Lots of eco-bloggers are beginning to talk about Christmas so I thought I’d dive in with a yule tide topic that’s close to my heart – teacher gifts. As a teacher this is a topic that’s bothered me for years. Also, as a mum of two small people, I give a lot of thought as to the festive season and the messages it gives them.
As a teacher, I’ve received hundreds of gifts at Christmas and at the end of the year. It is lovely and I hope I don’t come across as ungrateful at any point in this post. I have a beautiful bracelet that a child once made me, and several scarves. I also have a lovely duck fabric doorstop which my children love to bits. I remember the children who gave me these things and I think of them when I use them. But I must be honest and confess that a lot has also gone to raffles and charity shops. I feel less bad about the chocolate that went to the food bank last year.
I also have a huge bottle of M&S bubble bath. It’s about half empty now. It was given to me by a child in my first class (which shows how well it’s lasted!) I remember when I opened it. It must have cost between £6-£10. I knew that that child’s family were struggling financially and I felt awful that they must have somehow felt obligated to buy me a gift.
Why give a gift? I’m going to break the rest of the post into reasons I’ve heard for giving to teachers:
Teachers expect it
We really don’t. Please trust me that we really don’t sit in the staff room making a list of who didn’t bring in Quality Street this year. We will not like your child less for not receiving a scented candle I promise you. If you’re struggling for cash please don’t buy gifts for your kids’ teachers.
We want to show appreciation
I really get this. My kids have had some outstanding childminders/key workers/teachers in recent years. They make my children feel special, support them in their learning and fill their days with fun. I really hope they know how much they are appreicated.
As a practitioner, nothing makes me feel more warm and fuzzy inside than reading positive feedback from parents or from the children themselves. This is why we do the job after all. A card or a verbal thank you really is enough.
If you absolutely must spend what about a charity gift? I would be really happy with a gift like Unicef’s 5 story books for a child. Even better get together with a few other parents and buy 1000 pencils for a whole school! I would happily receive a donation to a food bank, Christmas Dinner for a homeless person or the planting of a tree. There are lots of choices out there and I would far rather your money was used this way.
We want children to appreciate the importance of giving and saying thank you
Yes we do. Absolutely. I think these two aspects can be separated though. We can say thank you without giving. I worry that our children a growing up in a world where nothing is done unless there is a tangible reward.
Please include your child in the process. I have lost count of the number of times a child has thrust a present into my hands with the comment, “I don’t know what it is, mum wrapped it.” This teaches them nothing. Talk to your kids about how they would like to thank their educator (hopefully they will want to thank them!). Some of the nicest things I’ve received have been made by the children themselves. The kids are so proud when you open it and it’s lovely to talk to them about it.
I don’t want my child to feel left out if all the other kids have brought in presents
I’ve wrestled with this one as a teacher. The kids who have brought gifts in want to see you open them but how does it impact on those who haven’t? I’ll never forget one year when a child muttered “My mum said you’ve had enough chocolate.”
I think the kindest way is to say “thank you so much! I shall open it on Christmas day!” before popping them in a cupboard. I make a point of telling the whole class that gifts are very kind but I don’t expect them. I am useless at remembering to catch children in the new year to say thank you though and I must get better at this.
If you worry about this maybe consider an eco gift? I love the wildflower packets from Ways To Say Thank You. Kick start your teacher’s journey to zero waste with a bees wax wrap. Home made stuff like baking, preserves or home grown produce can also be an inexpensive and low waste way to say Happy Christmas.
Another option is to buy something that the school/nursery needs. If you go down this route I would check with the teacher first to make sure your money is going towards something the children will use.
Enjoy the rest of November before silly season really kicks off!