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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Parent Voice: The Gifts Teachers Really Appreciate

Joyce Slaton

Recess monitor at New Traditions/San Francisco Unified School District

During the school year, my daughter spends more waking hours with her teacher than with me. This is the woman who helped her learn how to read, who hugged her calm the day she fell down the stairs, who wrapped up her lost tooth lovingly in tissue paper and sent it home with a note. So when Teacher Appreciation Week comes, I'd really like to spoil my daughter's teacher.

But how? I've seen her desk. It's as cluttered with tsotchkes as a desk can be. She has a tea mug with her face on it. She has a doorstop in the shape of a frog. She has a key ring that's a big apple. I suspect that former students gifted her with each of these objects, and I suspect that at home she has shelves and tables and closets just full of things she keeps out of guilt.

So if I celebrated Teacher Appreciation Week by giving her an object, I'd be doing the exact opposite of what I wanted to do. I'd be handing her an obligation and a bother instead of a treat.

Hoping to avoid that, I polled the teachers that I know to ask them what, if anything, they appreciated.

  • Gift cards, said a few of them -- Target, Michael's, Amazon, or cool local stores that sell groovy wares at prices that may be out of reach for a teacher. The teachers said even if they didn't want to use their cards for their own kicks, they could get something fun for the class and have a little treat.
  • Food or drinks, said other teachers. One said she loved getting gift certificates at the Chinese restaurant right near the school; she would use it for take-out and the occasional lunch out. A couple of others appreciated Starbucks gift cards, credit at the local anti-Starbucks coffee shop nearest the school, or just a nice hot cup bought for them in the morning and handed out at drop-off.
  • Parents often bring in home-made baked goods for Teacher Appreciation Day. Some teachers appreciate this more than others, but at least they can always be left in the staff room or passed out to the class.
  • Flowers, like baked goods, can also easily be passed on, or sit inoffensively on a desk for a couple of days before being discarded. They don't hang around and don't need to get dusted.
  • And finally, every single teacher mentioned one thing I hadn't expected -- what they liked best of all was a heartfelt, handwritten letter, card or note from students and/or their parents, a personal expression of thanks. Compliments! Nice words! I didn't know that teachers crave them more than pencil holders and potted plants. Now I can use my sweet, loving words to spoil my daughter's teacher, and give her something she can carry with her that doesn't need to sit precariously on her desk.

Joyce Slaton

Recess monitor at New Traditions/San Francisco Unified School District
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ShonaStrodder's picture
ShonaStrodder
High school English literature teacher from Atlanta, Georgia

I can relate to the first sentence as I usually make my rising 8th grader give me a big hug when I come home from being in class all day with "other peoples kids" and she has spent more time with her teachers all day instead of me.
This year I resolved to make in-season fruit pies and sent one to her teachers.

Debora Wondercheck's picture
Debora Wondercheck
Executive Director, Founder of Arts & Learning Conservatory

Truly for students to read , a great one really teachers like gifts but only on special day every day gifting is not possible and correct for teacher to accept these every day

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