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Enough Pricey Teacher Presents!

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The Meanest Mom writes: Forget the holidays; my budget is always pinched the most in June. The culprit: teacher gifts. 

When I was in grade school in the '80s, the standard fare for teacher gifts was a plate of homemade cookies or a small bouquet of flowers picked from the backyard.

Now, 20 years and several steroid injections later, the only thing "small" about today's teacher's gift is the diameter of the gift card. Instead of sniffing daisies, teachers these days spend their summers getting facials, dining at upscale restaurants, and buying new wardrobes, all complements of their former students.

I firmly believe that teachers deserve to be recognized for their hard work and dedication, yet my depleted bank account has left me wondering if we as a society have become too generous in our gift-giving.

Last week, the room mother of my children's preschool class sent home a letter soliciting contributions for a class gift. The suggested donation: $20 per child. With 15 children enrolled, the amount collected totaled a whopping $300. Even though the donation was technically "voluntary," parents who opt out or give less than the "suggested amount" risk being labeled as ungrateful or (gasp) cheap.

Last week's contribution wouldn't be so hard to swallow if 1) I wasn't already paying hefty monthly tuition fees 2) I only had one child in school (I have three) 3) it was the only gift I gave this year. Like Dunkin Donut shops, teacher gifts keep expanding in size and increasing in number. Preceding the "last day of school" teacher gift was the holiday gift, the Valentine's Day gift, the Mother's Day gift, and the birthday gift.

Given the current rate of inflation, I figure that by the time my kids reach junior high, teacher gifts will be handed out every Friday and will come standard with rear brakes and automatic transmissions. Needless to say, I'm looking for a second job.

UPDATE: In response to this article, pediatrician Dr. Gwenn emailed momlogic the following: "Massachusetts has a law in effect to limit giving to $50 per family because things were getting so out of control. We also have new nonprofit groups in town we can donate to in honor of a particular teacher, but the money benefits the entire school. Our giving program is called "Hats Off To Teachers" and it is fantastic - and tax-deductible."

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36 comments so far | Post a comment now
j June 10, 2008, 9:11 AM

I feel the same way. Between my three kids in school, I had to buy gifts for 16 teachers. If you buy a gift card you feel like you need to spend more than if you bought a gift.

Anonymous June 10, 2008, 11:52 AM

This is a tough one. I agree that teaching can be a thankless job and we need to recognize them but the frequency and amount of the gifts is getting to be a bit too much to handle. Funny article.

Suzanne June 10, 2008, 12:50 PM

I totally agree and it is worse when they are in pre-school and day care. My 10 month old (yes, she is not even a year yet and I have to deal with this) has 5 teachers plus the director who you see every day so you feel funny if you don’t give something. Then my 4 year old in Pre-K has a full time teacher, one morning and one afternoon teacher, plus her music teacher (last semester was dance). I save because the art teacher is also her afternoon teacher so thats one present less at least. Also, the four year old goes in early and stays a little late so there are the extended hours teachers as well. That doesn’t count her Sunday School teacher. Thats about 14 presents in all for those of you who are counting. I go totally broke. Some get more than others depending on what they do for my kids, but I am tapped out. Thank g-d for kindergarten when I should have less teachers. I can’t wait till middle school because then its nothing but the Sunday School teacher.

Becky June 10, 2008, 2:45 PM

As a teacher, I most appreciate a kind note from the parents, but most important I love when one of my third graders write the letter. I become very uncomfortable when I’m given a high priced gifts. As a parent, I’m the one organizing a group gift for my daughters such has gift cards to their favorite places.

Kasi June 10, 2008, 4:09 PM

Hmmm…I have a 4th grader and have never bought anything for a teacher… so if you don’t want to spend the money…don’t…and I’m not a cheap person I guess I just don’t think it’s necessary to buy a teacher a gift…

Crisa June 10, 2008, 4:28 PM

I think this is self-inflicted. When I taught I never expected anything, but I could see how parents were trying to keep up with the “Jones’” and the competition for the best gift began.

AnonymousAnn June 10, 2008, 6:25 PM

I only bought teacher gifts at Christmas when DD was in elementary school. I never heard of the end of the year gift.

Lynne June 10, 2008, 6:28 PM

There’s no law that says you have to buy your child’s teacher a gift. It’s just some stupid tradition that a bunch of parents started.

