After some time homeschooling, we’re going “back to school” this year. My daughter will be going to second grade, and my older son is starting preschool for the first time. I’m going to miss homeschool something fierce, but I know my kids will be in good hands this year.
We’re year-at-a-time, kid-at-a-time people, as far as our educational philosophy goes, so I don’t doubt that we’ll probably homeschool again. This means that I want to make the most out of this upcoming school year. (More hours to work? Having help with the more challenging subjects? What a concept!)
I’m utterly, astoundingly grateful for teachers. They have one of the toughest—and most gratifying—jobs on the planet, and not many people can do what they do, day after day, continually filled with creative juices and energy. I know at the end of a school year homeschooling my own brood, I’m crawling to the finish line.
Most teachers I asked don’t expect back-to-school gifts, nor are parents expected to give anything, so this certainly isn’t a prerequisite or even an expectation. In fact, teachers tend to get a lot of clutter-type gifts, so many times, the best gifts you can give are a positive attitude and volunteering time in the classroom.
I want to start our school year off on a good note and to get my kids excited about going to a new school, so for their sake, we’ll be making gifts for their new teachers. Something small, simple, sweet, and practical.
I asked teachers for their most-appreciated back to school gifts, and I’ve also been scouring Pinterest for ideas. Here are some of my favorites. (By the way, the general consensus is no mugs, candles, or anything apple-themed—apparently teachers are inundated with these.)
1. A sweet note 1 of 8A simple, heartfelt note of encouragement goes a long way. Send along a card with a personal message, have your kids write a sentence or two, and you can make a teacher's day. (Stationery above from Sweet Harvey.)
2. Survival kit 2 of 8Fill a desk-sized container with any essential a teacher might need throughout the day—paper clips, pushpins, hand sanitizer, and of course, chocolate. eighteen25 has written a fantastic tutorial on how to make this easy survival kit, but you just as easily give it in a simple jar or bag.
3. Books for the classroom library 3 of 8The more (quality) books, the merrier, I always say, and it seems like most teachers I interviewed agree. Provide a few of your favorite childhood classics, search for the best age-appropriate read-alouds (here are some of my favorites), ask the teacher for her book wish list, or simply give a gift card to a local bookstore. (Book collection above from Science Blogs.)
4. Flowers 4 of 8I initially thought flowers would be a little… impractical for the start of a school year. But a number of teachers said they loved getting flowers for brightening up the classroom. You could send along an easy-care plant or a simple bouquet of seasonal favorites—a pot or vase works fine, but if you're in a creative mood, you can glue pencils or pencils for a sweet homemade touch.
5. Classroom supplies 5 of 8Teachers frequently spend their own money to stock their classroom with supplies, so help lighten the load. Ask what they most need, or refer to the list they already provided. They also frequently need small things to give students as rewards—think stickers, colorful pencils, erasers, and stamps—and you can easily gift the stash in an insulated cup. Teachers also appreciate gift cards to the local teacher supply store.
6. Notepad 6 of 8Teachers often need to jot down notes or send home a little message to the parents. How Does She? has an excellent tutorial on making nine notepad blocks for only $11—you can also enlist your kids to help decorate the sides.
7. Treats for the desk 7 of 8Any teacher would appreciate a little midday sweet treat—send along a simple jar filled with candy or mints that she can keep at her desk. (Schools may have a policy against sweet treats out in the open, so check first.)
8. Coffee 8 of 8
When I brought up back-to-school gifts on Facebook, a number of you said you don’t like to give them because you don’t want to look like a suck-up. I asked one teacher about this—does she think parents are sucking up when they give back-to-school gifts? Here’s her response:
“Not at all. I think it looks like you care about me from the beginning, that you are invested in our partnership, and you know that this is a job that needs your appreciation. We don’t do it just for the money, so it doesn’t hurt to feel valued.”
Any of these ideas would also work throughout the school year, so don’t feel overwhelmed if you just don’t have the energy or finances to do a back-to-school gift. Every teacher I asked said she doesn’t expect a gift at the beginning of the school year; it’s simply a thoughtful gesture. So save this list so that you have a simple idea when you need it! And to help, sometime at the beginning of the school year you can ask her for her favorite candy, coffee drink, magazine, restaurant, flower, or hobby—this will help you know exactly what she’d appreciate.
What about you… Do you do back-to-school teacher gifts? What are some of your favorite ideas?
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