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Friday, November 22, 2013

Awesome Christmas Gifts for Teachers

(This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.)

Whenever we have a big holiday, or it gets to the end of the school year, I always have friends on Facebook asking what they should get their child's teacher.  So, having been a teacher for several years, I thought I would make a list of a few things we teachers love to get as gifts, and what we honestly don't love.

(Please understand that I am not trying to come across as greedy or demanding.  I loved all the gifts my kids gave me.  Please don't think that teachers are selfish and only want expensive presents or something.  I just know lots of people stress about getting something for their teachers that they will like, so I thought I'd help you out.)

First up, what NOT to get your child's teacher.

Of course, any teacher will tell you that every gift is special, and that's true in a sense.  But in another sense, there are some things that I, as your teacher friend, am telling you to pass on.  Things like...

1)  Stuff with apples all over it.

We get it.  'Apples for the teacher' was a thing, like, a hundred years ago, and people for some reason want to celebrate that by putting apples on literally everything they can sell.  Apple bags, apple ornaments, apple shirts, apple calculators, apple timers, apple water bottles!  I'm kinda surprised the teacher's bathrooms don't have apple shaped toilet paper!

Stop getting apple stuff for teachers.  It's not cute, and we already have a ton of it.

2)  School supplies

Yes, teachers have to pay for our own school supplies.  Yes, that sucks.  But when you give your child's teacher paper clips and staples for Christmas, it's kind of self-serving.  It's like giving your cleaning lady a new box of Swiffer Wipes.  Remember, teachers aren't just a job.  They're people.  I mean, I love office supplies more than most people, but still.  Do you want highlighters and pencils for Christmas?  Not particularly.

I will say, though, I have seen a few school supply gifts that were cute and fun to get.  At the beginning of the year, one student gave me small tackle box filled with all kinds of cute and unusual stuff, and they decorated the cover with my name.  That was awesome.  Also, our school had a thing where for teacher appreciation day, kids brought in Post-It notes or some other small desk item, and that was fun.

I'm just saying, for Christmas, maybe skip the pen aisle, or bump it up by getting it personalized.  (See below.)

3)  Mugs

I love mugs.  I really do.  I love to drink hot chocolate and tea and cider and really anything hot, so mugs are awesome.  Plus, mugs come in all kinds of interesting shapes and with hilarious stuff on them.  They're a great gift that isn't too personal and isn't too detached.

Unfortunately, everyone else knows that, too.  It's not that getting a mug for your teacher is bad.  It's just that each teacher has anywhere from 15-30 students, and at least half of them will get her a mug at some point in the year.

Every year.

I have enough mugs to start a small business called "Mugs with Apples and Inspirational Sayings on Them."

Pass on the mugs.

4)  Random Figurines

Again, I think we forget that teachers actually have normal lives and normal houses.  Unless you know that your child's teacher collects a specific kind of figurine, or you find a really nice one that is meaningful to him/her, don't just grab one on the shelf at Hallmark on your way to the checkout line.  A random angel covered in glitter might be pretty, but it takes up space, and it's not something that most people are into.

5)  Ornaments

Ok, this one I debated about.  I actually love the ornaments I got from my students.  Every year when I put up my tree, I think of each student who gave me those ornaments and smile.  I really do.  I remember them all.

But I do have a bunch of ornaments from students.  Like, more than two dozen.  And I only taught for six years.  Imagine how many ornaments a teacher would have after ten or fifteen or twenty years!

Plus, Christmas trees are the centerpiece of the home, and not everyone enjoys the mishmash of colorful characters and textures that I heap all over my tree.  Some people have like, color schemes and themes and stuff.  I say skip the ornaments because the other half of the class, the half that didn't give a mug?  They're giving ornaments.

6)  Bath Stuff

Most people are pretty picky about which scents they like for lotions, soaps, etc. and many people have specific products they prefer because of sensitive skin or allergies, so giving skin care items is tricky.  Unless you know for a fact that your teacher uses a particular brand and scent, skip this one in favor of something a little less personal.

I will say, though, Bath and Body Works will let you exchange products for different scents.  It's such a great idea.  Just make sure you're teacher knows about it!

7)  Ties/Tie Clips

I'm pretty sure this is the only thing people know to get male teachers.  Think outside the square knot.

Ok, now it's time for the good stuff.

What to get your child's teacher:

1)  Gift Cards

You can NEVER go wrong with a gift card.  Sure, some people think of gift cards as impersonal, but we're not talking about a gift for your grandmother here.  You have a professional relationship with your child's teacher.  Their feelings won't be hurt if you get them a gift card instead of a tangible gift.  Quite the opposite.  Teachers don't get paid a lot, and at holiday time, couldn't we all use a little extra spending money?

