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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. 

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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
Wendi June 22, 2008, 8:56 PM

I’m a teacher and while I NEVER expect gifts, I’m certainly appreciative of any gifts I receive—regardless of how much they’re worth. I think showing appreciation, whether through a gift card, thank you note, or Dollar Store trinket, is a way to show respect and manners. And honestly, I probably get gifts from 5 kids at Christmas and/or the end of the school year, so it’s not like I’m living the high life after racking up so many presents.
And I have to agree with homeschoolin’ mama—I’ve had to put up with a lot of CRAP from kids and their parents (mostly parents), so it’s nice when someone finally says “Thank you for teaching my child.”

Renny June 27, 2008, 2:52 PM

Um, homeschoolin’ mama, do you even have a right to complain about this? Seriously, if you home school your kids then you have no idea what its like to buy gifts for the teacher. She didn’t say she wasn’t grateful, but how does anyone get off suggesting someone give $20 for a gift for anyone, I don’t care what they do. I teach my kids to be well behaved and respectful towards their teacher.
Whatever happened to giving them an apple? I think the teachers I appreciate the most I remember and stay in contact with and that means more to me than some random gift I may have given them years ago.

melisa June 29, 2008, 2:16 AM

i think that this is like any other thing in life.. there are those that will always go over board… i think the world of those that teach my children.. i regualarly help out in the classrooms to assist those over worked adn under paid teachers that work so hard to help my kids. i usually keep my eye out for little things that are cheap adn meaningful like the teachers survival kit i give each teacher at the beging of the year and a poem in a frame tha the kids have written out… for a christmas gift… cheap in cost huge in meaning… or a letter that a child has written telling the teacher what meant alot to the child that year…little things mean the most…adn any teacher who loves their job adn their children knows that!

etm July 6, 2008, 11:31 PM

You don’t have to buy gifts for all of your teachers. Teachers appreciate thank you notes. A note is more memorable. It is an uncomfortable situation being given gifts.I know from experience because I am a teacher.

m July 14, 2008, 12:39 AM

I have a child in prek and this past school yr the little church prek handed out by a head room mother a list for each teacher of the school a list with what they liked and a suggestion to only give gift cards from the places listed that they like. Lets see they also suggested the janitor, director, assistant and a few other folks. I spent $100…I am starting to find it rude for schools to even give a suggestion i thought it was better manners to just take what you receive and be thankful rather then make a wish list. The public school are doing it too and frankly I think they are all coming up with way too many gift giving holidays and I have 3 kids so there’s too many teachers to give to for each time.

Sharon L. Rozansky July 14, 2008, 8:35 AM

I am a former teacher and a mom of a 6year old girl and an 8 yr. old son who has Autism. My son has had the benefit of dedicated therapists,social workers, paras and teachers. I have always shown our appreciation but not always with a pricey gift. For the beginning of the school year, I like to send something for the entire class,like inspirational posters or this year I found cute signs for 99 cents a pack of two that read,Quiet please, Eyes on Me, Line up here, raise your hand.When I taught I had the kids make class rules and posters to help remind us of them. I never had to raise my voice I would simply point the sign that read,”Raise your hand”. Christmas is just homemade cookies or nut/fruit combos that I put together myself. As for the end of the year gift I just printed some candy wrappers
with my children’s photo on them saying have a sweet summer, Love Matthew & Mikayla. The teachers who worked with both of my children, got the giant sized Hershey bars the others got the regular sized bars. Everyone felt remembered and they all loved the photo of the kids. If you wait until the bars go on sale, it can cost as a little a 99cents plus the cost of ink and paper which is less than having them printed by a company. Trust me, as a former teacher, we remember your kind words and helpfulness rather then the gift your child gave us on Christmas. :)

Lexi July 18, 2008, 6:47 PM

I agree that it is getting out of hand however you can choose to not follow the trend that is going on and do what you feel most comfortable with doing. If I was a teacher I would be very happy if the kids gave me home made goodies or a hand made card. Sometimes the gifts you don’t spend money on are the best and most thoughtful.

DOC July 18, 2008, 8:45 PM

I HAVE A DAUGHTER GOING INTO THE SECOND GRADE THIS YEAR. WE AS PARENTS ARE FINANCIALLY BETTER OF THAN MANY OF HER CLASSMATES. WE PURCHASE HER SUPPLIES,HER MEALS,PARTICIPATE IN THE PTA,AND ONE OF US ATTENDS ALL OF HER CLASS FUNCTIONS. WE SUPPORT THE TEACHER WITH EXTRA SUPPLIES AND WHATEVER ELSE WE CAN AFFORD THAT ULTIMATELY BENEFITS ALL THE CHILDREN IN HER CLASS.IT IS IMPORTANT TO US THAT MY DAUGHTER GETS THE KNOWLEDGE AND SKILLS TO BE WHATEVER SHE WISHES TO BE AND I SUPPORT ANY OF HER TEACHERS THAT PROVIDE HER WITH THE FOUNDATION TO BUILD A SKYSCRAPER ON IF SHE SO CHOOSES. A GIFT AT CHRISTMAS IS MOST APPROPRIATE ESPECIALLY IF I CAN SEE THE PROGRESS IN MY CHILD THAT I EXPECT. A GIFT AT THE END OF THE SUCCESSFUL SCHOOL YEAR IS ALSO APPROPRIATE AND THEN PROCEED TO DO THE SAME FOR HER NEXT TEACHERS UP TO JR. HIGHSCHOOL. AT THIS POINT IT SHOULD BE A COLLECTIVE EFFORT ON THE PART OF THE ENTIRE CLASS AND NOT THEIR PARENTS.THIS IS BECAUSE AS THE CHILD PASSES FROM ONE GRADE TO THE NEXT,UPON REACHING THE HIGHER GRADES THE EXPENSE IS MUCH GREATER AND THE FINANCIAL BURDEN OF YOUR OWN CHILD’S EDUCATION IS NOW THE PARENTS RESPONSIBILITY AND THERE WILL NOT BE MUCH OF A SURPLUS TO GIVE AWAY.

