A store-bought present is just one way to show gratitude to your kid’s teacher. (Photo: selimaksan/Getty Images)
The last day of school is sneaking up fast, and that means class picnics, final report cards, and the teacher appreciation gift that feels like it’s almost required in many school districts across the country.
Depending on the kind of school your child attends, you might feel pressure — from other parents, mostly — to fit in and reward a teacher with a token of your appreciation.
“The end of the year gift seems to be more common in schools where there’s lots of pressure to succeed,” Jessica Lahey, a writer, high school teacher, and author of the forthcoming The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed, tells Yahoo Parenting. “In my experience, the more competitive the school environment, the more overboard parents tend to go.”
Should you join the teacher gift brigade? If you child is past elementary school, you may not need to. The practice is way more popular with teachers of younger grades, when kids generally still have one main teacher they develop a bond with, whom parents also get to know.
“Gift-giving is less common when kids move around from class to class, but if there’s one teacher who they become close to at the middle school or high school level or who gave special help or attention to a child, it’s not uncommon to get a gift,” says Lahey.
However, no matter what grade your child is in, if you liked her teacher and you felt that she deserves a shout out, a small present can be a gracious — but not mandatory — idea. “Teachers deserve to be celebrated, and it’s a hard job, but you definitely don’t have to give anything fancy,” gift advisor Julie Kenney, of thegiftingexperts.com, tells Yahoo Parenting.
Some good gift guidelines: “Limit the present to between $5 and $20, and come up with something a teacher can use that connects back to her or her profession,” says Kenney. Think gift cards for Starbucks or a meal at a local restaurant – something that expresses that you want him or her to indulge themselves.
DIY gifts are also easy and personal, such as homemade cookies or a video montage of all the kids in the class saying good-bye. “I did this for my child’s class: we had a clip of each child thanking the teacher, then we put it all together and set it to music — she loved it,” says Kenney.
That kind of heartfelt present will always make a teacher feel special. “The gifts I tend to cherish most are the ones that come from the heart, like a note or card written by a student that expresses gratitude,” says Lahey.
Some schools encourage a “class gift,” purchased after a room parent takes up a small collection. “Thanks to budget cuts, teachers end up paying out of pocket for many things for the classroom,” Sharon Silver, founder of Proactive Parenting, tells Yahoo Parenting.
At the start of the year, classrooms are stocked with pens, notebooks, and supplies for the class to use. “But as the year progresses, any other expenses fall to the teacher,” says Silver. “The parents could collect money as one community instead of as individuals and give the teacher a non-specific credit card to use to set up the classroom for next year.”
If you decide not to give a gift, don’t worry that if you don’t pony up, your child will be punished somehow when school starts up again in September. Says Kenney: “I’ve never heard of a teacher shunning a child because she didn’t get a gift … or didn’t like what she got.”