Having taught 19 of the past 25 years and having children in the educational setting for 22 years, I believe I have an understanding of both sides of the “teacher gift” coin. Since I had up to four children at any one time in the school system, I know that a tangible expression of appreciation for the investment each teacher puts in can be a budget buster in time and money. I never saw it as an obligation (or an entitlement and most of my peers felt the same). What I did for the teachers was always an expression of my heart. Let me share ideas with you or confirm you have been on the right track.
I have ornaments from the years that remind me of the student who gave it. Causing me to pause say a brief prayer of gratitude for getting to touch that life and for the student to be living a full and blessed life. My whole family always welcomes the homemade treats! Pens and pads are used with gratitude and accessories worn with pride. Gift cards are used with a quick prayer of thanks for the beverage, bubble bath, or the reading material. These items never miss.
Let me share with you a handful of gifts that really hit an unexpected mark. Deer jerky from one of my eighth grade boys who hunted: I loved that he made it all from the kill to the kiln (so to speak) and the salty protein in the midst of sugar and carbs was refreshing. One mother made me a casserole (lemon poppy chicken over rice) to serve as an entrée. This gift not only took an item off my to do list at a busy time of year, but it gave me time (probably 30 minutes). Practical items that benefit the class but are paid for out of the teacher’s pocket are also greatly appreciated: colorful expo markers, expo erasers, pens (that are not black, blue or red), post it (this brand always sticks, the off brand ones are more often miss than hit) notes of various sizes, cute binder clips, etc. A note that is specific about the positive impact the year is having will always be kept.
BTW teachers try to be quick to get a thank you written and given to the students; sadly, they don’t always make it home…but they do make to crevasses of binders, hallways & bottoms of lockers.
Some Hamp Family Traditions
About ten years ago I noticed the fun and mystery of gifts around the tree has been lost. A child would pick up a gift with their name on it and say, “Oh, it’s the Shane & Shane CD I want.” and toss it back under the tree. Since gift giving is my love language, this really bothered me. Not long after a friend shared how she wraps each child’s gift in
different paper and no label. They had no idea of which gifts were for whom. I loved it and did the same the next year. That is when I started to hear things like, “This feels like a CD. Maybe it is the one you are hoping to get!” The hearts change from self to awareness of others and joy in seeing each others desires met.
Some people have done this system with bows. I have refined it to a number system. Each present is given a number as it is wrapped. There is a master list that has the number, recipient and item listed with price of item. There is another list that has each name with the numbers that belong to them. They get the list with numbers in the bottom of their stocking Christmas morning.
The cost is listed to make sure the investment is even- some kids are easier to over shop for either because they have a specific taste that is easy to spot or expensive taste. I have come to set a dollar limit for each and when it is met it is met. If that means they have three numbers and their sibling has ten the investment will be the same. Now that they are adults, I also only buy what is a good fit and if there is a balance left they get that in cash. There are less exchanges or unused items this way.
For a season we would send the kids on a scavenger hunt around the house to find the last item. This item either was too hard to put under a tree (bike, TV, etc) or it held the most impact (“The End” Beanie Baby). On the tree would be an envelope with their name and a hint of where to go next (look inside the cabinet dad opens first every morning- then they would go to the cabinet with the coffee mugs), there were usually four envelopes with last one bringing them to the gift itself. This was a lot of fun. The whole family got into it.
One family we knew sent their adult children on a Biggest Race type adventure with three levels of winnings at the end. Another family sent their adult children to specific homes where they has to do what the family asked of them to get the next clue to go to the next home. When they arrived at my friend’s home it was just as they were cleaning up after Christmas dinner, so they were asked to do the dishes.
Stockings are a favorite of my family. It is easy to over spend on fun items, so once again I set a limit on these items then fill the rest with edible items that each child likes most. I pick up items for their stockings all year. Last year I found some fun items at good prices at World Market. Target and “dollar stores” are other good places to find whimsical items at low cost. I found that if I limited the edible items to the individual child I would know whose wrapper was on the floor. No arguing when you are the only one who had Reese’s or Bubble Yum. I have done stockings for my parents and grandparents too. They were so blessed by this remembrance and enjoyed the little goodies as much as my little ones did. To me the stocking is a place to say that you see the person, their hobbies, joys, and personal preferences.
I hope you find these ideas either affirming or helpful. No matter what I hope your holiday season to be one of special connecting with those who fill your life with love and joy.
Please comment and share what you have done for teachers or traditions your family enjoys. There is so much to learn from each other!