Saturday, November 7, 2009

Gifts For Teachers: What not to give and why Part 1

I've been talking with other teachers and parents in the past few days about what not to give to teachers. All of the following gifts have been given to teachers. As with anything, there may be exceptions to these 'do not gives', many of them are just due to the number of times these are given rather than the whole idea of it. My overriding advice to anyone trying to buy a present for a teacher is a) know the teacher. b) use common sense.

1. Apple, owl, or pencil themed things. Particularly if they are tacky.
(Though the one above actually looks quite nice, I still don't want an apple decor in my house thanks).

As I explained in my previous post, teachers get this stuff a LOT. For some reason people have attributed 'teacher' with 'apples' and 'wise owls', and stationery. And apparently this means the teacher actually wants gifts with those things on them. From everyone. Imagine how often people have given him or her presents with apples, owls, or pencils. Then imagine he or she has been teaching for over 10 years. That's a whole lot of apple themed stuff. Where is she supposed to keep them all? And if you were an accountant, would you want to constantly get earrings with calculators on them, bags with bank statements on them, or little abacus ornaments? For years and years, not just a one off? No.
Your gift may be perfectly nice, (though from what I hear they're often tacky and also forced upon the consumer by catalogues and shops saying they're 'perfect for the teacher!') but everyone else is also being influenced by the market and also tradition- it's not just you. It's everyone! So please, try to be more original, unless it is an absolutely STUNNING teacher themed gift.

Please also avoid anything with the word 'Teacher' emblazoned on it in any way shape or form. Teachers have their own identities, and they also get hundreds of these things over the years.

Similarly: Things with "Miss Surname" on it, that are intended for use at home rather than at school. Um, do you want things with Mrs Jones on it, all over your house? Rather than Mary?

2. Mugs.

All teachers loooove drinking coffee, or tea when they're relaxing from the kids!
... I don't. I hate coffee. Please, get to know your teacher before you assume that teachers love coffee. (So this goes not only for mugs, but for any coffee or tea related items). Unless you're okay with the fact that the coffee or tea themed things might be redistributed to other family members or to Goodwill.
The other issue with mugs is similar to the issue with apples.

I like mugs. I do! But my mother and father, both teachers, have been teaching for about 35 years each, and each of them are given 10 mugs a year... those mugs don't get worn out. Each of those kids and their parents thought that teachers like mugs, that they drink lots of tea and coffee. Which is often correct. But everyone else thought that too!

Teachers get hundreds of them. We've got a giant cabinet full of mugs, and I don't think any were bought by us ever, except the fancy ones from overseas that came in a set.
Sometimes the mug is filled with something- this is nice! But, teachers will probably dispose of the Cadbury branded mugs after they eat the chocolate that was sitting inside it. If you'd like to give them anyway, know that the teachers did like the sentiment, and accept that teachers often don't have enough room to keep all mugs.

There are exceptions to the mug rule: Really REALLY nice mugs.

3. Framed photos of your child.

I suppose the sentiment is that we won't forget your child. But as with the mugs and the apples: Where are you expecting us to put this? On the mantlepiece along with the photos of our own biological children, nieces and nephews, husbands and wives, parents, grandparents, cats, dogs, boyfriend, girlfriend, holiday snaps with friends?
Don't you think it's a little out of place? A little self centred to think your child goes into that category? Your child is not our beloved little cousin or our baby, no matter how sweet he or she was. We're not running an orphanage or teaching the same group of kids for a 12 year period, nor are your children our friends or youth group members. Perhaps some other teachers can help me explain this concept.

Gifts like framed photos come across as a bit odd coming from parents. If it came from a child themselves because they want to be remembered by you, because you made an impact for them and you were really special to them, that is the exception to the rule. But sorry Jane, I probably won't be displaying it on my wall. (But feel free to send me photos of you as you grow up! :D I'd love to know how you went).

In the future if I ever get one like this, I might put the photo in a scrapbook along with class photos, and use the frame for something else. :) Thanks for the frame, Mrs Jones and Timmy!

4. Ornaments with your child's name on it, or worse, face.

Again, pretty self centred. If it's pretty, it might be kept anyway. If it's horrible and tacky, it might be displayed for one Christmas and then weeded the next year. But that goes for any Christmas Decoration given as a gift! And please use caution when it comes to religious gifts. Many teachers are not Christian (they might be another religion, or not religious at all). I think angels are pretty, but if it says something about God on it, I will feel uncomfortable displaying it.

Disclaimer: I will always appreciate the sentiment, as I'm sure will all teachers. I'm merely trying to advise for better gift giving, so you have more luck that the teacher will like the gift too.


  1. LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS! Too funny...I am happy to say I do not give any of those things!

  2. I understand completely. I have three cats. I have no cat themed items displayed anywhere in my home. And yet...

  3. This is a great "reminder" for people. Gift cards to stores or their favorite restaurant or spa, I believe is appreciated. Get to know your teacher.

  4. When I was an ESL teacher in South Korea, the gifts were totally different. No apples, owls or mugs.

    Carnations are the general rule, particularly on Teacher's Day. One student gave me a pencil case. I also remember some of my students gave me white chocolate on White Day, LOL!

  5. Great post! Maybe I should put a link to this in our school newsletter! :D
    Athough I must say there is nothing sweeter than when a child comes to you excitedly with a gift they picked out *all by themselves*. Usually it's something tacky but it's so sweet they went to all that trouble that you gush over it like it's just what you always wanted.

    Best teacher gift I received: Movie ticket vouchers!

  6. So true! And why do we have to go through this every year?!?!

  7. I agree, if it is the CHILD getting you something themselves, it's different. (though I still wouldn't know where to put some of it!) Feel free to share it with other teachers too. I'll be listing more things in another post or two as well. Feel free to contribute what teachers should never be given!

  8. Yikes... those are ALL terrible! You sound like the expert after so many years of teaching. LOL... I promise never to buy anything like this for my kids' teacher... ever! :)

  9. You have a great looking blog...


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