Sunday, May 31, 2009

5 Gifts Teachers Really Want (instead of those other things that just become clutter)

Lakeshore Learning gift card

Trying to decide what would be a good gift for a special teacher? Well, it's certainly not a World's Best Teacher coffee mug. Here are some items that teachers say they like getting. (You may notice some resemblance to my list of recommended Christmas gifts.)

1. Gift Cards

Leslie Madsen Brooks recommends "a gift certificate to a local bookstore (preferably an independent one)."

Over on the Berkeley Parents Network, a teacher mentioned getting a gift certificate for Whole Foods, and very much appreciating it, saying, " I purposefully went to the deli and bought all kinds of fancy foods I would never buy on my own."

The same teacher also said, "Gift certificates to stores like Lakeshore or other high quality toy stores, where I get items for the classroom, are also much appreciated."

Erin Rooney Doland, editor-in-chief of Unclutterer, said that when she was a teacher, one of her favorite gifts was a Visa gift card.

Scott Roewer, a professional organizer and former teacher, concurs. "I didn't want gifts - they were always clutter. Cash or gift cards - always the best option! Trust me!"

As always, when selecting a gift card, be aware of the terms and conditions (fees and expiration dates), and the gift card laws in your state.

2. Gifts of experiences

Gift certificates for massages got a number of mentions. Over on the Berkeley Parents Network, one teacher wrote: "I am a teacher that recently received a massage from some parents, and it was the best gift I could have asked for." It was something she couldn't normally afford on her own, "plus it is a perfect end-of-the-school-year, come down and relax kind of thing. It was special and extravagant (for me, anyway) whereas a gift certificate for Target or Costco would just pay for extra toilet paper or something. Go with the massage or another special service."

Leslie Madson Brooks recommends a gift certificate to a local spa or salon, noting that "you can go in on such a gift with several other parents from your child's class."

Teachers have also mentioned gift certificates to restaurants, certificates for manicures and pedicures, and movie ticket vouchers.

3. Donations to their causes

Here's Leslie Madsen Brooks again: "Donate money, in honor of the teacher, to a nonprofit organization that you're certain means something to the teacher. Note: This does not mean giving money to your favorite nonprofit."

4. Thank you notes
On the Berkeley Parents Network, David wrote, "My mom, a retired elementary school teacher, always said that the best gift was a thoughtfully written note of appreciation."

And a teacher wrote, "The gifts I did receive and appreciate the most when I was a teacher, and they are gifts that I still have, are letters from families expressing their gratitude for and positive observations of my work with their children."

The GreatSchools Staff quotes one teacher who wrote, "A supportive, positive letter, with a copy to the teacher's administrator and/or school board would be a wonderful gift."

5. Something the child made or selected

Teachers are mixed on this one. While none feel any need for more knick-knacks, coffee mugs or lotions, there are still many teachers who wrote of being moved by gifts that their students had made or carefully selected.

Here's one such story from a discussion of most memorable gifts: "One special gift that touched me was the year I found a neatly wrapped Easter mug on my desk. I puzzled for a minute and then realized the mug had a proverb on it. A few minutes later the mother of the student came by to explain that her son insisted on this particular gift as we had spent four days discussing and comparing African and American proverbs and he 'just knew it would be just what I needed.'"

And another wrote, "The best gift I ever got from a student was a cheap, black plastic jewelry box from a boy named Rodney Kennedy. He was one of those kids with a constant gleam in his eye, always up to something. We had gone a few rounds and finally made peace. The week before Christmas he presented me with a wrapped package and eagerly watched as I opened it.

"It was so clear that he wanted me to like it, that he had spent some time picking it out. This from a boy who didn't have much in the way of money, who I didn't think I was getting through to. It was clear to me at that moment I *was* making a difference."

As a teacher on the Berkeley Parents Network wrote, "If your child is old enough, let him/her help select the item and wrap it. Teachers love tokens of appreciation, regardless of how small, from their students. It is a big and demanding job, but it's amazing how a flower picked from a garden can renew a teacher's energy and enthusiasm."

[Thanks to Neat Freak Perri Kersh for posing the question that led to this post.]


Lore said...

1-4 are superb! Wine is also great!
Another wonderful idea--if you were pleased with the teacher and her/his efforts work etc., write a note to the principal or superintendent (or some big cheese in charge), singing her/his praises and what made the school year wonderful.
Another highly appreciated gift: School items, i.e., glue, fancy markers, writing pads, craft items. We teachers quite often purchase these from our own pockets.
Donation to classroom library (dedicated in your child's name) for future students to enjoy.
These are my faves and I am a teacher.

Jeri Dansky said...

Thanks for writing, Lore - it's great to hear directly from a teacher. And thank you for the very important work that you do.

mamacita said...

My friend is a preschool teacher. At the beginning of the year, one of the moms asked her, "What do you collect?" with an eye toward teacher gifts. My friend said she had to resist the urge to say, "chocolate-covered twenties."

Jeri Dansky said...

Mamacita, your friend sounds like a witty lady!