D June 10, 2008, 7:25 PM

This is so where we are right now.

With three kids currently in school it is a killer!

And what about the PE Teacher, the French Teacher, the Librarian, the Science Teacher, the list is endless!!!

And all my kids are still in ELEMENTARY school.

Maybe it is a bit of keeping up with the Jones, but there does seem to be an expectation.

And this is after we shell out money for school parties, school fundraisers, school supplies (we nearly went broke then too!).

This year we are doing hand written thank you notes and calling it good.

Patti G. June 10, 2008, 10:52 PM


I agree with some posters that gift-giving should be optional. Parents should feel pressured to keep up with the Joneses—they should do what is comfortable for their family. Of course, this assumes they have teachers that think like I do and won’t hold it against them. I doubt that would be the case with a teacher who SOLICITS GIFTS! You’re kidding, right?

Patti G. June 10, 2008, 10:55 PM

Oops. Of course I meant to say “should not” feel pressured.

Anonymous June 10, 2008, 11:23 PM

teachers should be thanked with a card or a cookie, once or twice a year. a good, genuine teacher wants a nice thank you letter from a student…not a day at the spa. i think the gift giving is a pointless suburban trend. i dont encourage gift giving because it isolates children who can’t afford gifts. giving gifts to teachers sounds like it might be on

Tikay June 10, 2008, 11:43 PM

As a teacher I am very appreciative of simple hand-written notes and cards. My students are mostly from very impoverished homes, and I would never expect my parents to purchase expensive gifts for me.

Amber June 11, 2008, 12:21 PM

My twins are still in pre-school so I had never even heard of giving a teacher a gift until my older sister told me she had to get gifts for her kids’ teachers. I plan on just getting cards for the teachers at the pre-school.

Meghan June 11, 2008, 11:13 PM

As a parent of 3 special needs kids in elementary school, we are exposed to a myriad of teachers and resources that assist with our children’s learning. I find that doing “little things” throughout the year shows much more appreciation than the “end of the year” gift giving. Frankly, who doesn’t like receiving a note of praise and thanks when least expected.~ or for that matter, an extra set of “hands” when least expected, but needed! For those teachers that have gone above and beyond and have made a huge impact on our kids, should we choose to send some token gift at the end of the year, it has been a carefully chosen book relating to children/teaching, or simply a few “supplies” (including a small gift card to supply stores) that their otherwise “class budget” doesn’t allow them to purchase. Seriously, there should NEVER be pressure for such a gift. Show your appreciation by supporting the teacher throughout the year!!!!!

Jack Sepa June 12, 2008, 10:56 AM

Well I hope your children do not choose to go into such a thankless profession as teaching so you do not have to hear how ungrateful the parents of their students are for their sacrifice. now go sip your $5.00 Latte’s and head to the spa…

UK June 12, 2008, 1:09 PM

Why not buy your gifts in advance when the sales are on and grab a ‘bargain’? Or maybe you can forward on gifts you yourself have received that you didn’t like? That is if you really want to get a gift and need to economise. In my day, most kids at school gave the teacher a bottle of wine!

abby June 13, 2008, 11:20 AM

As a teacher, I am alway appreciative but embarrassed by the gifts that I receive. A hand written thank you from the student means much more than any store bought item. If you really feel the need for giving a gift I would suggest that your child/children give gifts for the classroom — a book for the class library, indoor recess games, etc. Or, how about a donation to a literacy charity (then you can write off the donation on your taxes, too).

Mr. M's wife June 17, 2008, 11:01 AM

I’m married to a teacher and we’ll be paying off student loans for the next 32 years and we still only get paid right above the poverty line for him being a teacher. It is deffinetly a great sacrifice for teachers (and their families) to do what they do, so it is nice to receive some recognition. Not necessarily in the form of money or a gift card, but just notes or thank yous mean so much.

homeschoolin' mama June 20, 2008, 11:11 PM

I am not quite sure what the problem is aside from your lack of self-esteem. For the love of God, if you don’t want to contrbute the $$ for the gift card then what kind of odd, Stepford-style example are you setting for your family?

And, by the way…
If you don’t think the person who deals with your kid day in and day out isn’t worth a mere $20 or even $200 … that alone says something pretty loud and clear about where your values are!

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