Christmas Gifts for Teachers

Recently I was with some former and current teachers that were discussing receiving gifts from students at Christmas time. I always knew that teachers got gifts but I thought it was mostly elementary teachers and usually things like boxes of chocolates. You know “small” gifts to show appreciation. I was shocked to find gift giving now extends to junior high school and even high school teachers and that on average parents are giving $15 per teacher sometimes up to $50 or more! I couldn’t believe it.

It made me start to question things. Is it an expectation to give your child’s teacher gifts each Christmas and then again year end? Does what you give affect how that teacher educates your child? Do parents think it does and that is why they are often more than generous? It seems like an awful lot of expense especially for large families. If you just take into consideration the basic classes and assume a different teacher for each subject a child could have 5 or more teachers at an average of $15 per teacher that is $60 per child at Christmas and then another $60 at year end! Really? Is a simple thank you or Christmas card no longer good enough?

I honestly don’t remember giving my teachers gifts as a child. I am sure I did, or maybe I didn’t since I grew up in a small town and my mom was a faculty member. But even if I did I assume the gift giving stopped soon after elementary when you just had one core teacher and then at most only extended to your homeroom teacher in years beyond that.

If you take into account an average classroom having 25 students that means each teacher is receiving $375 worth of gifts from a single class! And I know city school teachers have far more student than that! So we are talking potentially a thousand dollars per teacher! I’m not saying our educators don’t appreciate a thank you and a job well done, But a $2000 bonus per year?

You hear all the time about how schools are underfunded and teachers have to buy supplies out of their own pockets. But you don’t often hear that a teacher’s actual wage is $21-53 per hour according to the Alberta wage survey. Or if the supplies a teacher is purchasing are “must haves” in order to properly educate their students rather than “nice to haves” which make their classrooms more attractive etc. No one should have to pay for supplies out of their own pocket in any job but you also don’t thank many of those average Joes either with a monetary gift.

What I garnered from this conversation from the teachers was:

  • Often they do not use or like to receive the gift cards as they are for items like coffee or restaurants and one can only go to the same place so often or they might not even drink coffee or like to take luxurious bathes.
  • They prefer the gifts with meaning that are handmade
  •  They feel uncomfortable receive expensive gifts

But what I didn’t get answers to was:

  • Why don’t schools have policies about gifts? Both giving and receiving?
  • Why not set a limit so that all socioeconomic backgrounds are balanced?
  • Or ban giving gifts? Or suggest gifts of school supplies/donations to the school?
  • Do teachers expect a gift? If they don’t get a gift does it affect how they teach your child? I doubt any would assert the former or state the latter

So what do I suggest? A return to handmade meaningful gifts and simple thank you cards, if you feel you must give your teacher something substantial give them something that helps them educate your child. Otherwise where does it stop? And don’t the other people working in the school deserve a thank you too? Do teachers share their gifts with the janitor or office administrators?
So many questions I would love to know how you feel…