To Give or Not to Give? Best and Worst Gifts for Teachers

Today was the last day of school for many kids around the world, for some the year is ending tomorrow. Depending on where you live and which school board you deal with, this often means pizza parties and games, summer vacation and family fun, it also means good-bye and, gifts?To give the teacher a gift or not to? That is a question a lot of parents ponder. For many, a teachers gift on the last day is a small way of saying thank-you, showing appreciation, and saying good-bye. Ultimately the choice is yours, this has always been tradition in my household, if you do decide to give a gift to your child‘s teacher there are a few tips you should keep in mind.

The Best and Worst Gifts for Teachers:

Gifts to Avoid Teachers, like all of us love getting presents but after a few years of teaching 20 children per class there are a few things they ‘don’t’ want to be given. Mugs, best teacher ornaments, and framed photo’s of your child are gifts to avoid. Look in any teachers cabinet and I am sure you will find an abundance of mugs declaring that they are #1 Teacher, or Teacher of the Year, mugs are great but 100 mugs are useless and impersonal. If you choose to give a gift at least put in some thought. Homemade or personalized T-Shirts are another gift to avoid, remember there is a large chance that you will get the wrong size, and who actually wears those things anyway… I am willing to bet it will end up on the rack at Goodwill before the summer break is over! More top gifts to avoid; live animals, stuffed animals, candles and liquor… just don’t do it!

Gifts Worth GivingIf you are going to give a gift, be sure you put some thought into it. No one needs 1000 candles, scented soaps or notepad sets, avoid the obvious and be creative. Homemade gifts might seem like a great idea, but teaching a child is different from ‘loving’ a child, your daughters artwork is only precious to ‘you’. Some great gifts to give the teacher include;

  • A charitable donation: avoid re-gifting with the gift of giving Plan Canada has some excellent gift options available that help provide education for under-privileged children around the world. Plan Canada will provide classroom education for one child when you give a donation of $15.00, Library in a Box for $60.00 and many other gift options to help educate children in third-world countries. They give you a printable gift receipt, and the donation can be made in another person’s name. It is a great way to help others and show your child’s teacher that you appreciate what they do. Another great option is to purchase a book for the school library and dedicate it to the teacher you are gifting, this not only shows your appreciation but helps children in the years to come. The school librarian will probably be able to inform you of any books on the school wish list so you can purchase one that they really need.
  • Homemade Options (if you must go there): If you simply must do a homemade gift for financial or other personal reasons, than do it with care. Children’s art work and lopsided bowls should be avoided at all costs, but potted plants and baked goods (if you can actually bake well) are acceptable. If you are opting for a homemade gift keep in mind that you usually don’t know the decor of the person’s home, and they usually have an abundance of artwork from their students already. Keep it simple, yet unique. Baked goods and food work because they are actually usable and can be enjoyed.
  • Create Memories: A great group gift option is a school year scrapbook. Get together with the other parents and put together a scrapbook of the year for the teacher to help the teacher remember the wonderful time she had teaching the students. Get creative, it’s a great way to share memories of the year without the teacher having to always have it on display. Quilting or sewing a blanket full of memories is another great gift option if you have that talent.
  • School Supplies: Teachers are always in need of school supplies for the year ahead. Put together a gift basket full of supplies to get the teacher ahead in the year to come.
  • Gift Certificates: Gift certificates are a great way to show your appreciation when you don’t know the person on a personal level. Restaurant, bookstore and movie certificates will allow the user to purchase what they like most, or simply enjoy a night out over the holiday.
  • Say it with Words: Sometimes the best gift is the most simple words. A card or hand written note thanking the teacher for educating your child can touch a soul and say more than a gift. If you are tight on cash, but want to show you care pick up a card at your local dollar store, or create a hand-written letter telling them you appreciate their work. Teachers don’t ‘expect’ gifts, so any thought at all is going to be appreciated.

Your child’s teacher has worked hard to provide the best education they can throughout the year. Whether you decide to give a gift, or opt not to, a simple Thank-you is always a great way to show you care.

Do you send gifts to the teacher? If so, What kind of gifts do you give?

Evil Education

Well since we moved over the weekend, Wednesday was C’s first day at his new school. My son has always loved school (a trait that I am very thankful for, and proud of) and could not have been more excited to go back 3 days off was more than he could handle.

 The area of the city we live in is a fairly residential area and the houses that surround us are all well kept and lovingly cared for. The school itself is a very international environment, and is built on self-esteem and strong academics the area surrounding the school is home to a very diverse group of people and different housing styles. There is everything from high-rise buildings, to large single family homes, all of which house members of the community from many different cultures. It seems like a wonderful school and when we went to register him the staff was very friendly and welcoming….

