Just a few weeks ago We Are Teachers Blog posted a tentative list of gifts that teachers would really appreciate. As students are getting ready for the New Year's and Christmas some, especially those still in school, are thinking of giving their teacher something valuable and memorable. As I was reading through the list of gifts posted on the blog, as well as a New York Times article highlighting a parent's usual "season turmoil" on "what to give to the teacher," I thought back on the years of College teaching and somehow a list of unnecessary gifts started forming in my mind. So, if you're still in school and do not want to give your teacher another random New Year's gift, here's a list of 5 things that you might scratch off your list.
I do understand that one should not look a gift horse in the mouth, but when I was a student myself some input in terms of "what to give" for the New Year's was highly appreciated, as the ideas would usually run dry the closer one got to the day. So, here is a list of stuff that, in my humble opinion, would be useless, unless, of course, you know otherwise:
- Dolls or stuffed toys: I still remember vividly opening a gift from one of my students groups, being totally shocked at a sight of a doll! Then seeing my strange facial expression a student added, "This is you." Now, I did look as young as most of my students at the time, but I definitely was too old to appreciate a doll! So, unless your teacher collects dolls or stuffed toys, giving those might look very strange and inappropriate, even on Valentine's Day.
- Cards signed as "your favorite group": Needless to say, teachers receive zillions of cards throughout a year, and your goal is to make or buy one that will look and read very differently. I have a card that was given to me almost 8 years ago, hand-crafted by a student! It had two paragraphs of beautiful and meaningful words that any teacher will keep, even if they have to travel overseas! On the other hand, I had a great number of cards with sweet staple poetry and a short signature, "Your favorite group 101." Guess what? After 8 years I've had 8 groups with the same number, and no matter how hard I tried I would not remember their names.
- Cheap chocolate: Chocolate is not the best gift around holidays as the majority of people tend to give just that. However, you can make sure that it doesn't get "given again" by purchasing something unique and valuable. It's better not to give chocolate than to give a cheap snickers bar. Seriously. So, ask your teacher what kind of sweets they like. They may hate chocolate altogether!
- Random book: Teachers love books. But, you need to know what kind of books they will enjoy. Find a person in your group who really likes reading and see if they could "strike a casual conversation" with your teacher about books. You'll get the right leads for sure. These days teachers may have a digital "wish list" that they can share on their blogs or social networks, outlining the kinds of books they would want to get. So, be proactive, and never be satisfied with some mediocre paper-cover self-help book.
- An exotic plant with no care instructions: Before giving a plant to your teacher find out if she has a green thumb. Somehow there is an assumption that all teachers like domestic plants, and some of them do, but others don't. So, if you still insist on giving a special exotic plant to your teacher make sure you research how to take care of it, and insert the care instruction together with the plant. At least it will live longer that way.
The bottom-line in all these tips is - get to know your teacher well. Find out what they like and give them exactly that, if not - a nice card with personalized greetings will suffice! Enjoy your holiday shopping.