End-of-term teacher gifts: are they compulsory?

End-of-term teacher gifts_.pngIt’s that point of the year when we’re all (figuratively, if not literally) crawling our kids to school, fingernails scraping the parched grass as we pant towards the finish line of next Friday.

Of course, we’re aware of just how much our children’s teachers have done for them this last year, and we are very grateful. In the back of our minds we vaguely wonder about getting some flowers or wine to say thank you, but in truth we’re totally exhausted and it seems like one more thing on the already bulging ‘to-do’ list.

So – what to do? Are gifts necessary at all? I mean, they get paid don’t they? And what if you’re just not convinced that your child’s teacher has done much for them this year? What if they’ve been off sick for 6 months? How do you respond then?

There are honestly no right answers to the question of whether to splash out on your kids’ teachers or not. If you don’t, you’re not stingy – and if you do, you’re not a sucker. But perhaps there are a few things we might think about before making our decision.

Our teachers get paid – but, often, go over and above.

Not knowing I was about to write on this subject, 6-year-old Missy informed me today that her teacher stays up late doing ‘all her school work’. I could have guessed this – she’s an excellent teacher, with creative ideas a-plenty, and a thorough diligence to each child’s progress – but the fact that my young child is already aware is worrying.

This is not an essay on teacher workload. But I think it’s worth considering that our children’s teachers regularly put in far more than what they’re paid to do. And I, for one, feel grateful for that. (I mean, I’d like them to work a little less hard and go to bed a little earlier, but I’m grateful for their commitment to my children.)

Presents are nice – but words mean more

Have you ever written a condolence card to a friend or family member, including all sorts of wonderful tributes to the deceased person – and then wondered why you didn’t tell them what you thought of them when they were alive?

I don’t think we’re generally very good at telling others how much we appreciate them. We kind of expect them just to know, don’t we? But who doesn’t like to be told?

Whether you go down the present route or not, a card with words from the heart means a hundred times more. When I was teaching, I used to keep any cards like this in a special folder, which would encourage me on hard days. Words of gratitude and encouragement really are a bolster to anyone, not least your child’s teacher as he/she prepares to take on a new class next year.

Please don’t worry about using perfect sentences, grammar or punctuation – you’re not being marked on any of this! Just tell your child’s teacher, in plain English, what you have appreciated about them this year.

A lot of it has to do with personality

I’m a gift person – I love to receive them and I love to give them. So I do teacher gifts at Christmas and in the Summer. They’re not expensive or extravagant, and usually they’re homemade and edible (at least in part), but I like to give something.

For one of my children, a few parents in the class have clubbed together to get vouchers for the staff. Many schools do this, as it means your contribution can be big or small, but still contributes to something worthwhile. If your school doesn’t do it, do what I did and just gather a few friends to chip in to something bigger. It’s nice to receive wine and chocolates, but also great to be able to buy something more substantial which might last a little longer and will remind the teacher of a particular class.

But it’s also OK if you’re not really that into gifts. Write a card or a letter. Make sure the teacher knows they’re appreciated. It doesn’t have to get pricey.

Who doesn’t get thanked?

I used to be a secondary teacher, and secondary teachers get naff all. Fair enough – each child maybe has 10-12 different teachers, so it’s just not practical to give to each one.

But the cards I did get were kept and treasured. As a Music teacher, I would inevitably receive cards from the parents of the kids who were really involved with Music. They were the ones who had more contact with me, and if your kid is good at Music, you’re likely going to be grateful for the teachers who are supporting and nurturing them as they develop.

And this makes me think: is there someone at your school who doesn’t get thanked? A specialist teacher? The Head? The receptionist? Who has really blessed you or your child this last year? Can you write them a card to show your appreciation?

What if my child’s teacher hasn’t done their duty this year?

This is a hard one. What do you do if you don’t feel gratitude this year? If your child hasn’t made progress, or there’s been a bullying issue which hasn’t been sorted, or you just haven’t ‘clicked’ with the teacher?

I think that in all but the very extreme cases, there is usually something you can find to thank your child’s teacher for. You may not have ‘clicked’, but that’s OK – we’re not going to be best buds with the teachers. Think objectively. Look at your child’s report. Where has he/she made progress? Don’t you think their teacher deserves a few words of thanks?

Has your child been happy in their class? Regardless of what you think of the teacher, if your child likes him/her, then that is reason enough to write a card.

And if there’s been an unresolved issue this year, try to be balanced. How much is actually down to teacher negligence – and how much is ‘just because’? Some things are just pretty impossible for a teacher to sort out, much as they might try. Bullies are very good at hiding their actions from teachers, so it can be very difficult to resolve a situation like this. Not that I’m saying you shouldn’t be concerned about it – just that it may not be entirely the teacher’s fault that it hasn’t been sorted out this year.

Over to you – do you do gifts? What do you get, and is there a class-organised present to contribute to? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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