21 November 2010

What Teachers Really Want for Christmas (Aside from Motivated Students and Job Security)

Each year during my childhood, my mom's family would gather on or around Christmas at my grandparents' house.  My uncle (a music director in a private school) would bring a large box of gifts he had received from dozens of students.  He did this in hopes of pawning them off to my brother and me.  We thought we had hit the jackpot; a second Christmas, of sorts, since the gifts ranged from homemade muffins to Godiva chocolates to musical ornaments.  It never made sense why my uncle would voluntarily part with such treasures.  Looking back with keen teacher eyes, I finally see my uncle's annual holiday dilemma: keep and eat all gifts received whilst combatting indigestion and having a little less closet space than last year, or use what can be used and part with the unnecessary.

Maybe it seems a little cruel that a teacher would give up a gift from a student, but there is only so much room for "World's Best Teacher" coffee mugs in our kitchen cabinets.  Speaking from experience, they don't get used for coffee so much as pencil holders or a change jar.  Needless to say, I get excited when a parent asks me what I would want as a gift at Christmas.  It's an opportunity to reveal what teachers really desire.

"Oooh, Lysol wipes would be great!  Maybe some markers and crayons.  Really any classroom items would be awesome."
"But Mrs. Wynne, don't you want something more, well, special?  It's Christmas, after all."

Well, truth be told (and maybe we're dorks for it), teachers find the replenishment of school supplies pretty darn special.  When the economy tanked, so did our budgets for such supplies.  Whether a gift shows up somewhere during the holidays or as one of those "just because" donations, teachers are tickled pink over shiny new boxes of Crayolas or handed-down chapter books from the local Goodwill.

So if you're a parent, guardian, or mentor of a student and you find yourself wondering what kind of gift your child's teacher would want, here are some suggestions and general guidelines to help ease that gift-giving stress.

General parameters:
  • Never, EVER spend a ton of money on a gift!  There is no reason why the dollars spent on a teacher gift should come before paying the bills or buying groceries.  We would rather do without a gift if it would only cause a financial burden.
  • If gift-giving just isn't your thing, but you really want to show your child's teacher you appreciate their hard work, volunteer in the classroom or offer to participate in your school's mentor program.
  • If Christmas is a holiday your family doesn't celebrate, don't feel obligated to buy a gift simply because the teacher celebrates it.
  • Check to see if your school displays teachers' "wish lists" in a common area or via newsletter.  You can also check with the PTA/PTO.  They might offer a few ideas.
School-related gifts we LOVE!
  • sticky notes (in all colors, shapes, and sizes)
  • markers and highlighters
  • grading pens
  • paper (notebook, copy, or construction)
  • stamps and ink pads
  • disinfecting wipes
  • tissues
  • individually-wrapped candy
  • crayons
  • subscription to an educational magazine for students
  • used books for classroom library
  • craft sticks
  • paints
  • magnets
  • playground equipment (soccer ball, basketball, jump rope)
  • sidewalk chalk
If you insist on non-school items, here are a few:
  • stationery or blank notecards
  • coffee or tea
  • gift cards (which we will most likely spend on our classroom)
  • "niche" gifts (e.g.--if the teacher has an affinity for turtles, the gift could be a turtle ornament or turtle candies)
  • picture frames
Gifts to avoid…
  • the aforementioned coffee mugs
  • candles (we get more of these than coffee mugs…and they're always apple scented…)
  • homemade foods (not because we don't like them…there are just too many poisoning incidents you hear about with these)
  • stuffed animals
  • clothing
Hopefully, this will assist parents who are ready to attack the Black Friday sales in hopes of nabbing a quick teacher gift after all the family shopping is done.  Beyond the palpable gifts, though, one we love more than any other is a verbal "thank you" from student or parent.  We always appreciate any kind gesture made by the family of our pupils, and your acknowledgement of our dedication to our passion is one that makes it all worth while.


Angela said...

LOVE IT!!! I've been facing this for 8 years now... what to give the teachers for Christmas. I love the sticky note idea... who doesn't love options for note-writing??? We'll definitely go the school supply route this year. :)

Marlene said...

You're so cute, Vikki! You've always been so good with words. Thanks for the insight! Hope you're doing well. I read your last blog and I'm crossing my fingers for you guys. Your own children make life so much more enjoyable, and I know you will make an EXCELLENT mother! Good luck on the baby-makin' and good luck on NOT receiving yet another coffee mug! ;)

Anonymous said...

If we don't get those "white elephants" from the kids, then what are we going to use as white elephants at our Christmas parties?!

A. Hab. said...

This is such a great post, Vikki! Would you mind if I cross-posted it to my blog? I've got a few friends with school-aged children who read it, and lord knows we teachers should look out for each other. I so wish I could accept gifts from students at the college level...but that'd be seen as bribery. Sigh. It's tough, though, isn't it? When you don't get a budget, but you're expected to supply certain items to run your classroom. My school budget tends to be blown on dry erase markers (I go through about one a week when I teach multiple classes), pens (for grading), and sticky notes the most. Granted, these items aren't super expensive, and I'm not stocking an entire classroom with these items...but a little help wouldn't be turned down. ;)

Although Robert and I are several years away from giving gifts to teachers, I'm going to try really hard to remember this post. Or, at the very least, to remember to ask my child's teacher, "What would you like for the classroom this year?"

Thanks for the tips, Vikki! :)


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