It’s that time of year again and with so many December holidays that involve gift-giving (Christmas, Yule, Kwanza, and Hanukah to name a few) a person can be over-whelmed with both receiving and sending gifts. One such person sure to hit every parent’s shopping list is their child’s teacher or other school employees including janitors, lunch ladies, bus drivers, afterschool care teachers, school nurses and anyone else ever comes in contact with a child on a day-to-day basis.
The theme of December should not be one of festivities and families but rather a twist on a Shakespearean quote of “to buy, or not to buy, that is the question!” Everyone a person has come in contact with is up for review on the Christmas List of each of us and teachers are no exception.
Teachers certainly deserve our respect and we may want to show that in the form of gift-giving, especially at such a caring and giving holiday, but before you buy that gift for whatever school personnel you have on your list let’s review a little bit of math first and solve this word problem: As a teacher you have 25 different students in 6 classes per day and have been teaching for 10 years. Every child has bought you a Christmas gift every year. How many gifts have you received in your teaching career? The answer is and astounding 1500!!
Coming from the teaching aspect of life as a teacher’s aide and as a day care employee, let me just say that that is more coffee mugs then any one person needs. It’s not that teachers don’t appreciate the gifts, but that they accumulate and any teacher feels bad about giving away or throwing away such gifts but it can be over-whelming and 10 years from now they may not even remember which child gave them the “Greatest Teacher of the Year” coffee mug or the “#1 Teacher” refrigerator magnet. Each child touches a teacher in some way, and its not through the tangible gifts they bring at Christmas but for the talents, skills, and personalities they bring to the classrooms.
That’s not to say that a gift can’t be given to a teacher, but let’s consider some alternative to the traditional idea of gifts that will be even more appreciated and cost very little.
A Letter or Card: A nice card or letter expressing sentiment from a parent or teacher can go along way, is more personal, more memorable then a coffee mug and is easier to store. It can also be enjoyed years later when a teacher finds it in a tucked away corner of forgotten items and re-reads it. I have a card that was signed by all the 4th graders I tutored as a high school credit and one from the children when I was a teacher’s aide. Both cards still bring tears to my eyes and each signature brings up that child’s image in my mind.
Edible Goodies: Who doesn’t love edible gifts? Bake some cookies, buy a “gift in a jar” (an almost-complete recipe in a jar), or a box of candy. As a teacher’s aide, I received a platter of many different goodies that a mom made. I had brittle, cookies, brownies, fudges and some hard candies tossed on just for décor. Sitting down in the evening with my platter of goodies and sharing it with my own family was a very memorable gift and is not one I needed to worry about washing or dusting.
Ornaments for a Classroom Tree: If the teacher has a classroom Christmas tree a small ornament can be given as a gift. This ornament will most likely stay with the school or classroom’s other holiday decorations and can be enjoyed each year as it is placed on the tree. Imagine what a unique collection a teacher would have if every child picked a special ornament for a tree!
Classroom Supplies: Yeah, we bought supplies at the beginning of the school year but a teacher’s classroom always needs them. A donation of paper, pencils, crayons, or other heavily used items can go a long way as a gift that will be enjoyed by all the students and helps keep the teacher from spending their own money to make sure the children have what they need. It is also a gift that will give long beyond that one day of the year.
Potpourri Sachets: Purchase a large bag of potpourri in the craft section of a department store and either buy or make small mesh or muslin sachet bags (mesh ones can be found in craft or wedding sections of department stores). Divide the potpourri up into the smaller bags and add decorative ribbon and a tag that says “Merry Christmas” or “from Suzy Smith, 2009.” These little bags are decorative and can used as room or car fresheners or placed in drawers to scent clothing.
So, this year when you are making out you shopping list have a little consideration to the teachers or school employees who have to dust, wash or store 1500 coffee mugs and magnets and think about opting for one of the gifts above instead.