Do you want to be that parent who gives gifts teachers want? Even better, do you want to be the person who always gives the perfect gift, regardless of the recipient?
An unexpected treat can shake us out of the winter blues. And doing that for another is a great feeling.
If you follow these simple and doable ideas, you will make your child’s teacher, and indeed all your loved ones, wonder if you are a mind-reader. This is not a 10 Best Gifts Teachers Want list. Because being a great gift-giver requires something more.
Be a Gift Giving Sleuth
I’m just going to say it. I am really good at giving gifts. The shift came somewhere in my twenties, when I stopped buying what I thought people should like (ie, what I liked) and started buying them what would make them giddy, even if it wasn’t my style. This required sleuthing. And once you learn how to sleuth, it’s a forever habit that will make you a fantastic gift-giver.
It’s actually quite simple: just listen and observe. People are giving clues about what they love all the time. You simply have to be on the lookout.
Your child, of course, will love to be your number one spy to finding the gifts teachers want. What does her teacher talk about? Does she fly planes? Is he goofy about his dogs? What is his favorite candy? (As an example, I always use Swedish fish and Sour Patch Kids in my math problems because they’re my faves. So a child spy would be able to report that.) Does he drink coffee? Tea? Kombucha? Does the teacher have hobbies she talks about at school? Does she see a lot of movies? Does he have a favorite TV show? You get the idea.
When you see the teacher, ask about his weekend. What did he do? The answers will often lead you to ask more detailed questions. For example, if you ask your teacher about their weekend and she says, “It was wonderfully quiet! I read, walked my dogs, saw my family…” They might follow up with, “What are you reading these days?” or “Tell me about your dogs,” or “Who did you visit?” to find out more about what she loves. Maybe your teacher’s a rock climber. Or a yoga instructor. Or is obsessed with British royal history. Dig a little and find out what makes him or her tick.
Less sleuth-y, you can always outright ask if they have an Amazon/Target/etc. wish list. You just can’t go wrong with a wishlist.
Gifts teachers want (related to their favorite things)
Let’s say your child’s teacher loves everything Elephant and Piggie. Search online for Mo Williams items, like these Elephant and Piggie gifts.
Perhaps he is a Harry Potter fan and would love a Triwizard Cup Lamp? (That person would instantly become the coolest teacher in their wing with that lamp lit up in a dark classroom corner.)
Find out what your teacher is cuckoo for, and do some hunting about. Do she love Stranger Things? Game of Thrones? Dungeons and Dragons? Wonder Woman? There are loads of unique gifts online that cater to all our funky little whims. Go on a treasure hunt until you find something that screams that teacher’s name. The internet (especially etsy) is loaded with fun stuff made by talented folks!
Years ago, a friend said she and all the other parents in a class gifted the teacher with two tickets to see Prince, because the teacher was a raving fan. The teacher was so touched and excited when they presented it to her, she burst into tears. That is good gift giving.
Keeping track of gift ideas
For several years, I kept a Word document with everyone’s names. When I’d see or hear something I knew would make a great gift for someone, I’d make a quick note on their list. Over the year, the list grew. Once it was time to purchase a gift, I had loads of ideas all lined up!
Of course, your list can be a small pocket-sized notebook or, these days, a note on your Smartphone. You can create private lists (much like wishlists) on Amazon for each person you want to buy for. You can also create private folders on your Pinterest account to store gift ideas for specific people. You can even take pictures of items you see and organize your photos into gift lists.
Often the best ideas hit us when we are not thinking of gift shopping. A friend will admire something in a museum gift shop in September. As soon as they are out of reach, make a note of it somewhere or snap a photo. (Or, if you’re really slick, you can buy the gift right then!)
Coffee gifts teachers want
Most teachers will agree that coffee is what keeps the engine running. (My colleagues and I have long said that Starbucks could make a killing by parking a food truck outside our school. Seriously. Someone get on this!)
The most obvious choice is gift cards. Find out what brew makes their heart sing. Some people – particularly in New England where I’m based — swear by Dunkin Donuts. Others will drink nothing but Starbucks. You can also see if your teacher has a favorite local coffee haunt, and support a local business that way.
