Teacher Gifts

As a subscriber to Parents magazine, I recently stumbled upon one of its online articles titled the following:

“Can We Please AgreeTeachers Do Not Need ‘Back to School’ Gifts?”

As a former teacher of eleven years, I will agree with the following: teachers don’t need them. Teachers don’t expect them. Some teachers (although I don’t know any personally) might not want them. But that’s about all I agree with.

The author of the article, O’Connor argues that she supports teachers, knowing the hard work they perform, citing that her father was a teacher.

I’m sorry, but you WILL NEVER understand how sacrificially, hard-working a teacher is until you’ve actually been one. I can watch an Olympian practice day in and day out at the gym and recognize they work hard, but I can never, EVER assume to know what it feels like to be them. The toll it takes on their bodies, the sacrifices made. This is true for any occupation.

The author goes on to say that “teachers don’t deserve gifts.” The year hasn’t started yet and they haven’t taught your child anything. Why would you reward them when you don’t even feel “genuine appreciation” for them yet?

It’s simple. It’s called a token of encouragement. When I was teaching, I received very few first day gifts, but the ones I did receive made me feel like I could soar. I felt cared for, appreciated for the two weeks of work I had just put in in preparation for the first day of school so I could be a successful teacher. It formed an understanding that these parents were on my side and were going to cheer me on. The benefits of such a small token are far-reaching.

Further in the article, O’Connor complains some parents might “raise the bar,” turning a small token into a huge expectation amongst parents. Why would a parent compare herself to what another parent is doing? Are we that insecure as a society? If you want to give a small gift to your child’s teacher, do it! If you want to give a big gift to your child’s teacher, do it! If you don’t want to do anything for your child’s teacher, then by all means, do what you feel comfortable with.

She does state that parents have so much to do this time of year; they don’t need another thing on their to-do list. I agree. But again, she’s going into this article with the assumption that a gift is expected. As a former teacher, I will reiterate this again: IT IS NOT. The expectation you feel is the one you’re putting on yourself. And let me tell you how long it takes to type the following email:

“Hey, there! Just want you to know that our family is cheering you on this year. If there’s anything you need at all, don’t hesitate to let me know!”

There you have it. A free gift idea that took less than 30 seconds.

At the closing of her article, O’Connor comments on what teachers really need. She then proceeds to put a list of school supplies that will assuredly run out throughout the year, and those are things “you can’t buy at Starbucks.” It’s a well-known fact that teachers spend a lot of their own money on things for their classrooms, so if you’re able, be that parent who checks in periodically to see if there are things you can supply for the classroom.

You might not be able to buy school supplies at Starbucks, but over the years, I’ve enjoyed several hot lattes, moments of relaxation in a cup, moments feeling encouraged and rejuvenated because of a parent’s small token of appreciation. You see, many teachers make just enough to get by, so spending $5 on a coffee is a luxury, something I have rarely done without the use of a gift card.

What a crummy way to live…to sit on the sidelines and wait to see if your team succeeds or fails before you’ll cheer them on. The cheering should begin before the first whistle ever blows.

If you aren’t able or don’t want to do a first day gift, I can promise you that teachers won’t think anything of it. They aren’t waiting to see who is going to walk through the door with something to set on their desk. But if you feel so inclined to even write a note (for free!), know that many teachers save these small tokens for YEARS, just to have something to look back on when they have a tough day.

Encouragement, encouragement, encouragement. Instead of ranting and stomping on the idea that our children’s teachers don’t need anything, let’s support them before they even start.

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