Thursday, 18 June 2015

Teacher's Gifts aka No Mugs or Candles Please

    I can't believe it but we are just weeks away from summer holidays.  The year has just whizzed by. We were very lucky this year that all four kids had AMAZING teachers.  I'm not sure if it's because I'm getting older, but time seems to be flowing too rapidly.  When I say time, I don't just mean the school year, but time in general.  I'm just not sure how it goes by so quickly.  It seems like just yesterday I was bawling my eyes out as I walked out the front doors of the school, leaving my little blond haired Pretty Princess in the company of strangers.  That same not so blond Pretty Princess is about to graduate from elementary school.
   Like most of you during my pregnancy I took my prenatal vitamins.  I abstained from drinking alcohol.  I sang to those babies before they were even born, having conversations with them calling them by their name and telling them how much I loved them.  After they were born I agonised about the amount of wet diapers, and whether I had enough breast milk to feed their needs.  I watched for each milestone, and worried if some were not met when the books all said they should. I have made almost every step in motherhood thinking about each child's health and mental well being... and then I hand them over to a complete stranger.  A stranger who will spend more time with my beloved child than I will for the next eight months.  Throw into the mix 20 - 22 strange children some of them with issues, some that bite.  I'm pretty sure that beginning school was more difficult for me than it was for my kids.
    To teach is a calling.  It takes a special person to decide to essentially live with someone else's children, and teach and mold them.  I know that I could not be a teacher (I would need a really good lawyer if I ever did).  It takes a very patient and kind sort of person to take on this big roll.  These are the days of integrated classrooms, that means that every child is included, even the children who are disruptive and need more time than the teacher has time to give to one child.  The teachers need to teach the entire class, while putting out fires (metaphorically, although....) started by the children with behaviour issues.  I have the utmost respect for the teaching profession, I honestly don't know how they do it.
    This is the time of year that we as parents begin the search for the end of year teacher's gift.  It is a way to say thank you for not breaking my child.  Thank you for helping my beloved child grow and become more mature.  Thank you for keeping my trust that you will not emotionally damage my child.  A good teacher encourages their students, not just in that grade, but in grades to come.  They are the one who help our children decide if they like school, a place that they must spend every week day in for 14 years of their lives.  I personally think that it's important to say thank you to those good teachers, to show your gratitude.
    The question is what should I get for my child(ren)'s teacher?  I struggle with this, having four main teachers and who knows how many gym, drama, french, (you get it there's lots) teachers gifts also.  The struggle for me is to find something that says "thank you", but does not break the bank.  To help you (and lets me honest me) I have reached out to four teachers that I know.  Two of the teachers are relatives, and two are really amazing teachers at my children's school.  I asked them what were the best gifts they have received as teachers, and what are the worst.
    One of the teachers I asked began by saying that she actually felt uncomfortable about receiving gifts from her students (oh who are we kidding it's from their parents).  She didn't feel like she should be rewarded for doing her job.  A few of the teachers felt uncomfortable about the gift thing, mainly because it can cause some children to feel less than if they don't bring a gift, or if they don't think that their gift is good enough.  Some children have brought in gifts that are really expensive and then there is the whole moral dilemma about whether they should accept it.
    What you may not know about teachers is that they receive A LOT of mugs.  While for a first year teacher, these mugs are touching and probably very welcome (since they are probably still paying off their student loans and may have to use said mugs as both mugs and bowls).  These first mugs have sentimentality, they are very special, marking a milestone.  After the first year they are just mugs, things that just take up space.  Remember that these teachers are kind people, otherwise they would never have gotten into the profession.  Most of them feel guilty for not using every mug.  They have overflowing cupboards full of mugs from loving and well meaning parents.  Think about your own cupboards.  Do you have several mismatched mugs?  Would you like several mismatched mugs?  Unless it is a magic mug that grants wishes, step away from the shelf full of mugs.
    Teachers also receive a lot of chocolates and candles.  While there is nothing wrong with giving chocolates in general, some chocolates are better left of the shelf.  One of my relative teachers told me that she sometimes receives chocolate that is powdery white (because it's old) or is more like wax that has been painted brown.  Here is my own personal take on the chocolate / candle thing... if it's not a gift that you would like to receive (meaning chocolate that you would like to eat) don't give it.
    Traditionally I try to make something for our teachers and get the kids involved in it.  I'm not sure if they like these or not (they will of course all say that they LOVE them, but I'm not sure if they're being honest).

 I try to do something hand made, because it takes more time than just running out the store and buying just anything, it also often saves money, and with this many kids saving money is important.  Most importantly it shows them (both the teacher and my children) that I have given my time and thought into their gift, just like they have given their time and thoughts into my child.

    The majority of the teachers that I know are kind people with a beautiful spirit (this sentiment does not include my grade 3 or 5 teachers, one was evil and one just didn't seem to care, at least about me).  They are the warm and fuzzy people who love our children.  They are the people that lay awake at night not just worrying about their own children, but also about your children.  All of the beautiful teachers that I consulted on this subject really just appreciated being appreciated.  One of them said that one of the loveliest things that she received was a thank you card from a parent
    So this year if you have not already purchased a teacher's gift, stop and give it a little bit of thought.  You know that "do unto others as you would have them do unto you"?  I think that also applies to "give unto others what you would like them to give unto you".  If you would love to receive dollar store mugs, or chocolate that looks like wax that has been painted brown, then go ahead and give that as a gift.  I'm guessing that none of us would like to receive those things.  Here's what you may not realise, in giving a thoughtless gift just to give a gift, you are doing the exact opposite of what you set out to do.  It's really quite insulting to receive a half eaten box of chocolates, or something you found around the house.  Gratitude does not have to be expensive.  Spend five minutes and write out a nice card to thank them for what they have done for your child, or better yet, have your child make them a card and tell them to share their favourite memory from that school year.  I truly think that we need to teach our children gratitude, and this is an excellent way to do it.
    If you have the time and the extra money, make buying a teacher's gift fun (ok, maybe it's not fun, but less like cutting yourself and then someone walking over and rubbing it with salt and Draino).  Take your child with you and allow them to help pick out a gift.  Stay away from too personal items (although let's be honest the too personal ones that your child picks out are hilarious, especially if you attach a little note telling the teacher that your child picked this out especially for them).  Although you may think that the "Best Teacher Ever" underpants are the cat's meow, chances are your child's teacher will feel uncomfortable about them.  If you know something about teacher, then go with that and tailor a gift.  Maybe that teacher is crazy for the Beatles and has shared this with the class on numerous occasions, why not go with something in that theme?  Several teachers have told me how much they have appreciated thoughtful gifts.  One of the teachers told me how much she appreciated a gift basket from a family that included summer activities that she could do with her own children, the tag said something like "Thank you for spending so much time with my child, I hope that these items will help you have fun with your own children this summer."  She found really touching gift.  Another received a Summer Fun bag filled with magazines, and sunscreen and things to help her enjoy her summer.  If time is an issue, you can never go wrong with gift cards, I am told that a Tim's card is a favourite (although I'm sure most would really appreciate an LCBO card in light of the students some of them have had this year).  In the end, give something that we would all like to receive, gratitude.

1 comment:

  1. I'd love to send this to every idiot who thinks teaching is a breeze with all those holidays, and the short days Tidey