As this bizarre and disjointed school year wraps up, there may not be an opportunity for an in-person, face-to-face “thank you” moment with your child’s teacher. Schools remain fully closed in many districts, meaning no farewell parties or goodbye hugs on the last day of school.
My philosophy is to give gifts to my kids’ teachers every June, without fail. In case the disrupted schedule and unexpected home-schooling have caused you to possibly reconsider the notion of giving a teacher gift, let me respectfully share three points to consider:
First: Please remember that this teacher looked after your child’s every need for at least six hours a day, five days a week, for roughly six and a half months. (Having now spent a lot of “quality” time with your child during the pandemic, you may have a new appreciation for the amount of patience this requires.)
Second: Teachers have had to rapidly adjust to online learning and delivering curriculum material in a whole different way. They’ve had to change direction mid-stream, think outside the box and adopt new technology platforms. And, since many of them are parents themselves, they’re doing so amid the same work-from-home circus as the rest of us.
Finally: Keep in mind that people become teachers because they like being around kids. Their usual routine has been pulled away from them, too. Instead of an action-packed workday surrounded by eager young faces, they’re staring at a screen for hours, reviewing online work and typing feedback that may never be clicked on. This year, you still have an opportunity to show them you’re grateful for their efforts.
This year, however, presenting a teacher with any kind of tangible gift – purchased or homemade – might not be feasible. In areas where schools remain closed, a representative from your family may soon be invited to visit the school to collect your child’s belongings. This visit will be brief (my local school board has a 15-minute maximum), but it’s possible that a gift could be placed in the classroom to be picked up by the teacher at a later time. However, schools are still highly restricted areas, so there are no guarantees that drop-offs like this will be permitted, or that the teacher will have an opportunity to retrieve the gift.
As with so many things during this time, we need to turn to electronic solutions.
Full disclosure: historically, I have not been a big fan of digital gift cards. I am, however, a huge proponent of my kids writing personal thank-you messages to their teachers. This year, we’re going to do both.
Tips for Creating a Sweet, Personal Note for Teachers
If you ask any teacher, the most meaningful part of the gift is the handwritten message from the student. Keep expectations age-appropriate and start younger kids off with phrases like “You are a great teacher because…” or “My favourite thing we did this year was…”. The note, letter, poem or artwork can be scanned or photographed, then e-mailed to the teacher. For twice the impact, send a photo of your smiling child holding the drawing as well as a close-up of it.
Teacher Gift Ideas
Next, the gift card. I admit, it has been my long-held belief that these were a decidedly lower-calibre, minimally thoughtful, less personal gift. However, in these times, I’ve had to get over it. Practicality wins out this year, which could be a good thing since I imagine most teachers already own enough coffee mugs to last a lifetime.
The truth is, since there is an endless array of gift card options in the digital universe, you will need to put in some careful thought to select one that will suit the teacher. For example:
- Books. An e-gift card for Indigo, Amazon or a local bookseller lets the teacher order new titles for the classroom library.
- School supplies. Sponsor the purchase of classroom essentials with an electronic voucher to an office-supply store like Staples or educational retailers such as Scholar’s Choice.
- Coffee or tea. They’ll toast you as they sip a steaming coffee or tea from Starbucks, Tim Hortons, or another local coffee shop. If you normally would have wrapped up a bottle of wine, a gift card to buy one is the next best thing.
- Take-out. It’s hard to beat a gift card for a local pizza place, or another restaurant that offers take-out service.
- Sports or hobbies. Does the teacher have a favourite sport or hobby? Whether it’s running, golf, crafts or music, there’s an e-gift card for that.
- If you know the teacher well, you may be aware of a milestone in his or her personal life, such as having a baby or getting a family pet – and you can choose a gift card accordingly.
- A magazine subscription. If selecting one for the classroom (such as Chirp, Chickadee or Owl), you can pre-purchase it using the school’s mailing address. Alternatively, an electronic gift voucher to an online magazine retailer (such as PocketMags) allows the teacher to select the publication.
What do you get the teacher who has everything? One unconventional idea (for these unconventional times) is to make a donation on his or her behalf. This can be especially meaningful if there is a cause you know the teacher is passionate about. Think back to earlier in the year: maybe he or she led an in-school initiative like a food drive, Me to We assembly, Terry Fox Run or Jump Rope for Heart event. Be sure to share the donation confirmation with the teacher and explain the inspiration behind it.
If a teacher has gone above and beyond this year, let others know about it by sharing some e-praise. Send a message to the school principal describing the positive things the teacher has done to support your child’s learning, either in person or at a distance. You can also post a shout-out on social media, tagging the teacher’s and/or school’s account.
Whatever gesture you choose, make it as personal and as meaningful as you can, within the parameters of the current situation. This is one of those times where it’s truly the thought that counts.