Sunday, May 3, 2015

Teacher Gifts

My teacher friends are starting to tell me how many Mondays are left, so it must be getting close to the end of the year! The end of the school year celebration sometimes includes a gift for teacher. In some schools such gifts are common, in others it is a hit or miss idea, and a few schools prohibit them. I am going to share with parents a great little secret. The best end of the school year gift you can give your child's teacher is a thank you note from your child.

Since most children are notoriously bad an composing thank you notes you may need to give them guidelines. Answering at least one of these two questions guarantees a note a teacher will remember.

  • Question 1:  What is the best thing you remember about this school year?  Some children will immediately come up with an answer ranging from field trips to the reading of a favorite book.  I have received thanks for taking children outside when it snowed (a rare occurrence in this part of the country) and for a class project in which we built a huge reading tree large enough to include pillows inside for reading.  I remember one of my students writing me, "Lots of teachers make big promises, but you kept yours and we got a tree!"
  • Question 2:  What did you learn this year?  The answer doesn't have to be limited to academics. One child thanked me for teaching him that he could "be quiet for 20 whole minutes!" (Actually I didn't need the letter to remember that day.) Another student wrote me a note years after he left my class. He thanked me for teaching him not to break things when he got mad. He told me he didn't think he would have been as successful as he was if I hadn't told him that everyone gets mad, but the important thing is what you decide what to do with that anger. I didn't remember being so eloquent, but the note was one of the high points of my career.

If a parent wants to include a note, it too, will be appreciated. I was very touched by a parent's note written to me years ago. In it was a specific comment about how I had helped his child and how I helped him help his child.

Let's imagine your child goes to a school where gifts are the norm, or you just want to give a gift. There are some gifts you might want to stay away from.

  • Apples, plaques or anything with cute teacher sayings.  Maybe get this type of gift for a first year teacher. Everyone else has plenty of them.
  • Dollar store gifts that you put off getting till the last minute. 
  • Any gift you are re-gifting.
  • Anything alive. I don't care how much of an animal lover a teacher claims to be don't get her a pet! I knew a teacher who received a dog at the end of the year!  
  • Any additions to a collection. The problem with collections is one seldom knows what is already in the collection.

So what kind of gifts do teachers like?  I liked gift cards, especially if they weren't to a specific store. I was surprised at some of the unique gifts (some handmade) I received that I really enjoyed. However, if you want to give something but are in a quandary about what to give  -- go for the thank you note.

I know most people have a few more weeks of school left, but an end-of-year note does not have to be given the last day of school. You may learn something about your child's year if you ask him/her the above questions. Your child will become aware that thank you notes are not just for birthday gifts, and a teacher will go home for the summer happy that someone did notice and appreciate all the hard work she did that year.

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