Here are some of my favorite gift cards I've gotten from students:
  • Starbucks  (Always a good idea.  Always.)
  • A Movie Theater (One mom gave me a "date night" set of gift cards for a movie and dinner.)
  • The Mall (Yes, you read right.  You can get gift cards to the mall, good for any store!)
  • Visa Gift Card (Basically just cash, but prettier.)
  • Their Favorite Restaurant (Have your child ask.  It's cute and sweet.)
  • iTunes (Only if you think they would use it.)
Gift cards are my number one recommendation when people ask what to get their child's teacher.  They're easy for you and perfect for them.  A bunch of my friends and I used to save our gift cards and use them throughout the year for special occasions.  So yeah, we really do enjoy them.

2)  Food

Teachers love food.  Most teachers I know have food stashed in at least one of their desk drawers.  You should see the frenzy that goes on in the teacher's workroom when someone brings snacks!  Food is almost always a welcome gift.  Homemade cookies, a box of nice chocolates (not a candy bar), a surprise latte in morning carpool, or even something you bought at a bakery.  The last week or two before Christmas break is usually a pretty crazy time for teachers, so a homemade lasagna or casserole can turn fast food night into surprise home cooked meal night!

I will say, though, make sure you know what kind of foods your teacher likes.  If your child's teacher has gone gluten-free, a loaf of homemade pumpkin bread wouldn't be a good idea, but maybe a fruit basket or Edible Arrangement would.  (I got an Edible Arrangement from a student one year, and I thought I had won the lottery!)

3)  A Class Gift

My class did this for me several times, and it's always just amazing.  A few weeks before Christmas, the room mom, or just someone wanting to help out, would secretly send out letters to the class saying they will be taking donations for a class gift.  (Usually the kids would let is slip or someone would give the money to me by accident, but that just makes it cuter.)

The parents used the collected money to get one bigger gift like a Visa gift card or a video recorder for the classroom or something else they knew I would like and use.  It's great because I got something really cool and it took the pressure off all the parents to come up with creative ideas on their own.  Plus, it's usually cheaper to donate $5-$10 to a group fund than to buy something yourself that often costs more.

For a simple class gift idea, get a book like one of these,


and have all the students sign the inside cover.  Pair it with a gift card or a couple of those designer cupcakes, and it's a thoughtful and inexpensive gift that she can actually use.  My class did this for me when I finished student teaching, and that book is still on my bookshelf.

4)  Hand Made Crafts

Let your child make something for your teacher.  She will love it.  A picture frame made out of popsicle sticks with a picture of your child and her teacher is precious.  (Put a magnet on the back.)  A yarn angel or a simple cross stitch design works, too.  Teachers appreciate the time and thoughtfulness that went into a gift like that.  After all, they know their students really well (hopefully), so they know how much it means if your daughter, who has trouble paying attention, took the time to sit down and make something herself, or your son, who hates to use cursive, wrote them a sweet card.

5)  Personalized Stuff

If you're just dying to get some school supplies for your teacher, Vistaprint has all kinds of stuff you can get personalized, like pens, notepads and notebooks, self-inking stamps (to label books, etc.), and stationery.  I had a student get me a set of blank cards with my name embossed on them because she heard me say one time that I never found stuff in stores with my name.  It was one of my favorite gifts of all time, because it is practical and very thoughtful.

For something a little higher end, I have a friend who does personalized stationery, etc.  Check out her Etsy page!

I also found this and loved it.  There are lots of places to get something engraved that could be used as a desk plate, a door sign, or a hall pass.

One of my friends does wood engraving, and he gave me a personalized sign one year, and it's just the coolest thing.  Very unique, and also useful!

6)  Jewelry or Watch

One awesome idea is a small jewelry item, as long as you know their style.  A men's watch or a woman's necklace or bracelet is a sweet gesture from one student or from the whole class that they can treasure for a long time.  I love this example:


It doesn't have apples, crayons, or school buses on it, and yet it is still specific to a teacher.  Just make sure it's wearable.  Remember, your teacher isn't Mrs. Frizzle.  We don't wear rocket ship earrings on Friday nights to the movies.

7)  A Basket of Things They Like

One of my friends had a student whose mother was a teacher.  At the beginning of the year, she sent all her children's teachers a survey to fill out, asking about their favorite things.  Then, throughout the year, she used that survey to get them what they want!  What a great idea!  Some ideas to ask about are:
  • Favorite soft drink
  • Favorite coffee/drink from Starbucks
  • Favorite candy
  • Favorite snack
  • Favorite kind of chips
  • Favorite color
  • Favorite hobby
  • Favorite music
  • Favorite lotion/scent
  • Favorite restaurant
  • Other favorites
Can you imagine getting a basket full of your responses to a bunch of those questions?  Yeah.  It's pretty great.  Plus, you can use that information for the rest of the year.  Birthdays, teacher appreciation day, end of the year--whenever you need a gift idea.

These are just some general ideas.  If you know of something specific that your child's teacher is into, you could always get something in that vein.  And of course, every teacher is different, so yours might absolutely love an apple figurine or a tie with school buses all over it.  I'm not saying those people aren't out there.  I'm just saying I didn't work with them.

But seriously.  Don't over think this.  Gift cards are awesome.

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