Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Teacher Gift Ideas From a Former Teacher

Next week's WFMW is all about "Back-to-School-tips." I figured I would get a head start while some of you are still considering what to do for your childrens' teachers at the beginning of the school year.

Now I do have to warn you, I'm keepin' it real in this post. While teachers definitely appreciate the time you take to create the ADORABLE teacher gifts I've seen all over the web, they really don't have room to house all the extra-cute stuff in their tiny classrooms. And often, even if it's something that they can use in the classroom, they may have a completely different taste than yours. Therefore the gorgeous pink-and-brown polka-dotted clipboard/notebook/calendar with cute bows you painstakingly made might never get use if the teacher is more of a minimalist and actually hates the color pink. If you have a desperate need to craft for them, offer to decorate one of their bulletin boards or make signs for the classroom.

That said, while I taught elementary school for 7 years I received some wonderful and thoughtful gifts from my students and parents. I've listed my fave five below.

**Other teachers: Please chime in if I'm way off base on any of this. I'm only giving my opinion and what I've heard from other teachers I've taught with over the years.**

1) TIME!!!

I guarantee this is the best gift you can ever give a teacher. And you don't have to spend hours in the classroom either. I used to have a parent come for 15 minutes once a week simply to check off who had completed the homework from the night before. It really helped that I could just look at the checklist and know immediately who I had to talk to or keep in to finish their work.

I also had a parent who lived near the public library and would return my library books for me after we had finished studying that subject. That was wonderful for me to be able to use the best children's library around even though I lived nowhere near it. I never had to worry about overdue books.

If you are unable to come into the classroom, you can let the teacher know that you are happy to help at home. I sent home work to be corrected to parents who would check it for me and then send it back with their child. I also put art materials in manila envelopes and sent them home to parents who could cut out the 25 sets of leaf patterns I would otherwise have to do myself.

I had a Spanish-speaking parent come to read a couple of times a week with a student who spoke no English. Some kids just need more one-on-one time and would love an adult's undivided attention. Simply reading a book with them means the world.

Want to send something tangible with your child on the first day of school? Send a nice card letting the teacher know when you can come volunteer and what types of activities you could help with at home. I can guarantee teachers will appreciate every MINUTE you can give.

2) School Supplies.

I know, it sounds boring, but teachers can never get enough of these. Often teachers have to buy all the supplies themselves, from pencils to copy paper. Just ask what the teacher needs; maybe you could buy a couple extra boxes or crayons. Or a bottle of liquid soap. Or a roll of tape. Seriously.

3) Handwritten Notes.

Yes, this is where we get sentimental. I have notes written by students from way back when I was student teaching. These are the best child-made gifts, as they are easy to store and mean A LOT. Seeing as how I moved schools a lot, even to one out of the country, I just couldn't bring all the little trinkets I've received from kids over the years. But notes I could stick in my photo albums or with my other papers.

4) Food.

Yup, we're suckers for anything tasty. See, teachers often don't have time to even use the bathroom at lunch, let alone take time to heat up food. Having some delicious cookies to munch or even a couple of candy bars stashed in the desk have gotten us through many a harried day. And we know how much time it takes to bake with young children, so we also appreciate the time you took to make us something.

5) Cold. Hard. Cash.

Yes, yes, I know; super impersonal and some think downright tacky. I'm not saying you have to give money. I'm just saying that teachers appreciate it. Again, teachers have to purchase much of the stuff you see in the classroom, and most of the time it's materials that help them to keep learning fun! Teachers also appreciate gift certificates to book stores, since let's face it, you can never have too many books in a classroom. If you want to force them to spend the money on themselves :-) you can get them a gift certificate to Starbucks or Blockbuster (although they may rent an educational video to show in class :) Again, it doesn't have to be a lot. Teachers appreciate every penny. Seriously.

I hope this helps give some of you some ideas of what to do for your child's teacher this year.

Next week I'll have a list of the best ways to prepare your child for the school year, from a teacher's point of view.

For more great tips and tricks, head over to We Are THAT Family for Works for Me Wednesday!


MissMeliss said...

Great ideas!! I'm not a teacher, and my daughter is still in daycare/preschool... but this will help me soon!! :)


Jessica said...

i too used to teach. i now stay at home, but i plan on returning when my youngest gets in school.

your list is PERFECT!!! perfect perfect!!!

Chocolateer said...

Amen to having bulletin boards done!!! I'm out of the classroom now, but I would have jumped for joy at a parent who offered to do a bulletin board for me back in the day!

Annikke said...

I am not and never have been a school teacher, but I worked as a preschool teacher for years and learned quickly that all the cutsie apple stuff piles up quickly. When our kids started going to school I was very careful about the gifts we chose. I have done gift certificates to a teacher supply store, we also have done gift certificates to the movies a few times (good for 2 tickets and $10 at the concession stand). I also have done the food too! I love this post - thanks for the tips!

Heather - Dollar Store Crafts said...

These are really valuable tips!! I'm going to write about them and link to your article on Blissful Kids!

GlassFlower said...

I'm not a teacher anymore either, but one day I had a student checking out just before lunch and the mom brought me lunch.

Tracey said...

At the end of last school year I gave each of my kids'(3) teachers a nice wooden set of Hall Passes. Each set had a pass for Bathroom, Hall, Library, and Office. They all loved it, and said that the passes they had been using during the year were "well used" and some even lost. I bought them at a school supply store for around $25.

Your Frugal Friend, Niki said...


I'm a teacher and I actually once had enough teacher Christmas ornaments to decorate an entire tree with teacher-themed ornaments. Seriously.


Sara said...

Great list! The only thing I would change is the treats. As a Spanish teacher (with over 400 students) I got way too many treats. I would only get gifts from 3 or 4 students in each class I taught, but it was mostly treats. Just way too much for one person to have.

Also, if you are giving a gift card, be sure it is to somewhere that the teacher would actually use. I got a lot of Starbucks and Caribou gift cards, but I don't drink coffee. I enjoyed the fact that they thought of me and wrote a nice thank you, but gave all the gift cards to my husband instead.