Now moving to a big city does have it’s major differences, everything in a city is just bigger. Bigger buildings, bigger buses, bigger schools and even (as my 7 year-old pointed out in awe one day as we explored our neighbourhood) bigger sidewalks. There are also many major culture differences. In the smaller city we left there were not many students of a different culture at C’s school, a few here and there, but they were the minority. And so, I had a long talk with him about how people come in all shapes, sizes and colors, but how we are all the same on the inside. I believe this is an important conversation to have with a child (children are often brutally honest, and tend to blurt out the truth in any situation, often pointing out the most obvious differences in a very uncomfortable way)

Because of C’s love for school, and friendly, caring nature, he was excited to make new friends, meet new people, and most of all to get homework!!! (Yes, my 7 year-old son is a little strange) See, every school C has ever been to has had a “no homework” policy. Apparently there is a government study going on in the city we used to live in that suggests children learn better, and learn more, when they are learning only in a classroom environment,a number of school in the area adopted this “no homework” policy and it just so happened that the schools C attended in our town did not have homework ever. (This theory may be true for some students, but my son is not one of them!!) I had even gone as far as asking that the school specifically assign him homework, because he was constantly asking for it… Their response was to tell me to create it myself for him… (sure I’ll just fit in time to create a full curriculum in between breakfast, lunch, baths, shopping, cleaning, dinner, more cleaning, and my other obligations… no problem…what exactly is it that I pay taxes for again????) I will go on further at another time as to why I personally believe this no homework policy is a terrible idea, but for now, on with my story….

Anyway, the most exciting thing for him was the fact that this new school was going to provide him with homework… Real homework that he was expected to complete (yeah, yeah, I am in the middle of writing my book of secrets to rasing the perfect, ‘albeit geeky’ child)

Dropping him off at school, I got to meet his new teacher. She is a lovely  young woman, with brilliantly blonde hair and a perky attitude… she explained the classroom to C and when I left all seemed well. There truly could not have been a better teacher for him, she had a positive approach, and an energetic attitude… I liked her!

At 3:10 I waited eagerly outside the assigned doors for C to disembark his first day.. and waited…and waited… and waited… finally frustrated I wandered around to the front of the school and found him there waiting for me! (I forgot that I told him to meet me in front of the office to avoid any confusion… well that plan failed miserably, but no harm done, he hadn’t been there long and was happy to see me) As we began our walk home I was anxious to hear all about his first day….

Well apparently C’s first day was not at all what he (or I) had expected. The first thing out of C’s mouth was “My teacher yells!” He looked truly devastated. “She yells a lot, even when no one is doing anything, and I asked my new friend if she is always like that and he said Yeah Everyday!!!! I don’t like a teacher that yells” My heart broke a little inside, but I did not want to dwell on the negative so I told him that perhaps she was just having a bad day, and asked about the rest of his. To which he replied “It sucked, Recess here is a lot shorter, just as me and my friend got outside the bell rang to go inside” OK…. “well hunny you’ll get used to the difference in play time.. What else??? ” Each response that followed was a negative one, so I eventually gave up and told C that if you only see the negative in things, you will never have any positive experiences, just more bad ones (blah, blah, blah..positive thinking brings positive results…)But mom….. it sucked.. oh and btw … I am the ONLY white person in my class!!!”

LMAO!!! What was I supposed to say to that???? I personally don’t see that as an issue at all… I have never been the type to care about someone’s skin color, and I truly don’t think C is either.. I think that the shock of a “yelling teacher” just caused a negative overload in his brain… “Who cares”.. is all I could manage to muster up, as I said we are all the same inside.

After a healthy snack and some “homework” time (which put him in a much better mood) C started talking about the good things, but still insisted he did not want a yelling teacher… His complaints about his teacher reminded me of a teacher I had in grade 3 (funny I was around the same age as C almost and living in the same city we just moved back to now!!)

My teacher from hell was Mrs. Bristo! (I hope by some strange cosmic fate she happens to stumble across this post) Mrs. Bristo had this purple tinge to her hair that seemed almost natural. She was serious and slender, with a face like Cruella Deville. She was strict and serious… And most importantly THIS WOMAN HATED ME!!!!

