The Perfect Gift
I am trying to find the perfect gift for my child’s teacher. But I want to get him something he would really appreciate and find useful. Any suggestions?
Signed: School Staff Appreciation
Dear School Staff Appreciation,
How kind of you to consider your child’s teacher at the end of the school year! Our teachers and teaching support staff do so much for our children. They act as pseudo parents to our kids, for six hours a day, two hundred days out of each year. Most of the amazing teachers out there strive to be patient and understanding; encouraging and supportive; funny and entertaining; and kind and caring, to every single child they meet.
But they also have to deal with kids who are tired and hungry; whose family lives are in crisis; whose sometimes negative attitudes are misdirected; whose unique needs require extra time and effort; and whose self doubt creates a wall of resistance that can seem like a solid mountain. The job is exhausting and demanding. And it can often be thankless and overwhelming, with all of the “extras” that our teaching staff are expected to do, above and beyond the academic learning that they prioritize.
(I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the other types of support staff who work with our children – the school secretaries, the janitors, the FSLW’s and counsellors, the cafeteria staff, etc. These individuals are no less important and no less dedicated to the wellness of our children than the teaching staff are. They are often the forgotten or overlooked supports that are the glue that keep the schools running smoothly. They too see our kids at their best and at their worst, and they work tirelessly to ensure our children have a safe and supportive place to grow, every single day!)
School staff never expect thank-you’s or presents. They do what they do because they believe in the minds of children and they love their jobs. I work with teaching and school support staff a lot, and what I often hear them say is how surprising and touching it is for them when they receive a thank-you gesture of any kind, at any time of the year. These thank-you’s can come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes, it is when a student lights up with new found skills and a belief in themselves that had not existed moments previously. Sometimes, it comes by way of an email of gratitude sent by a parent who has been hit with the revelation of all that the school has been providing to their child, throughout the year.
But at Christmas time and at the end of each school year, school staff are often thought of with extra sentiments of respect and honour for a job well done. And it is for these moments that I will offer suggestions (taken directly from the teaching staff that I know) to perhaps help you select the perfect present for that teacher or educational assistant or support staff person who has developed a special connection with your child.
School staff love to read. And they love to give the gift of reading to those they care about. So, gift cards to Chapters, Indigo or a favourite local bookstore are usually embraced as little pots of gold.
They may not be skilled in the art of baking; or perhaps it’s because they are so busy with their jobs (often working into the wee hours of the evening) – but teaching staff are not always able to make themselves (or their families) delicious little treats. A gift card for or a gift basket of yummies from a local bakery are always appreciated.
Most school staff I know (in every role) are deeply moved when students take the time to make them a card or a handmade craft or piece of artwork. This personal touch evokes a sentimental appreciation that just cannot be beat. Many school staff are quick to say that all they really need are smiles and friendly hello’s from their students!
If your student is older, perhaps encourage them to take the time to write a letter to their teacher or EA, highlighting what they learned in their class. Or maybe the letter can share the students’ favourite memories of time spent with that teacher or EA, throughout their entire school experience.
Depending upon the individual educators, gift cards for local liquor stores, movie theatres, dollar stores and the like are as good as lottery wins. (I cannot emphasize how many alcohol related responses my teaching friends gave me when I asked them this question! LOL)
Finding the perfect classroom decoration is another great idea. Teachers like to change up their classroom appearance throughout the year, but this can get costly (on top of the many other accessories that they tend to also purchase – like extra pens/pencils, Kleenex, etc). A sign about the joys of numbers can be a terrific math teacher gift; or a fun word riddle poster might be the perfect idea for a language teacher. Bonus points if the gift reflects a lesson taught by the teacher that year!
And finally, all things related to self care make an excellent thank you to our school staff. They seldom take the time to pamper themselves. Unique bath bubbles from online companies, and other bathroom paraphernalia will remind your favourite educator how to enjoy some downtime. Baskets that encourage good physical and mental health can be filled with cough drops, water bottles, antacids, Tylenol/Advil, Kleenex, hand sanitizer/wipes, specialty teas/coffees, face or eye masks, fuzzy socks, hand-warmers (for winter outdoor supervision days) and soft blankets.
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