The Do’s and Don’ts of Holiday Shopping for Teachers

teachersholidaygiftsKnowing what to give teachers at the holidays is tough. How can you show them you appreciate everything they do for your child while not a) breaking the bank or b) giving them something they don’t want? I recently had the opportunity to interview a dozen teachers who teach every grade level (preschool through college) and I asked them to give me some real talk — totally anonymously — about what they do and don’t want. Each of them hesitated at first, saying, “I know that people give from a good place,” but when I told them parents really do want advice, they gave me plenty …

DO …

… buy them a gift card.

“Let’s be honest, teachers don’t make much but we still have to buy presents, attend parties, and buy a lot of extra food during the holidays. I loved getting gift cards to grocery stores, Target, or department stores.”

“Gift cards are always the best! I’ve never been given one I didn’t use.”

“I love gift cards to places like restaurants and stores, but service gift cards are nice, too — I’ve received cards to get an oil change, my gutters cleaned, and even my chimney swept!”

… pen a handwritten card.

“Every time a student and/or parent took the time to write me a thoughtful note was truly heartwarming. I saved those and read them on days I felt like a horrid teacher.”

“Handmade cards are the BEST. Mostly because you know they came from the heart, and who doesn’t like the phonetic misspellings first and second graders make?”

… get your Pinterest on.

“These are always wonderful, especially when the family doesn’t have a lot of money.”

“I have actually given my kids’ teachers “Pinteresty-type” gifts. But I keep it simple and usually also include a gift card to somewhere, even if it’s just $5 for coffee.”

“I especially love useful handmade gifts. One of my students knitted me a scarf, and another once made me an apron (with help from her mom). I still use both of those!

“Some of my favorite and most memorable teacher gifts have been a handmade glittery Christmas tree ornament and a pretty star ornament from the dollar section.”

… get to know them beforehand.

“You really can’t go wrong with a coffee/Starbuck’s gift card. I ask my kids’ teachers for a list of their favorite stores, hobbies, charities, restaurants, etc at the beginning of the school year and use that info for gift card purchases.”

“I like to give my kids’ teachers a “favorite things” list at the start of the year so I know if they like Starbucks or Coffee Bean and what their favorite candy, restaurant, etc is. There are a lot of these printables on Pinterest.”

… remember middle school and high school teachers.

“They work so hard and are often not recognized like teachers in the younger grades.”


… give gifts that stink.

“No candles or bath stuff, please! My nose can’t take it!”

… buy flowers or plants — they’re more trouble than they’re worth.

“Getting flowers is nice, but not my favorite because I personally kill plants and it is hard to transport them home.”

… cook them anything

“It’s weird eating food from people when I haven’t seen their kitchens … plus holiday weight gain is bad enough without a desk full of treats!”

“Please dear Lord do not bake me anything. Most years I am left with three-dozen cookies, a box of chocolates, bread, etc. I do not need more sugar!”

… give them knick-knacks (Think: “#1 Teacher” mugs, apple paperweights, shirts, etc.)

“Even though I love teaching and it is my calling, I don’t want to be reminded of my job at home.”

“I have so many #1 teacher items!”

“How many mugs can one teacher have? I have about thirty so far. Literally.”

“A student gave me an adorable mug last year that says, ‘Teacher’ on one side and ‘You put the cool in school on the other.’ Adorable, but I don’t want to drink my coffee out of it … even on school days.”

… give them school supplies (unless they ask).

“Once I got a pencil sharpener for the class … useful but not really something for me.”

… bother giving them that photo of your kid(s).

“Teachers love their students, but they have roughly 25 EVERY year. Photo albums of past classes stack up quickly!”

… give them anything too personal.

Be mindful of your teacher’s style, taste, etc., and probably just avoid personal gifts that can’t be returned unless you are certain they will love it:

“One of my friends once received a very expensive monogrammed item that was not something she (as a young teacher) could really use. It was a very thoughtful gift, but it unfortunately created an awkward situation where the teacher felt pressured to use something she really couldn’t, while the family was upset because their expensive gift wasn’t used.”

Image courtesy of ThinkStock

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