The No Fails
And though it might feel impersonal, gift cards are GOLD. (Assuming they match the recipient’s lifestyle.) Gift cards really are the way to go, and they are so appreciated. Whenever I get one, I squeal. Seriously.
Movie passes are a joy to receive. It forces busy teachers to do something fun, and not spend money on practical things!
The year I moved into our new home, a parent wisely got me a gift card to Lowe’s, which was perfect! (She was a terrific sleuth and often chatted me up. When I told her about our recent move, she knew just what to do!)
Parents quickly learned of my love of art supplies and I often got cards to Blick Art Supplies, which was heaven. I’ve also received cards to Brookline Booksmith, my favorite independent bookstore. I had one parent, who knew how much I loved gardening, treat me to a gift card to my favorite nursery.
Target, A.C. Moore, Michaels, Barnes and Noble, and of course Amazon all make wonderful gift cards. Again, though, if you have cherished local businesses, throw them a little love and help your local economy by giving a gift card to those shops.
Gifts that end up in the teacher’s lounge
This is not meant to be snarky in any way. If you bring the teacher chocolates or other edibles, they will likely end up being offered in the teacher’s lounge. It’s not that we don’t appreciate them — we do! It has to do with the overwhelm of food at this time of year, and how we are trying to keep our bodies healthy. (It’s hard keeping up one’s resistance amongst a roomful of sneezing and coughing youngsters. Plus, teachers commonly get sick the day vacation starts.) Also, if we gain weight from eating all those goodies, most of us don’t have the funds to go shopping for new clothes come January. So it’s a question of health and of practicality.
Often too, teachers can’t or won’t eat certain ingredients. For example, I won’t eat anything with ingredients that come from an animal. (Though I am very gracious when I receive such gifts from kids!) I have friends who can’t eat certain ingredients for their health.
You can give food, of course! 🙂 Just know that there is a strong probability that your teacher might not consume it.
Teacher-y items include mugs with cute teacher sayings on them. Or those little books you see in CVS with quotes for the teacher. Items like this are usually discarded after the holidays. Again, this doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate the gift and the sentiment. It’s more a question of space at home. One mug may be small, but multiply that by the children who gift them each year. Then multiply that by the years taught and, well, …things can get crowded. (One of my teacher friends said, though, that she likes travel mugs, so those are good for some!)
Wait. I’m broke!
Please, no worries! Many teachers are in a similar situation and are bummed when they cannot afford to buy gifts for their own children’s teachers. We totally get it.
Even though we teachers love gifts — who doesn’t? — we don’t expect them. A handmade card is an incredible thing to receive.
Often, kids will make us gifts out of supplies hanging around their house, and those are so amazing to receive! (Honestly, I’m not being diplomatic!) My favorite gift (eleven years ago!) was from a boy who sewed me a bird flying amongst clouds with the words, “Fly high, Ms. _____.” It floored me and I treasure it to this day. (It’s already faded, but sits lovingly on my office bookshelf, nestled among my favorite things.)
The best gift is having parents as allies in giving their kids a safe, valuable education. That sounds pretty dorky and saccharine, but it’s true. The knowledge that we have parents who like, appreciate, and value us is priceless. It adds a comfort level to a very challenging job when you know parents have your back.
And finally …
Finally, when selecting a gift for someone, always ask, “Is this something that the recipient would really love? Or am I buying it because I love it?” There’s a huge difference.
And take the advice given here with a grain of salt. I know one teacher who loves cute mugs and personalized things. And whereas most teachers can’t stand glitter (because of the clean up), I LOVE the stuff and my colleagues think I’m bonkers. We all have our funky quirks. The secret is doing your (fun!) due diligence in figuring out what it is that makes them glow with pleasure upon opening a present from you.
It might help to keep in mind a time someone bought you something that may have not been to their taste but that you LOVED. Think about how you can make your gift recipients feel the same way. There’s nothing like really nailing the gift choice for someone, is there?
Now it’s time to hear from you! In the comments below, tell us:
- Teachers: What gifts do you like to get? — or — what was your favorite gift?
- Parents: What gifts do you get for your teachers?
As always, if you found this information valuable, please share it on your favorite social media platform! Till next week!
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