Forgive me if the following rant sounds petty and bitchy, I don’t mean it to come across as painting everyone the same way because I definitely don’t! But, any parent knows that coming up with Teacher gifts isn’t easy, and I’ve spent way too much time worrying about it, so even though that angst is totally my own fault, this is my cathartic letting go of the whole ordeal.
This year, my nine year old son picked homemade soap crafts to gift his teachers and school support staff:
Though the boy gets excited this time of year, my anxiety shoots through the roof because he wants to give his teachers the best Christmas present ever. Of course, he’d buy them thousand dollar Tiffany & Co. necklaces if it was up to him and he had the budget. Thus, old miserly mama steps in with the reality check and ideas on what we can do.
First, let me clarify the dilemma. Though my son is in fourth grade, he has six teachers, two daycare supervisors, a lunch monitor, cafeteria Chef, a Librarian, school Secretary, and Principal, all of whom he interacts with regularly. Sorry, but that’s just way too many people to give gift cards to—the apparent gift of choice in every teacher poll I’ve come across. Even at $5 a card for Starbuck’s I’d be looking at over $70, and I’d still have no guarantee everyone would appreciate it.
In years past, we’ve written out personal cards and my son made a small keepsake craft, whether or not these were appreciated by all, I’m not sure. Mind you, the support staff always makes a point of calling or sending a note of thanks, probably because so few parents thank them for what they do—and believe me, quite often they are the ones dealing with the worst behaviours since kids tend to save it up the big stuff for unstructured time.
This year, all but two of his teachers are new, the rest he has had in the past, and this is another reason we wanted to do something different. The solution? It was my son’s idea, as he and I love making soaps, lotions, flavoured lip balms, etc. They’re fun projects and most people do like receiving and using them. But, since lotions and lip balms are tricky because of skin allergies etc., we decided on the soap since it washes off the skin. Granted, there may be people with allergies to scents, but people are allergic to caffeine, nuts, chocolate, eggs, dairy, wheat, wool…the list goes on. Frankly, there is no perfect gift when you don’t know someone personally, and my hope is that even if they don’t like the soaps, they would at least appreciate the thought and care that went into the gift. Besides, we used organic ingredients; vegetable based oils and glycerine, essential oils and additives, and put a list of ingredients on the wrapping. Honestly, he was so proud of what we came up with, if the recipients don’t like it and can’t see how excited he is to gift it—then oh well!
There is so much emphasis online about what teachers think about gifts from students and parents, much of it making fun of the loads of mugs, candles, apples, #1 teacher gifts, ornaments etc., that end up either re-gifted, tossed, or put away. That’s why I wanted to take a few minutes and explain how a caring parent sees the Christmas present ritual.
What has been most eye opening however—and what prompted this blog post—is what happened when I posted the picture of what we’d crafted on Facebook. A couple of well-meaning friends (who work in the school system) messaged me a note of concern that the soaps might be inappropriate gifts because most teachers hate getting scented bath and body items. I’m not a teacher so I can’t say, and I am not the proactive mom who sends out questionnaires at the start of the year to find out what gifts they’d like (sorry, that just feels wrong to me on so many levels).
Even though I don’t do this and I am not on the Parent Committee (did it for two years and got sick of the pettiness and politics—should blog about THAT one day) my husband and I support the school and staff ALWAYS…as we tell them each year, “We’ve got yer back!” Then, at the end of the year, I always write a detailed, personal letter of thanks to each teacher, highlighting all the amazing things they did and the impact they had on my child’s life. Along with this, I include a $50 Visa gift card to each of his homeroom teachers and the daycare, because I know how much of their own money they have to pay out over the year. The reason I wait until the end of class is simple, I don’t feel it’s appropriate to give your child’s teacher a significant monetary gift when it might make them feel uncomfortable about the parent/teacher relationship.
Lastly, the real point to this rambling rant is I resent being told (and reading in countless blogs) that our gift is considered a faux pas or big no-no. It’s irksome because a lot of thought went into this, as it does every year. We love the school, and think the entire staff is amazing, which is why we want to do something special (and reasonable) at Christmas to show they are not only worthy of a gift, but worthy of our time, creativity, and effort. I know that my son’s teachers and support staff do not expect gifts, and they would rather have a kind thank you note or card—so we will give them both. Some teachers are made uncomfortable by gifts, for a variety of reasons. Some love any overture of goodwill and thanks, even if they dislike the actual gift. Some are diabetic; some are on diets, so homemade food is out, especially since we know they all get TONS of sweets and chocolate anyway. Ultimately, we choose the gift that makes us feel good about giving it, which is what makes any gift special, in my opinion.
Lastly, while I understand how tiresome it must be to receive the same mugs, candles, trinkets, handmade ornaments and baked goods each and every year until it’s coming out of their ears, if we put it in perspective, I’m betting it’s one of the least troublesome quirks about being a Teacher!