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Wait … Do We HAVE to Get Presents for Teachers?

Photograph by Twenty20

I’m not a big gift giver, but I’ve always been well aware of the fact that most parents buy presents for their children’s teachers. So when my daughter started daycare and had teachers she loved, I wanted to get something for them for Christmas.

Unfortunately, she had a rotation of about six different teachers she spent time with regularly. Buying for all of them would have quickly killed my Christmas budget. So I always kept it simple, usually bringing in coffees and baked goods in the days leading up to Christmas. Everyone was always happy and grateful, and I felt good about acknowledging all they did for my little girl.

This year, though, she’s in preschool. And for the first time, she has two dedicated teachers she spends most of her days with.

Getting them an actual gift suddenly felt important.

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The problem was, I had no idea where to start. I’m a terrible gift giver when it comes to people I love and truly know. What the heck am I supposed to get teachers I only ever see in the context of the school setting?

The idea of buying for even just one more person can feel overwhelming.

There was that cute wine idea I saw floating around last year, but I don’t actually know that either of her teachers drink (I know, it’s crazy to think, but not everyone does.) And even if they do, I don’t know what their preferences are.

I thought about putting together a fun gift basket, but I don’t really know anything about their likes or food allergies. Living in Alaska, a cute scarf or hat is always an option, but I'd hate to spend money on something they might hate.

Truth be told, knowing I’m not a great gift giver, I might have a bit of gift-giving anxiety. So, feeling a bit at a loss, I took to Facebook and asked my readers what they typically give their children’s teachers. And their responses were pretty much everything.

First of all, did you know that some schools give parents a questionnaire filled out by teachers at the beginning of each year with all their likes and interests? Favorite foods, coffee, restaurants, things they collect. It's amazing! If your school DOESN’T do this, it might be time to make a request. I know I will next year. Showing teacher appreciation becomes SO much easier when you know exactly what it is that would make your teacher feel appreciated.

One of my readers commented on the dilemma of buying for teachers, though, stating, “I feel bad. I wasn’t planning on getting my daughter’s teacher anything. Am I a bad person because of this? I have a rule, only people 18 and under get Christmas gifts. I have seven birthdays in the month of December and Christmas stuff on top of that. I just don’t really have the funds to add yet another gift.”

Truthfully, I TOTALLY get her dilemma. In my circle of friends and family, the adults don’t buy gifts for each other… period. We focus on the kids, and for us, it’s just about being together.

As a single mama, I really appreciate this. I get how the holiday season can kill your budget and create added stress, and how the idea of buying for even just one more person can feel overwhelming.

But for me, buying gifts for my daughter’s teachers is a priority for several reasons.

I want them to know I value all they do for my daughter. ... This is one of the rare opportunities I get to express that.

For one, it’s an opportunity to teach my daughter about giving. These are HER people, you know? She spends several hours a day, five days a week, with these teachers. Besides me, they are the people she spends the most time with.

And I do want the concept of giving to be important to her, especially around the holidays. I want her to value giving more than receiving. So if I want to instill that in her, helping her with these gifts now (while she’s still young) and then including her in the process later is important. Because ultimately, she is going to be the one giving these gifts to her teachers, and they are arguably on the list of most currently significant people in her life.

On top of that, I feel really strongly that teachers don’t get the credit (or pay) they deserve. Again, these are the people I trust with my child for so long. I want them to know I value all they do for my daughter. And because we aren’t close outside of that school setting, this is one of the rare opportunities I get to express that.

So giving to my daughter’s teachers is important to me, even though they are actually the only adults I have on my list. But that does bring me back to the dilemma of what to get them.

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Thankfully, I had a lot of teachers weigh in on that thread, and the overwhelming response was a pretty simple one: Teachers want gift cards.

Yes, it seems like a cop-out. Even as a terrible gift giver, I would generally prefer to find something personal and meaningful to give. But the teachers have spoken, and really, it makes sense. As one pointed out, teachers have more coffee cups than they know what to with, they have their own trees and ornaments (that they may not necessarily want to cover in ornaments from kids), and just as you have to eventually throw away some of your kid’s crafts, when they are getting craft gifts from 30 different kids every year ... it adds up and mostly winds up in the trash.

Gift cards, though? They love those. Gift cards to their favorite restaurants, or coffee shops, or Amazon or even Target (because everyone loves Target). That’s what your child’s teacher wants this year.

Maybe you can spruce it up with a nice card (something I plan on doing) and a cute picture of your kiddo. But in the true spirit of giving, gift cards are what they’re vying for.

So if you’ll excuse me, I have some Spafinder holiday gift cards to order.

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