What do Teachers REALLY want as a leaving gift?

Teachers choose to spend their lives entangling themselves with other peoples children. Giving them advice, buying supplies, providing an education and often get very little in return other than sticky fingers and a pile of paperwork. They’re overworked, underpaid and it’s no shock really that they’re in short supply these days. The most valuable gift you can give a teacher is happiness and hope and that can be done with something simple. A heartfelt thank you. A hand written note, and if you’re so inclined, a small gift.

“What keeps me going year after year is just knowing that a couple of the kids appreciate it and remember me,” says Rachel, a Year 4 teacher at a Cardiff school who I’ve been friends with for many years. I asked her what her favourite and worst gifts were. “I’ve never had a really bad gift and don’t want to complain as I’m always grateful for the thought, but scented candles are probably the worst because I don’t really like strong smelling candles and I get them year after year. One year I got 8 candles from a class of 26 and I ended up giving them all to charity. They were lovely candles but they’re just not me and there’s no way I can use more than 1 a year anyway. The best gift is honestly something that the child has been involved in, like writing in a handmade card, bringing in some home made cookies in some tupperware (which I will always re-use!) or just giving me a hug. Otherwise if mum and dad want to buy me something, I love chocolate and biscuits and little gift vouchers. My best gift ever was a Groupon voucher for an afternoon tea which was lovely. It wasn’t expensive but it was something fun that I wouldn’t have done otherwise. I have a small 1 bedroom flat that I share with my husband and two cats so I don’t really need more physical items. A bottle of wine will always be appreciated too, but I know a lot of my colleagues don’t drink and regift alcohol.”

I asked Rachel how her colleagues feel and she thought they agreed with her. “We always have a chat about it at the end of the year in the staff room and it’s always positive and upbeat because we really are grateful for any gift. But a personal letter can bring one of us to tears and we often post them up on the notice board or make copies. I think we’re all happiest with something heartfelt from the kids and then something to eat or drink. If it’s something that shows that the kids have learned something from us, or got to know us during the year then it makes it all the more special.”

So here’s what your teacher REALLY wants at the end of the year

A Personal Message

A card or written letter with a personal message of genuine appreciation is the most important thing. Written from the point of view of the child, you could ask your child to talk about their favourite lessons, what fun facts they’ve learned that year, or what they like about their teacher. As a parent, you could always include a note talking about the ways in which your child has improved this year because of the teacher, or any special moments they’ve talked about over the year. If your child is too young for a lot of words, then just decorating a hand-made card or drawing a picture shows that the child cares.

Teachers can spend the whole year wondering whether a kid is paying attention at all, so showing them that yes, they actually were listening (at least a little…) can be the best gift of all! A teacher gift should be personal and heart felt because that’s why teachers have chosen this job – your child really matters to them and they want to know they matter to children and families too.

Spending actual money on a gift really isn’t necessary, but if you do decide you want to get something else as an end of year gift…

Something to eat or drink

Without knowing the specific circumstances of the teacher, something to eat or drink is often a safe bet. Biscuits, chocolate, tea and coffee, wine or a mixed hamper is likely to hit the spot well!

And if like me, your child is in childcare, nursery or pre-school and doesn’t have a specific teacher but rather a few people in a care team, then a gift hamper of baked goods, sweets, chocolates or even fruit is something that can easily be shared.My son is currently in private childcare year around, so we don’t really need to think about a “leaving gift” as his schedule will remain the same over the school holidays, but we will definitely be giving a shared gift for Christmas, and when he finally moves up to proper school and we have to say goodbye to the team for good.

A voucher or experience

A gift voucher or experience will reward the teacher and let them do something they wouldn’t have otherwise done, such as a spa experience or a voucher for afternoon tea. You can get extremely good value deals on Groupon and other experience sites, so you can still buy a budget gift experience.

Gift vouchers may seem impersonal to some, but they are ultimately some of the most useful things, and you can personalise them by getting a voucher for a shop that you know the teacher will enjoy. I think that in the UK we have a bit of an aversion to gift vouchers sometimes and they’re much more common in the states as gifts, according to my American in-laws. Here, it’s a little bit uncouth sometimes to think about the value of a gift or give something where the value is clearly stated, but I think we need to get over that a little. If you buy something a scented candle or a mug, they know the approximate value – and a teacher really doesn’t expect to be getting something worth more than £10 or £20 as a leaving gift anyway.

Practical teacher gifts

Gifts that are practical are always good as you know they’ll be used. This include things like:

  • Notebooks
  • Pencils
  • Pens
  • Art supplies
  • Calendars
  • Something for the classroom
  • A practical bag, tote or carry case
  • Personalised lanyard
  • Personalised mug

A gift that’s directly relevant to the teacher

Talk to your child about the teacher and ask if they’ve ever mentioned anything specific. Perhaps they’ve talked about a holiday they’re going on, a pet they love, something they need. Perhaps they always talk about losing sharpie pens or needing a new mug. Perhaps they’ve mentioned a favourite smell or said they love a particular thing. Obviously teachers are all different, but showing that your child has actually listened to them and taken the time to get to know them during the year will really touch them. Ultimately saying thank you to a teacher for the incredible hard work that they do and the ways they help our children is very personal so I think it’s important to put the thought into a gift, rather than just pick up a scented candle or a “Best Teacher” mug from the gas station on the morning of the last day. A teacher gift should above all else, be thoughtful.

Buying a teacher an end of year leaving gift, birthday or Christmas gift? Find out what teachers really want with these great gift ideas for teachers of all ages.

This might seem like obvious information, but as Rachel demonstrated, teachers do tend to get a lot of duff gifts that aren’t that useful, so I wanted to share this information for parents and kids who are thinking of buying a leaving gift or appreciation gift for their teacher this year.

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