It’s that time again…the trees are up, the nativities are set up, the peppermint mochas are selling like hotcakes..Christmas is definitely in the air. With Christmas, comes the joy of gift giving. However to some, choosing the right gift can be stressful, especially when you may be giving a gift to someone you don’t know on a personal level, like your child’s teacher. As a teacher (taught for 5 years before choosing to be a SAHM for awhile), I thought I might be able to offer some insight into some do’s/don’ts in teacher gift giving.

Let’s start with the “what not to give” category…If you’re going to put the time, effort, money, etc into giving a gift to your child’s teacher, you might as well give something they LIKE. If I am bursting your bubble with any of these tips, remember that I may not represent the views of all teachers….(however, I think I can speak for most…)

What NOT to Give:

1. Teacher-y things: This would include anything with an apple, #1 Teacher, knick-knacks related to teaching, and my personal least favorite, little books of pithy sayings about teachers….Trust me on this one, and do not waste your money on these things…

2. Home-made treats : Okay, I realize several hearts may be breaking….I hate to say this, but about 90% of teachers I’ve worked with (and I taught in 3 different districts..) throw home-made treats from students away…(I know, you worked really hard on those cookies, banana bread, etc.) Unless it was from a parent I interacted with on a VERY regular basis (ie-room mom/parent I used as a substitute, etc.) I threw it in the garbage after the students went home for the day. If it doesn’t go in the trash, many teachers will simply stick the treat on the table in the teacher’s lounge. I love the idea of making treats for people and using them as gifts, so I get why so many parents do this…However, make your wonderful goodies and give them as gifts to your FRIENDS. (or teachers you might actually know personally, such as a Sunday School teacher.) (*The one exception through the years seemed to be with single male teachers…they always ate the treats…and the ones in the staff lounge.)

3. Off-brand bath goods : I got loads of this stuff…brands I had never heard of…and again, these went to waste. I, along with most teachers, would rather have even the small trial size from Bath and Body Works than a large tube of  a questionable brand product.

4. Mugs: I know, I know..This is cheap and easy, and it’s fun to stuff little drink mixes etc into the mug…However, I got at least 4 or 5 every year, so if your child’s teacher has been around for awhile, they probably have their fair share of mugs…Once in awhile, I would get a cool one (a Starbucks one, or a character themed mug…) Resist the urge to buy the teacher mug covered in apples and pencils…

Gifts Teachers Love:

1. A letter from the student: These are things we keep. I have mine in a special file, and have saved these even back from my student teaching days…Have your child write out a quick note or letter to their teacher, telling them why they like/appreciate them. Trust me that we would rather have this simple note  than a basket full of teacher themed chotchkes.

2. A letter to the principal: This would go a long way, and would be much appreciated. Write a letter to the principal telling them how much you love/appreciate your child’s teacher. Most teachers could definitely use/appreciate a little principal love, so this would help!

3. Book for the classroom: I always loved when a parent would give books for the classroom. From giving one fun story, to donating a ten pack of the same book (to be used in reading groups), this was a gift I always appreciated.

4. Classroom Wish List: If your teacher does not have one published, ask them to give you their wish list for the classroom. With most schools going through budget cuts, supply rooms may not be as well stocked, and teachers have always spent loads of their own money in their classrooms. Towards this end, most teachers again would be thrilled to receive simple classroom supplies.

5. Gift Cards: This may have been my favorite gift from students. I loved opening the card and having a gift card fall out as well. Even if it is just a $5 gift card, your child’s teacher will definitely appreciate it, and will USE it (rather than throw it out.) Some great ideas are Starbucks, Borders, any restaurant…

Another neat idea is to give your child’s teacher a little survey a few weeks before Christmas. Ask the usual questions, favorite movie, favorite animal, etc…BUT, also throw in questions like favorite restaurant, favorite coffee shop, favorite candle scent, favorite candy bar, etc…Then, create a little gift basket full of their favorite things. Plus, your child will have fun getting to know their teacher better. (*just give your teacher enough time to fill the survey out!)

Even if you are choosing not to give a gift this year, I encourage you and/or your child to write a nice thank-you note. A thank-you goes a long way, and teachers put in long hours for your children. Their job extends far beyond the end of the school day. Let them know you appreciate them!