Stop. Don’t keep reading until you take a moment to pull out your planner, Google calendar, or bullet journal and put a huge circle (or star, flower, whatever kind of doodle you’d like) around the week of May 1 – May 5.
Did you do it? If not, I’ll wait . . . Okay. Now we can move on.
May 1 – May 5 is Teacher Appreciation Week.
It’s kind of like waiting until 11 months into the calendar year before getting to Thanksgiving, and then spending a week preparing for all the ways you are going to show gratitude for all the wonderful things in your life. It goes without saying that we should be practicing that behavior year-round. Likewise, we shouldn’t let eight months of the school year go by before we show our teachers how much we appreciate them. But, for the sake of argument, let’s pretend you got busy and the school year flew by and now you want to make sure your child’s teacher knows how much you value them. You’re in luck.
I have reached out to several teachers to get to the truth of what they really want (and what you can save your time/money on).
A thoughtful note written by a child or a parent is priceless. It doesn’t have to be long or beautifully decorated, but it should be specific. Stay away from generic quotes and take a moment to express your gratitude.
“I have a drawer of cards parents and students have written to me. I make it a point to pull one or two out to read on those really rough days. As it gets warmer and summer draws near, those days are more frequent.”
Remember that long supply list you received last summer? It’s probably a safe bet to purchase anything off that list to send in. If you want to surprise the teacher, you can ask your child what supplies they notice is running low. My kindergartener informed me that they’re low on peach and turquoise crayons and my third grader insisted they need more lined paper and pencils. However, if you want to make sure you’re getting something that is needed most, just send an email. Teachers aren’t likely to mention what supplies are running low, most will happily tell you if you ask!
Also, never underestimate the power of a good pen! I tried to see if I could narrow down one or two teacher-preferred pans to share, but it seems they all have their favorites (felt tip, ball point, fine, extra fine, gel…). I will say that they were all in agreement that quick-drying ink is a necessity when correcting papers. Pay attention next time you’re at conferences so you can make not of what brand of pen your teacher is using and surprise them with a new pack!
In addition to the standard gift cards (Target, Staples, Michaels…), I suggest Amazon and ITunes, especially if your school uses a lot of technology. The Apple gift cards can be used to purchase Apps. Coffee shops, ice cream shops, and restaurants are great too. Think about what restaurants are nearby school or deliver to the school so they can use them for lunch.
This is where it gets tricky. Typically, parents (myself) will come up with what we think is a great idea and never actually include the child. This year, ask your child if there is one specific thing that they notice their teacher enjoys or does/uses/wears every day. Children are incredibly observant and you might be surprised by their answer. Plus, a favorite candy, drink, chap stick, or accessory is more meaningful if it is inspired by the interaction they share together.
(…or consider these tips before you do.)
Obviously, any act of generosity is appreciated and I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t do these things. You just may want to consider each teacher’s individual tastes/lifestyle/diet first.
Gifts That Create Clutter
Try to stay away from items that may cause more clutter for teachers. If you’re giving something meant for the classroom, young students may expect it to stay there ‘on display’. It can be a problem if a teacher receives too many décor items and simply doesn’t have the room (or desire) to showcase them all.
“Honestly, gift cards are the best gift to me because they don’t add clutter to my home or classroom and I can actually enjoy them!”
Gifts That Are Taste-Specific
Do you specifically know the style of jewelry they wear? What scents they like (and don’t like)? If not, you may want to save your money before purchasing accessories, lotions, candles, or artwork. Remember (and this is a hard for me one to remember) it’s not about what YOU like; it’s about what THEY like.
Overly Trendy Gifts
If you typed ‘teacher appreciation gifts’ into Pinterest, you should know that at least a dozen other moms in the class saw the same ideas. Likewise, unless you know the teacher needs a replacement coffee mug, the teachers I asked all agreed they don’t need more mugs.
Homemade treats are my jam! Baking is how I show appreciation. However, many teachers prefer store-bought treats. Unless you have a relationship with the teacher and know they would enjoy your baking, it’s safer to stick with store-bought. Make sure you consider your teacher’s allergies as well as lifestyle before sending in sweet treats. Imagine trying to cut out sugar, then having a handful of kids bringing in dessert every day for a week!
I was initially going to post some super adorable Pinterest-worthy tutorials for you, but instead I decided to save this space to write this short open letter to my daughters’ teachers.
To my daughters’ teachers,
Day in and day out you guide my daughter to make good choices that will build her character for years to come. You encourage her to take chances, overcoming her fear of failure. You support her as she struggles and praise her accomplishments, helping to lift her confidence, bit by bit. Of course, you teach academics as well. My kindergartner surprises me every day with her reading. My third grader takes so much pride in her math skills. But, while the district may be concerned with scores, it is not what matters to me.
You take the time to notice–and appreciate–her quirks. You make her feel special, and you have created a classroom in which she feels safe to be herself. You have taught my daughter to love to learn. Your dedication will continue to impact our lives as we watch her take the tools you have given her this year and continue to apply them as she grows.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you.
Find a way to say thank you to the incredible people who guide, support, and encourage our children each day. Their unending efforts can never be fully realized or repaid, but we are all forever indebted to and thankful for our kids’ wonderful teachers.