Now I am aware that a child’s mind can exaggerate a situation, and make things seem a lot worse than they truly are, but there is no exaggeration involved here. This woman hated me with a disturbing amount of irrationality. She set out to destroy me from the very first day of school and I had no idea why. I was not a “bad kid” I had always gotten good grades up to this point, I was well-behaved for the most part, but I had an over active imagination, and a talent for communication. (still strong traits I possess today!) Other than that though, I worked hard and I payed attention, there was no reason for her to dislike me as much as she did… And dislike is putting it mildly. This woman would single me out every chance she got, she assigned me excessive homework (sometimes 3 and 4 hours worth) personally, and never gave the same amount to the other children. She moved me to a desk that was next to hers and faced the wall so I could not see the classroom, and she was just harsh with me at all times.

The situation caused me misery, I had been a lot like C and I loved school, so when I started to complain and pretend I was sick my mother (who was always a very active parent) knew that she had to do something. She approached the school about the situation, explaining that for some reason this woman just did not like me. The schools only reply was how she was a great teacher. My mother (never one to back down from anything) had her own reply to them… She may be a great teacher, but NOT for my kid she isn’t the woman does not like her, and it borders on obsession, either you remove my daughter from her class, or I go to the school board!! (WOO HOO! This must be where I get my stubborn, go-get-em’ attitude. My mother was always standing up for us, sometimes even when she knew we didn’t deserve the support.) Needless to say, she was a force to reckon with, and I was switched classes, enabling me to finish off grade 3 peacefully, and with good grades!

To this day I don’t know what this womans issue was with me. I have friends who are teachers and many of them have said that there is always one kid that you just don’t like, but they also expressed that no matter your level of dislike you NEVER-EVER treat that child any differently than the rest!! Now there are people who were born to teach, (I can tell you now that I am not one of those people, trying to teach my son to read was an overwhelming experience that did neither of us any good. There was tears, yelling, and unpleasant words before I gave up and accepted that he would learn at his own pace. We truly take reading for granted, it is damn hard to teach someone something that feels so natural to us as adults.) and like me, there are others that are born to learn, or share in a different way. I don’t know if Mrs. Bristo was a good teacher or not, to me she was the devil in disguise. The worst part is that if it were not for my mothers headstrong, take charge attitude I would have had a miserable year, and could possibly have been turned off school forever. I truly believe that a childs teacher is the key to success, they have the ability to make of break a child so easily.

Long before evil Mrs. Bristo I had the most amazing teacher, Mrs. Phillips was my kindergarten teacher, and probably the reason I love learning to this day. She was kind and approachable, she took time to get to know her students and their personal needs. Sure, classes were smaller back then, and teachers often went above and beyond, but the care and compassion that was put into their jobs should still be an expectation today. Teachers now fail to communicate with the parents, they assume that the parents know how their children behave, but the reality of it is, the way your child is at school, and the way they are at home can often be two very different things.

Luckily C came home from his second day at school with the exciting news that his teacher didn’t yell at all that day, and that she was very nice. It makes me happy to see a child actually want to learn, to actually enjoy getting up and going to school. Education is one of the most important tools we provide our children, the least we can do is make this tool seem exciting….

P.S. Feel free to share your “bad teacher” stories and thoughts, I would love to hear about teachers who hurt or helped your school experience…

…Pants on Fire!!

Well…. It finally happened!! The moment every mother dreads, and most face with a thin mask of denial. Arriving to pick my son up from school today, I got called into the classroom to “talk” with the teacher….

Don’t get me wrong I have had conversations with my sons teacher before, on a regular basis actually, but these were usually during a pre-planned parent/teacher interview, or initiated by me regarding a concern or question I had about my son, or the happenings at school.

But today, as I stood outside in the snow long after the bell had rung and all the other children had fled the grounds, the doors to the school opened and there stood my sons teacher “Mrs. S”. Mrs. S is a nice woman, she has a warm smile and concerning eyes, she is a pleasant, well spoken woman, who seems to have a genuine interest in the children she teaches.

C is in 1st grade and has faced some difficulties with bigger, more aggressive children throughout the early part of the year. When my concerns we brought to the attention of Mrs.S she acted immediately and with success. She seemed to know exactly what needed to be done and managed it without any awkwardness. I happen to like her a lot. But today, as the door opened and I saw her standing with my son, who was clearly distraught, my heart hit the ground.

At that moment you are bombarded with a million different emotions at once. First I thought ” I am going to kill the little bastard that has hurt my son.” then I thought “OH-MI-GOD the authorities have finally discovered that I have no idea what I am doing as a parent and are coming to take him away.” and lastly, as I slowly walked through the doors to accept whatever fate may await me on the other side I felt like I was a child again myself, being sent to the principles office to explain my actions, lack of sense, or outright disobedience. I felt a flutter in my heart that I had long forgotten, that feeling of impending doom that only a disappointed teacher or parent can invoke…

Well, it turns out that feeling of impending doom was not being felt by me alone, my sons tears were due to the fact that he knew what I was about to hear would cause me to be the disappointed parent…

Once inside the confines of the school entrance all hell broke loose.

