Buying Presents for the Teacher? Don't Bother

Jeanne Sager

classroom Someone recently told me that we get our kids' education for free in America; the least we can do is buy the hard-working teacher a gift during the holidays.

Sorry, America. I have no problem paying my taxes to support the teachers (and that "free" education); but there's no rule that every family has to buy their child's teacher a gift.

We've all met some really bad teachers in our day. The one who sat in the front of the room rolling a "stress ball" in her hands while she assigned the kids busy work and the one who read Friday's test to the kids on Thursdays -- enabling them to just memorize the correct answers beforehand -- come to mind. If my child had a teacher like that, I'd be counting the days until June, not ponying up my hard-earned cash for a present.

Add on top of that the complaints abounding on Facebook from parents who don't know how to come up with the cash for the "class gift" put together by a parent who apparently has both more time and disposable income than the rest of the families in her child's class. They don't want to contribute, and I don't think they should.

I wondered if I was just being a grinch, so I checked with etiquette expert Faye Rogaski, founder of socialsklz:-) tools to thrive in the modern world, to see if there was a hard and fast rule for gifting teachers. She says it's just fine to skip the crappy ceramic apple.

"The holidays are about thoughtfulness, kindness, and giving," says Rogaski. Especially in light of a tight economy, parents shouldn't be guilted into "kindness" for anyone -- least of all a person their kid just met in September based on a random lottery created by the school district.

"We’re living in a time where not everyone has the means to spend on gifts and tips, and the holidays is not a time to overspend and put yourself in a precarious position financially," Rogaski says.

Which doesn't mean you can't put yourself out there if your child has an extraordinary educator (mine does!). Write a letter to the teacher and have your child write a letter or paint them a picture -- they're both free. Make cookies; it's extremely cheap and they can be passed off by the teacher at a holiday party if it's not a flavor they enjoy.

Rogaski advises, "This is a wonderful opportunity to teach your child that giving is enjoyable and doesn’t necessarily have to be in the form of an expensive present."

And parents, if you just can't resist going over the top, Rogaski has a tip for you too: "If you are giving a gift to a teacher, be mindful that others may not be doing so. Give the gift during a time when class isn’t in session or leave it in a subtle spot as a surprise."

Will you be spending on the teacher this year?


Image via Corey Leopold/Flickr

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