually the best, so please don’t rub it in by giving me a coffee mug that says that I am the #1 Teacher.
It’s actually kind of funny, because most teachers’ lounges are full of those mugs. Imagine a group of techers all sipping from mugs that proclaim them to be #1.
3. Perfume or Cologne
Most people don’t consider their kid’s teacher as worthy of really expensive scents, so teachers often end up with cheap stuff. And, honestly, no scent is better than a cheap scent. The teacher might absolutely hate it, and might even be allergic to it.
Then again, if you know the teacher well enough, and know what scent he or she likes, go for it. It would probably be very welcome.
4. An Inspirational Book for Teachers
I have about six of those. I find them mildly amusing and occasionally inspirational or encouraging. If the teacher has already been teaching for a few years, you can probably assume that they have several of those books. If they really, really need more inspiration they will buy more of them themselves.
My wife and I have received dozens of knick-kancks made of porcelain, glass, pewter, and other materials. While it is a very thoughtful thing, there just aren’t enough places in our house to put them all, and, frankly, they often clash with our decor and with the other knick-knacks we have. We have usually given them to other people or sold them in a yard sale.
But, if you know that the teacher collects yellow roses or bald eagles, then by all means, add to his or her collection.
1. Anything Personally Meaningful
One of my most treasured gifts from a student was a statue of my head that the student made in clay. It really resembled me and was amusing. The fact that the student made it is why it is a treasure to me.
One of my students remembered that I would sometimes say that the Ford Mustang is my favorite car, and so he gave me a Matchbox Mustang. I loved it and still value it.
I have kept every hand-drawn picture that any student has given me. They are more special to me than anything they or their parents could buy.
A handwritten note or card from the student is terrific. A photograph of the student with his or her signature on the back is another great gift. Even though they are very cheap gifts, they are certain to be appreciated and kept for years, probably even forever. Simplicity is often the way to go.
You pretty much cannot go wrong with a fruit basket, baked goods, or a gourmet cheese. Even if the teacher doesn’t like it or cannot eat it, he or she will undoubtedly share it with friends and family. My wife and I have always enjoyed edible gifts from our students, especially at Christmastime. Since we have always been on a tight budget, it help us financially. One year we were given so many goodies by our students, that we had a Christmas party at our house and did not have to buy anything extra for refreshments.
3. A Gift Card
Even though it is not very personal, it is a very much appreciated gift to an underpaid teacher. It also allows you to show your appreciation to the teacher while knowing that they will get something that they definitely like. If it is for a restaurant, it will allow the teacher to go out and have a good time, which they probably do not do as often as they wish.
4. A Donation in Honor of the Teacher
I cannot speak for all teachers, but it would please me, and this is the kind of gift that should please anyone on any occasion. It is all the better if the donation is for a cause that you know that the teacher believes in or has a connection to. It is probably a bad idea to try to honor a teacher who likes to hunt by giving a donation to PETA. A scholarship fund or the Red Cross are two that just about anyone would feel honored by.
5. Desk Supplies
Many teachers buy a lot of their own supplies, especially as schools decrease classroom budgets (usually while increasing administration budgets). Giving them some supplies will help them immensely. I recommend making them plain and generic, unless you know what designs would please the teacher.
If you know the teacher well enough, you could get supplies decorated with flowers, cats, a sports mascot, or whatever. Supplies imprinted with their last name are useful and are less likely to be permanently “borrowed” by other teachers or by students in the class.