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What Not to Buy for Your Child's Teacher

It's the thought that counts, but some gifts are just appreciated more than others.

Recently, I was reading an article online about the “Worst Teacher Gifts Ever.” The article had a slide show attached, which featured some superbly awful gifts. My favorites were fishnet stockings and unicorn soap. There was also a ceramic mug with a cat face on it from a student who told the teacher, “My mother thinks you’re a cat lady.” Ouch. 

With the end of the school year fast approaching, many parents are looking for teachers’ gifts, so here is my unsolicited advice on what not to get your kid’s teacher:

  • School Supplies: One year I received my own school supplies as a gift. A student went into my desk, took my pens, pencils, Post-Its, etc., wrapped them up and gave them to me. My first thought was, “That was so sweet, he wanted to give me something but his family couldn’t afford a present. “My second thought was, “I have really got to start locking my desk.” Unless you are in a seriously disadvantaged school district, the school gives teachers all the basic school supplies. But, teachers have to buy all the materials to decorate bulletin boards and posters for the walls, so a gift card to a teacher’s store is a good gift.
  • Items of Clothing: Do I look like an earmuff kind of person to you? A teacher in my school once received undergarments. If that wasn’t bad enough, the box it came in was from a resale shop.
  • Jewelry: I have enough handmade jewelry to open my own kiosk at the mall. Jewelry is personal, so unless you know for sure a teacher will love it, don’t do it. The exception is jewelry that is made by a student, which teachers adore.
  • Mugs: There is not enough coffee in the world to fill the number of mugs teachers receive each year. But, a gift certificate to the teacher's favorite coffee joint is always appreciated.
  • Self-Improvement Books: These are given with the best intentions, but receiving The Biggest Loser Cookbook or Control Your Clutter, Control Your Life is just mean.
  • Anything Apple-Themed: Actually, anything with an apple, schoolhouse/bell, ruler or school-related theme. I know you think it’s cute, but really, no.
  • Anything that says “World’s Best Teacher”: You know you only got it because it was on display at the Hallmark store, not because anyone really thinks you are actually the world’s best teacher.

Other bad ideas that may seem like a good idea at the time include stuffed animals, religious items, knick-knacks or anything you have to dust. One student gave me a bottle of multi-vitamins. How bad do you have to look for someone to give you vitamins as a gift? Stick with gift cards, you don’t have to think of something creative and teachers love them. 

Now for those of you that are outraged that I, or any teacher, would not appreciate a gift, I assure you the thought is appreciated very much. Actually, thoughts are the best gifts of all. I still have every lovely note a student or parent ever wrote me. 

Rick Edwards May 14, 2012 at 01:38 AM
As usual, I express my complete support for Susan Schaeffer's thoughts on the issue in her column of today.
mom4two May 14, 2012 at 03:53 PM
love your reply, right on!
Susan Schaefer May 14, 2012 at 04:22 PM
Thanks Rick! Terri and mom4two, seriously? You took this lighthearted article as a personal attack? If you read the last few sentences, I addressed the appreciation teachers have for gifts from students. But, you did bring up a good point, donating them to Goodwill. I actually rewrapped most of my presents and donated them to a local nursing home. I believe they used them as bingo prizes.
Cory Ingersoll May 16, 2012 at 02:31 PM
I liked your article! A teacher friend of mine said, "Whatever you do, don't let the kids buy anything with apples on it, unless it's an Apple product." She was joking of course. We recently moved to a new state and something I found completely insulting is, the PTO actually sends home a letter stating what items need to be given as gifts, each day of Teacher Appreciation Week! What happened to being able to get our own gift, not gifts? What about the children who's parents might not be able to afford 5 gifts? Let me clarify that the only day the gift was to be homemade was Thursday, the kids needed to make a star for their teacher. One morning that week I sat in the parking lot watching gifts flow into the school and was shocked at how parents carried in these extravagant gifts, each one out-doing the other. The kids that forgot or could afford, were made to feel bad (which is so sad). If it weren't for the fact that my children LOVE their teachers, I think I would have boycotted the entire week and have done my own thing at the end of the school year as we've done in the past (we have always give a gift card to the teacher's favorite store, Starbuck's card in a bag of homemade cookies, or a movie theater gift card - although one year I gave a bottle of wine, I knew she what wine she loved and figured she could use a drink!). When did appreciating teacher's become a week long thing? In our house, we appreciate them the entire school year!
Cory Ingersoll May 16, 2012 at 02:42 PM
Forgot to add a "not" in the line in the 2nd paragraph..."The kids that forgot or could NOT afford, were made to feel bad...."

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