Teacher Appreciation Week (part 2)

Yesterday I shared my kickass, Pinterest-worthy Teacher Appreciation Gift. haha! Today I’m going to tell you how to show your kids’ teachers appreciation this week and ALL YEAR LONG! Because, let’s be honest here, teachers are amazing. They put up with all those kids who aren’t even their own EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. And they manage not to kill them. And they actually teach them stuff. Seriously, saints.

How do I know what teachers want and need? Well, first of all, I was raised by a teacher. Thirty years teaching fifth grade in a low-income, rural public school = SAINT. My mother-in-law was also a teacher…preschool and elementary for years and years. Again, SAINT! And I was a teacher…not for near as long, although high school freshman, which is a unique time in a student’s life for sure. I still can’t figure out what is worse…150 students each year or seeing the same 30 students all day, every day. Most of YOU can’t even handle your own two or three kids all day, every day without the help of wine and a mothers-day-out program. So you better be thanking your teachers!!

All kidding aside, we teachers, we are crazy because we truly do love our job and love our “kids”. Many of us joke about needing a drink or escaping to some island paradise, but the truth is, teachers love their jobs. They love kids. They love the subject matter. They love to help and guide and comfort and inspire. We certainly don’t do it for the money (lacking). Or the schedule (grueling). Or the “summers off” (hahahaha! That is the biggest lie that non-teachers believe). And not for the prestige or respect (we often don’t get any). Nope, it’s truly a passion of the heart. We love to teach and we love our students and that’s why we come back year after long-ass year. (and it’s why I can’t wait until my youngest enters school so I can get back into the classroom!)

So, how does a parent/caregiver properly say “thanks” to their kids’ teachers? First of all, JUST SAY THANKS!! Seriously. It is so very nice to get a short email or a little post-it note stuck on some returned piece of paper that just says “Thanks for being a great teacher!”. Really. Those random little kindnesses keep us going. If there is a specific issue or subject that your teacher really helped your kiddo figure out, a bit longer, more specific note is awesome too. It requires zero money and maybe five minutes of your time.

If you do want to do a little more, that’s great too and I have some ideas. First of all, it is very nice to do things right before the holidays or during Teacher Appreciation Week, but it’s also really nice to remember your teachers during the busy times or the long, mundane stretches of the school year too (uh, testing week?!?). You know what’s great? Surprise them with donuts (or muffins or scones). Or coffee. You can always ask the front desk staff (who, by the way, should get thanked at some point too, along with specials teachers – don’t forget them!!) what your particular teacher may like or if they have any dietary restrictions. But I’ll tell you, walking in on Monday to find a warm box of Krispie Kreme donuts might seriously be the highlight of your teachers MONTH! It lets us know that we are loved and thought about. And that is nice for anyone.

On the same note, surprising (or even asking them ahead of time!) with a simple drive-through lunch is spectacular too. Or dinner on a night when they are staying late for conferences or something. Or even just a cupcake from a local place is a wonderful pick-me-up at the end of the students’ day (which is NOT the end of the teachers’ day). Again, be sure you know about allergies or diets, whether by asking the teacher or one of his/her coworkers.

It may seem cheesy, but flowers or a plant are really nice too. They can be small and simple, you don’t need to go all out. They are great because they can stay in the classroom or be taken home. I had several plants in my classroom for years and they really did remind me of those kiddos from the past – and always put a smile on my face. A cute container is a big bonus too…my favorite pencil holder was given to me as part of a flower arrangement by one of my first students. I still have it, packed up and waiting for my next classroom!

I’m going to say this here, don’t start sending me hate mail, but please no smelly stuff or candles or body products unless you know that’s a personal favorite. Many people are sensitive to smells or at least picky about what scents they like or what products they use on their body. And teachers receive SO many candles, smelly lotions, bath and body works gift packages, plug in air fresheners, etc. And we can’t even have open flames in our classroom (I did, generally, use the air freshener or flameless stuff in my room since freshman can really be smelly creatures! Although one year I had a student who has major allergies and so I couldn’t use them.) Seriously, I could have opened my own shop with all I received. While the gesture is kind and appreciated, it’s overdone and, well, there are better gift ideas out there.

You know what is an amazing gift throughout the year – school supplies! I am so serious. Teachers spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars of their own money on school supplies every year. Dry erase markers, post its, pens, pencils, markers, crayons, notebook paper, construction, binder clips…the list in endless. We also often buy supplies for our students who may not have them, for various reasons. So even notebooks and folders and such are helpful. Bonus points if it’s fun/cute/colorful stuff. One of the best gifts I received was from a parent who was a former teacher (of course!)…it was a plastic bin (always useful in a classroom) absolutely full of supplies and they were all cute and bright colors and exactly what I wouldn’t have splurged on for myself. Best part? She gave it to me in early spring, so right when my stuff was getting old and used up and it was just the perfect pick-me up! But it doesn’t have to be nicely packaged…heck, I would be thrilled with a Target bag full of dry erase markers (they always run out and they aren’t cheap) and filler paper mid-way through the year! On this same note, books make a fabulous teacher gift. Whether books for the classroom (yes, please!) or a beautiful book for me. Maybe not some romance novel, that would be pretty weird. But I was a science teacher, plenty of geeky science books out there that I would have loved!

