Holiday Presents For Teachers: I’m Not Sure They Want Your Kid’s Homemade Coffee Mug

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Every day a lot of us send our kids off for seven hours a day to be cared for and taught by someone other than us. There are many amazing teachers out there and I give them so much credit for being able to wrangle twenty-some students daily and also deal with their parents. Teaching is amazingly hard work. So when holidays come around teachers are some of the people I most enjoy buying gifts for. The key word here is “buying.” Not “Collecting empty cardboard toilet-paper tubes for my kids to fashion into recipe-card holders using discarded gingham fabric and pipe cleaners.”

I know there are teachers out there who probably appreciate handmade gifts. If they are very close to the student than I’m sure these gifts have sentimental meaning and yeah, yeah, it’s the thought that counts and all that, but I would never be so presumptuous to assume my kid’s teacher would want some finger-painted coffee cup or a framed photograph of my kid or some weird macrame plant holder my kid made all by themselves. As much as I love the craft projects my children bring home for me around Christmas and Mother’s Day, it’s because I gave birth to these people and I’m forced to proudly display their soup-can recycled fabric-covered pencil holders. I’m obligated to love these handmade gifts because one day if I’m super nice to my kids they won’t shove me in a nursing home and I won’t start talking to my television when I’m watching reruns of Murder, She Wrote.

Even though you may think the homemade potholder your kid made for their teacher will be treasured and used for years to come, I’m sure a lot of teachers have lots of these sorts of “meaningful” gifts gathering dust in closets from many students throughout the years. And yeah, I know, your kid is a special snowflake and their teacher’s all-time favorite and they have never encountered a child as bright and wonderful as yours, but I find it hard to believe they would rather have a scrapbook paper covered tissue box holder than a gift card.

Parents aren’t obligated to give presents for teachers. The economy is tough and many parents are on strict budgets, including those for holiday gifts. But rather than another handmade tchotke I’m sure a well-composed note from the student thanking the teacher for all they do throughout the year would be even more appreciated if someone can’t afford a gift.

I’m sure a lot of you will say that your kid’s teacher really, really loved that magazine holder made from a cereal box because they sent a thank-you note talking about how amazing it was, but most people send thank-you notes for gifts, even the bad ones. You may say that your kid’s teacher had to love the bookmark your kid made with a picture of a Golden Retriever on it, because your teacher has that breed of dog, and because your kid spent four hours crafting it out of quilting scraps and sequins and bedazzled it to read “I brake for Golden Retrievers!” and it’s the thought that counts. But if you are spending 20 bucks on craft supplies couldn’t you just get a gift card to a major retailer that your kid’s teacher could always use to buy dog food if they wanted to? Why not save the craft spectacular for an envelope to hold the gift card?

You may be known for your amazing macaroni art and you may have shared the skill with your child and they may produce some truly spectacular glitter and pasta picture frames. You may even sell these handmade items at craft shows or online and you may truly be the Martha Stewart of the third grade set. But before you start gluing googly-eyes on pinecones, I urge you to look at your own mantle or the top of your dresser and admire all the crafty presents the people who you gave birth to have given you throughout the years. You probably feel love towards these dust-gatherers. I think it’s a bit unfair to expect an adult who didn’t give birth to the humans who created these masterpieces to feel the same.

(photo: oliveromg /


  1. Mom_of_2_2012

    November 24, 2012 at 10:19 am

    As a teacher and a mom (of a third-grader, no less), and as the daughter of a teacher, I have to ask why this has to be an either-or situation. I always buy a gift card for my child’s teacher, and I make sure it’s to a store she can enjoy for her own personal purchases, not for classroom supplies (we also contribute to the class giftcard, which takes care of this). But I always encourage my daughter to make things for her teachers because of the thoughtfulness that such a gift shows, and for the good it does for my daughter. In order to do a craft project, which she wants to look nice and not hastily thrown together, she has to plan ahead, figure out the steps in which to do the project, and exercise concentration and patience, both of which she can definitely stand to practice. Growing up, I saw my mom come home with a slew of these homemade “masterpieces” every December and then again at the end of the school year, and I have received many myself. And yes, with very rare exceptions, we soon put them away in a box in the closet until spring cleaning comes around, but we really do appreciate the time and effort the students put into them, largely because, especially at the grade-school level, the skills of patience and stick-to-it-iveness are ones that we try to instill in the classroom. So yes, do give a “real” gift that your child’s teacher can use for whatever he or she wishes, and/or contribute to the class gift, but don’t discourage your child from making a present – they are actually appreciated and valued.

    • Tori B.

      November 24, 2012 at 3:14 pm

      I’ve been teaching middle school for almost ten years. I’ve gotten tons of stuff over the years, (and am way fatter for it :)…. I agree with this article and think it’s hysterical! I have enough trinkets and doodads by now that I could open my own store! I do like getting Christmas ornaments, though, that have the student’s name and year on them. It is nice to get them out the next year and remember the child when I put them on the tree. They can be handmade and hideous, and I still smile, since they’re an ornament and not something I’m expected to use every day. My FAVORITE though, is what I get from the students who cannot afford to get every one of their teachers something; the handwritten note. Serious or hilarious, full of errors, or well checked, either way, they’re great. I have a file I keep them in, and on those bad days (which are often), I get them out, and I feel so loved I want to cry. So have your kids write letters instead of gluing crap on a toilet paper roll. Believe it or not, I would rather have those kind words than the 20,000 calories worth of treats I will more than likely consume in one sitting.

  2. Justme

    November 24, 2012 at 10:21 am

    You are correct. Gift cards are the way to go for sure.

    I teach middle school and one year I had a student come up to me holding a fan of different cards in his hand (some from Chick Fil A, Sonic and Starbucks). He said “take your favorite and Merry Christmas!” Perfect.

    But you know what would have been better? Do they make gift cards to liquor stores?

    • Mom_of_2_2012

      November 24, 2012 at 10:23 am

      OK, so I just wrote the long comment below about appreciating what my students make for me, but I have to say that your liquor store comment is hilarious, and I would also appreciate that!

    • 54

      December 7, 2012 at 11:33 am

      Yes. Yes they do make gift cards for liquor stores. I sure do love getting them.

  3. lea

    November 24, 2012 at 11:20 am

    “I brake for Golden retrievers”
    Oh man, the idea of a glitterific bookmark with this slogan has me in stitches. Please, pretty please, have your child whip one up and send it to me in Aus- I would use it daily on the bus to work with pride!

  4. Sara

    November 24, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    This is hilarious! As a teacher, my favorite gifts to get from kids are gift cards and handwritten, sincere thank-you notes. I’m not a big fan of baked goods because a) I’ve worked with these kids and I know where they stick their fingers when they think no one’s looking and b) I try to watch what I eat.

    Although there’s one exception regarding food: a couple of years ago, one of my fifth-graders gave me a jar of homemade soup mix that she and her mom had made together. They made jars for all her teachers, specialists and the school secretary, janitor, etc. They also attached the recipe, which is good because this was some seriously delicious soup. My husband and I made and ate it all through winter break. I think that was probably my favorite student gift EVER. Practical, non-fattening and required time and effort on the part of the kid and the parent.

  5. gothicgaelicgirl

    November 11, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    My dad is a real country man- he used to let me harvest blackberries and crabapples and let me make my own jam.
    we’d package it up in mini jars with a bow and a glitter label for all the teachers in my school, along with a mini homemade fruit cake. =)

  6. Pingback: A Guide To End Of School Teacher Gifts For Your Kid's Teacher

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