Gift ideas for the teacher.

By Shawna When you have kids, you know you’re going to be buying gifts for life’s occasions for that child.  You don’t really think about it much ahead of time, as it’s not a factor that you weigh when you decide to procreate.  Everyone knows kids are expensive; it’s the feeding, clothing, sheltering, educating them, etc. that are the biggies.  Sure, when my kids started daycare, we added the daycare provider’s kids to our gift list for birthdays and Christmas, but fast forward to this year, when Sage entered junior kindergarten. 

It has only recently occurred to me that my mom always sent Christmas gifts to my teacher, ergo I should be thinking about what to get for Sage’s teacher.  This has sparked a mad combing of the internet to decide on what to get for a person I’ve only met a couple of times, but to whom I entrust my precious firstborn for several hours a day, five days a week.  I suspect I cannot be guaranteed of a hit by buying something Sage would like, which is my modus operandi for getting gifts for birthdays of kids I’ve never met.

So here’s what I’ve found:

All sites agree a heartfelt, handwritten note is always appreciated by a teacher.  My personal take on this is sure, it would be appreciated, but even more so if it comes with a thoughtful gift.

After this, sites seem to diverge in what would be appropriate.  Some proclaim that the personal touch is best: baked goods accompanied by a card – both handmade by your little elf – would be universally appreciated.  Others suggest small luxuries such as bath and beauty products would soothe away the frazzling effects of looking after half-pints all day.  And chocolate?  Well, who doesn’t like chocolate?

On the other hand, sites that claim to have polled real teachers (at least anecdotally) suggest that people are very conscious of their waistlines these days so fattening things aren’t a good choice.  Bye bye banana bread and chocolate.  And the choice of toiletries is a very personal thing so don’t bother getting stuff like that.  And for goodness sake, don’t get that poor teacher yet another mug!  If you really want to get a good gift for the teacher, why, here are some links to items that cost at least $50 each!

Give me a break!

Having winnowed through the contradicting opinions, here’s what I’ve found out and decided I believe:

Apparently, kids drive teachers to drink because one site claimed that a bottle of wine was the gift that would be most appreciated (in which case, my mom was right: that’s what she always gave).

If you don’t feel comfortable giving booze to a teacher (and I, frankly, wouldn’t, despite the fact that I’m sure it would be a popular choice 90% of the time), pretty much all teachers like gift certificates that allow them to choose their own gift.  Some malls have mall-wide gift certificates so you don’t even have to narrow it down to one store.

Teachers almost always end up spending their own money on classroom supplies.  If you don’t know what kind of gift certificate to get, one to a place like Scholar’s Choice (there’s an online store, plus two retail locations in Ottawa) is a pretty safe bet.

If you’re the organizing type, bigger may be better.  If you have a way to contact the other parents in your child’s class and are bold enough to send the message, “one $100 gift is better than ten $10 gifts, so if you want to pool money and go in on a gift for the teacher, let me know”, you may even be hailed as a hero by parents that don’t have the time or inspiration to find something on their own and would be happy to contribute a relatively small amount to a group gift.

There are lots of (but I bet not all) teachers who would appreciate the idea of donating to a charity in his or her name, instead of getting a dozen assorted mugs and boxes of chocolate.  There are tons of options for this (like Oxfam or Doctors Without Borders, or something more local like a pet-rescue shelter for a pet-loving teacher, just to give a few examples) if you think your child’s teacher is the it’s-better-to-give-than-receive type,  just do a quick search online.

Save your feet and frazzled nerves!  There are some great options for gifts to be had online, and they don’t have to be mass-produced.  I searched through Etsy (a site that connects artisans directly with buyers) treasuries and items using the word “teacher” as a search term to get some ideas.  In the end that’s where I ended up getting a gift for Sage’s teacher: she’s a lover of colour so I got her a small sparkly red apple pendant on a necklace, which I’m going to pair with a mini-calendar which I produce myself.  As a bonus, I also found a great “emergency gift” for a teacher – a pretty little clear glass apple paperweight with a silver stem and leaf.  Both gifts are now in the hands of the postal system, making their way to me, and I didn’t have to go out and fight a single crowd to get them.

Now to figure out: if Sage has just started taking the school bus a couple of weeks ago, do we get her bus driver a gift too?  This Christmas shopping may never end…

 Shawna is mom to 4-year-old Sage and 2-year-old Harris.  She has  been writing online since 2003, and her latest project is a fledgling photography blog.  She also has an Etsy shop of her very own.