Wee Scoops

Measure for Measure

Teacher Presents?

Not long to go, and all of a sudden the kids are asking if they can buy their teacher a present. Gah! Not only that, the facebook – awash with helpful suggestions as to how to vote tomorrow – is peppered with teacher-gift anxiety.

Teachers themselves may be preemptively clearing out the boot of their car to fit in the 30 bottles of ASDA wine winging their way towards them.

But should it be this way?

Eh… Teachers get paid. It is their job to teach your child. They teach your child. Why do they need a present?

Remember, they are getting on a plane to Mallorca for the next fortnight while you have to sit and construct a patchwork of childcare to get through the next six weeks.

Can they even accept presents? Does it in fact cause them a conflict of interest with their employer’s Code of Conduct? Have you checked?

Man, I am so grumpy.

But let’s think about the other people that have worked in that school with your child. The kitchen staff, the PSAs, the Support for Learning teachers and assistants, the Behaviour assistants, the music, art and PE specialists, the janitorial staff, the managerial staff with less class contact – why is the class teacher singled out for a present? All of these people have worked. All of these people get paid. Very few of these people get a present.

Not that I am bitter.

How do secondary teachers fare? Pretty badly in comparison to their primary colleagues. Younger pupils in secondary may have about thirteen different teachers in a year, so, understandably, the presents for teachers are fewer and further between. But that’s okay. The teachers have been paid for their efforts. A card with thanks for specific over-and-above service is probably the way to go, if some acknowledgement is felt necessary. Senior pupils will do as they see fit and don’t involve their parents which is as it should be.

But if you feel you “have” to get your child’s teacher a present, what should you get?

Ask a teacher and they will say “wine”. But is that even appropriate? For a child to hand over? For a teacher to accept from a child? In a culture where teachers are advised not to have photos of themselves holding a wineglass in the public domain, when Big Brother is watching you – is this something that should be encouraged? Your child’s young, blonde, twenty-five year old teacher is about to be on holiday for six weeks. Is it responsible to be a part of a culture that gives her a bottle of wine every week night for her whole holiday?

If you balk at the wine thing, there are gifty teacher gifts from the teacher gift aisle: plastic decorations, wall hangings, shopping bags, magnets, pens, notebooks, nail files, comedy novelties. Feel free. Knock yourself out. But would you give it house-room if thirty of them came your way?

Although, it has to be said, most teachers love stationery. Unnaturally. At least stationery is consumable in some respects and functional.

Safe options are shareable consumables that will last over the summer. Biscuits, in fact.

Middle-class-nightmare gifts are gift vouchers that have been collected by a committee of loudmouthed women at the school gate who have made skint folk feel awkward and the recipient feel conflicted with the Code of Conduct.

I sound grumpier than I actually am in this post.

Sure, it is lovely to make someone feel appreciated for their efforts. I probably only find this one tricky as I am not a ‘gift’ type of person. It is not my “love language”. I suspect that the giving of a gift in this context is partly to do with avoiding feeling awkward when everyone else is handing over a present. If your kid happened to be absent on the last day, would you still feel the need to give the teacher a present, or is just it part of a last-day ritual?

So, my advice is biscuits for sharing in school and a hand written card from the child thanking the teacher (or another educationalist) who has helped them with something specific and meaningful.

Here’s the hypocrisy: my daughters are off school for the election tomorrow and want to go shopping for teacher presents. So they will likely choose something ornamental.

Hopefully they will have something meaningful to write in a card or on a gift tag.

All the best with your shopping.




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6 thoughts on “Teacher Presents?

  1. theotheri on said:

    As a child, I never attended a school where teachers were given gifts. Then as a university lecturer I didn’t receive a lot of gifts as such from my students, and the few that I did invariably made me feel uncomfortable.

    As I was reading your post, though, I began to wonder not how teachers feel about gifts but whether giving a gift to the teacher becomes a kind of competition among the students. Ie: “Was my gift better than yours?” “Was my gift a mistake?” Etc.

    My vote would be to ban overt gift-giving.

    Come to think of it, the best “gift” I ever had as a teacher was from the student who told me I’d changed her life — for the better. How about sending a personal note of thanks to the teacher instead of a bottle of wine? — assuming, of course, the student thinks the teacher deserves it.

  2. I could have written exactly the same thing over ten years ago when my two were in school. I feel your pain 😀

  3. Rickster on said:

    As a University lecturer I get (on average) two gifts per year from individual students or occasionally a small group of them. On my window ledge are the cuddly sheep I got from some Chinese students for year of the sheep last year, a German ‘smoking man’ I got from a German student, and a tin of Chinese green tea. In a cupboard at home is some highly flammable alcohol I got from some Czech students last year. The chocolates I got last month from an apologetic student didn’t last long…

  4. theotheri on said:

    PS to my comment above –
    Seriously, what about at least having the student write a personal note to accompany whatever gift feels right. The note might tell the teacher what the student feels was the most important thing he/she learned in class that year – how to do fractions, how to write a paragraph, understanding the Norman Conquest, learning photography or reading a special book, becoming friends with X, etc. The list is endless and potentially surprising and creative, no?

  5. sharingiscaring00 on said:

    I feel like teachers need gifts and not just on Christmas! My step mother has every single hand made Christmas ornament from when she taught and she is 74. I love handmade gifts though I am not a teacher. IF the teacher asked for Wine, great, then have the child make a personal note that goes with it. Teachers are so underpaid in my opinion.

    • Hi there thanks for the comments 👍. I’m thinking that teacher pay must be better in Scotland than the US. Here our local school discourages Christmas gifts – the staff suggest a charity instead.

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