Marisa August 19, 2008, 2:17 PM

2 of the teachers who deal with me day in and day out do almost nothing.My math teacher love randomly yelling at us and sometimes he just tells stories and so we never get our math done!Then we are expected to take it home and spend 5 hours doing it.My science teacher believes in the no child left behind law and we spend hours just discussing the instructions because some kid who wasn’t paying attention wants to get a good grade so he can play with his friends at recess and at home.My homeroom teacher just explains and laves us alone.She’s my favorite teacher.I actually like working alone and at a fast pace so this teacher is the only one who allows us to work at our own pace.She doesn’t spend hours explaining instructions or telling stories.So we only got an inexpensive Christmas present for her.No other holidays or an end of the year present.Just a simple Christmas gift.

kimberley August 25, 2008, 3:31 PM

i have 4 children and have always recogized their teachers with a gift. i am now in education myself and i spend much more on my stiudents than i receive in gifts. teachers are underpaid and overworked but the rewards are great. the kids are darling; however, the mom who wrote this article is not darling — upscale restaurants and spas — she is obviously a fat, stay at home mom who should spend less time on the computer and more time with her children. maybe she should home school them since she is so unhappy with buying gifts :-)

Anonymous January 3, 2009, 11:55 AM

Wow! I am shocked by many of the comments I have read. For the record, teachers do not spend their summers dining at upscale places and getting facials. We spend our summers getting ready for the next school year and attending conferences and workshops. For me, receiving a gift card from the entire class made me realize that I was appreciated. My card came with handmade cards from each child which made it even more special! As far as the money goes, if each family gives only $5-$10 that would make a very nice gift card. Reading some of these posts makes me realize how truly underappreciated teachers are. We are underpaid and overworked. I am not suprised to hear it put in writing that we do not deserve gifts or appreciation. It is a shame that this is what it has come to. The kids are the part of teaching that makes it all worth it. You have to LOVE teaching to teach, and is a small gift once or twice a year really too much to give the teachers who are teaching your children every day?????

Leslie March 14, 2009, 1:15 AM

Gee, maybe schools can teach a class on humor. Seems people reading Mean Mom’s articles take her wayyyy too seriously. Lighten up, people!

Teri June 10, 2009, 2:18 AM

Dear Mean Mom,

A gift is something you give freely from your heart. Obviously, you’re giving each teacher a gift because you feel obligated or you want to protect your image. Dig deep and see yourself for the shallow person you have become.
I taught school until the day my first child was born. I never expected or wanted anything from my students or their parents. The only thing I prayed for was their determination and support. I honestly believe many teachers share my sentiments.
I taught 40 children, made $12,000 a year, and made 40 lunches each morning because I knew it would probably be the only meal my students would eat each day. I never said a word, never wanted to, and have no regrets for doing so. Did I make any money? NO! Did I come from money? No, my dear father was a teacher and I was one of five children. Did I receive gifts for holidays or at the end of the year? I never had the same 40 students from the start of the year to the end of the year because their parents were migrant workers, but YES I did receive many gifts throughout the year. Hand drawn pictures, homemade tamales, lasagna, etc., heartfelt notes and endless hugs and kisses made my first years out of college extremely warm and rewarding. I will never forget my students, their parents or my teaching experience.
I pray that you will find it in your heart to spend more time connecting with your children than fretting over teacher gifts. If you appreciate a teacher, a personal and heartfelt relationship will last much longer than an insincere donation. It’s obvious you’re somewhat intelligent, so use your brain and channel the energy in a more productive manner!
God Bless!

just November 26, 2010, 9:39 PM

I don’t at all feel intimidated about chipping in for a class gift, in fact I’m very happy to do it. That means I don’t have to buy my own gift & the teacher ends up with something nice.I usually give an additional gift card on top of that. I don’t think you should give unless you want to. To me $20 is less than I pay for a sitter for 1 night.$20.00 at the holidays & the end of the year are not much for the teacher that spends 7 hrs a day with my child. My child comes home with presents for me at the holidays, Mother’s day etc. that I know the teacher has bought the supplies for. As far as the coaches, music teacher etc. They ask for a dollar for each ..$5 total. (so the class gives a gift card)I’m in a public school and I feel these small gifts from me are not much compared to what is given to my child….. and I have 4 children

TxOkWa January 31, 2011, 6:29 PM

I have taught middle school for 16 years now…I am grateful just to get a “Thank You!”

Jim Leyendecker February 11, 2011, 3:30 AM

There is evidently a bunch to know about this. I consider you made some good points in features also.


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