One of my favorites, that I do every year for every one of my kids’ teachers, is to make a snack bin. I buy some sort of cute container, usually at the dollar store or dollar bin of target, and fill it with non-perishable, relatively healthy snacks. As a teacher, I know how many times you end up working through lunch, working late, tutoring during your break…and you end up STARVING! Think cereal bars, granola bars, dried fruit, microwave popcorn, single-serve applesauce, string cheese, beef jerky, trail mix, etc. I always throw in a little chocolate too because, well, chocolate. I generally write a little note joking that this is to be hidden away from kids and only shared with fellow teachers in times of desperation. 🙂

Which leads me to desserts. I’m going to say it – I don’t eat things my students and/or their parents made at home. I know not all teachers follow this rule. I think it probably depends on your relationship with your students, where you teach (high school students are much more likely to, um, contaminate baked goods), and mostly personal preferences. So you’ll have to be the judge here. But chocolate and sweets in general make a nice gift. And it’s easy to do something small occasionally. Every now and then we pick up a gourmet candy bar for my kids’ teachers as a simple way to say “We were thinking of you and appreciate you!”.

One of the funniest and most thoughtful gifts I received from a parent came at the end of testing. This particular student was really bright but had some very serious test anxiety. She started coming to tutoring early in the spring semester and we worked on both test taking strategies and just making her feel more confident in her actual knowledge of the subject. The last day of testing, I get a call from the front desk that the student’s mother is downstairs and wants to see me. Odd, because we had a great relationship, we had both worked very hard to help her child and had stayed in contact, she could have just come to my classroom. I walk downstairs and am told she is waiting for me outside?!?! Maybe she’s going to jump me?!? I go to my car and she has a WINE! I about died laughing! She didn’t think it would be kosher to bring it inside, plus logistics, we teachers are always carrying out armfuls of stuff, so she was waiting at my car with a very nice bottle of red, with a big bow, and what turned out to be a very long and touching note. So yeah, alcohol, presuming you know the teacher drinks and would appreciate it, is really a great teacher gift. If your kids make you want to drink, just think how the teachers feel! 🙂

There are, of course, lots and lots of other great gift ideas: gift cards, especially generic ones (amex or visa) are great. Target, Walmart, and the like too. If you know where they actually like to shop, more specific gift cards can be a very thoughtful gesture. Gift certificates for them to enjoy their leisure time is also very thoughtful, especially when there is a nice note saying they’ve earned it: movies, restaurants, bowling, pedicure, massage…all things many teachers don’t have the extra money to do for themselves. We do get quite a lot of mugs and tumblers, so unless you know they need a new insulated coffee mug or something, maybe skip that. Personalized stationary (“from the desk of Mr. X”) is awesome. My mentor teacher gave me a personalized stamp and I loved that thing!  I have also seen a group of parents get together to give a bigger gift, whether just one big gift card, or maybe even a bigger item the classroom needs! This can be especially helpful for new teachers who spend even more of their own money getting started. And if you do know your child’s teacher has s specific hobby or whatever, by all means, embrace that. I worked with a male teacher who was an avid puzzler (is that a word? someone who likes to complete jigsaw puzzles?) Anyway, his students (high school, remember) took pics of his classroom and lab and made one of those photo collage puzzles for him. I thought that was just so damn thoughtful!

One thing I want to caution you against: Pinterest. Which is funny seeing as how my last post was totally a Pinterest thing. But what I mean is, I’ve seen parents spend tons of time and money creating these freakishly adorable crafts that are, in all honesty, probably just going to get trashed at the end of the year. We need practical. Or consumable. Teachers really do feel great sadness and dread at having to throw out your little darling’s handmade sculpture. Or the amazingly detailed “gift card bouquet” that probably took you longer to cut and glue and assemble than it took to drive to the five different stores. But we only have so much space and we cannot possibly keep every handmade thing. The gift cards along with a note of thanks, which we can keep, are so much better. Seriously. I still have a stack of letters and notes from students and parents, literally tied up with string, and it is quite possibly one of my favorite things. 🙂

Yep, that was cheesy. Now go write a thank you note for all the teachers who take care of your babies each day! 🙂






One thought on “Teacher Appreciation Week (part 2)

  1. Pingback: Another Teacher (or Grandma or Neighbor or Coworker) Gift… | Common Hours

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