My son, apparently aware that his ass was officially grass when I heard what his teacher was about to say, burst into hysterics. Unfathomable, complex, and obscure screams flowed from my sons mouth as he tried to defend himself before his trial had even begun. My jaw must have been obviously gaping, because before I could even speak (to tell this little brat child who had clearly overtaken my son’s mind to shut-up) Mrs.S spoke up and said C, you need to take a minute and calm down before you try to talk.

This wonderfully gentle woman then proceeded to inform me that my handsome little angel was in BIG trouble….

My eyes wide, and jaw still inches from the ground I listened as Mrs. S explained that during class today it was discovered that my son and another child (known to be a “problem” child) had decided it would be humorous to write “bad words” on their art projects. When the teacher in charge at the time, we’ll call her Mrs. X saw the ‘profanity’ (for those of you who are wondering the offending word was PEE.. not an overly bad word in my book, but in the context and manner it was used in this case it passes for profanity. Not a school appropriate word, and C is aware of that fact!) she told them that she would be speaking to their classroom teacher regarding the inappropriate language, which of course she did….

Oh, it gets worse, trust me….

Upon hearing this news my oh-so-clever son decided that he would dispose of the evidence (using an eraser) and opted denial as his choice defence. If you have ever seen a 7 year-old try to erase something using the eraser on the end of a pencil (or any eraser for that matter) you will know that there is always a fairly obvious amount of evidence left over, no matter how hard they rub the page.

But of course, children don’t know that adults are intelligent creatures, and so my little devil angel looked Mrs.S straight in the eyes and said, “I didn’t write anything on my artwork. Mrs X must be lying!”

OH YEAH… You read that right… my son lied and tried to say the TEACHER was lying!!!!

No, no, wait…. yep you bet ya, it got even worse!

Once showing C (who at this point is probably considering himself near genius) that there are in fact traces of evidence that prove differently from what he is claiming, my angry, overzealous son burst out with, “Well, I HATE THIS SCHOOL… AND I DON’T CARE, IT DOESN’T MATTER ANYWAY, I AM MOVING AND THEN I’M NEVER COMING BACK HERE AGAIN”

Yeah, but this point in the conversation C is sobbing uncontrollably, shaking all over and is just generally PISSED OFF!!! His defence by this time????

“D (the ‘problem child’) made me do it!”


Ummmm… people can’t make you do anything C! You have your own mind, and, last time I checked, you certainly had your own set of hands, so I am pretty sure that D did not take your hand (complete with pencil entwined) and force you to write this profanity on your paper! Right???

C’s response??? More tears, some foot stomping, and a whole lot of temper!!! I am almost positive that smoke must have escaped my ears as I stared at this child I did not recognize who was throwing a temper tantrum like a two year-old in front of his teacher, in public, for no good reason!!

Trying to remain calm I assured his teacher that there would be a long, in-depth discussion about this issue on the way home, and ‘gently’ gripping my sons arm I quietly escorted him from the building….

You have to understand, for some parents this situation might seem mild, almost laughable, but despite my humorous approach now, I was livid! C has never thrown a temper tantrum, never acted out in a way that brought attention to himself in public. He has never embarrassed me, caused a scene, or caused other parents to stare in horror in the middle of Walmart as parents do when a little brat decides to scream, yell, and throw themselves on the floor. I was blessed. In fact I have often bragged to people about how lucky I am to have such a sweet, sensitive, and understanding little boy. So for me, this was shocking!!!

During the walk home I could barely speak for fear of what would come out of my mouth. I spent a large amount of the walk controlling my emotions enough that I was able to refrain from grabbing this imposter and shaking him, begging him to tell me who he was, and what he had done with my little boy!! Once I was able to speak, I began the lecture…. My son looking at me through tear soaked eyes said “I know I am going to be grounded aren’t I?”

Grounded wasn’t the word! I explained to him how embarrassed I was, how angry I was, and most of all how disappointed I was. For the last while the bf and I have butted heads regarding my sons “sneaky” ways. My bf could apparently see things I couldn’t and through my denial I would always defend my son. I chalked these battles up to a different approach to parenting, but I now understand that my bf saw this coming. When I got home and recounted the situation to him through frustrated tears, and spurts of anger, there was no look of shock on his face, no gaping hole in place of his mouth, he simply listened to me and said “Well, now that you have caught it, it is time to start changing it before it gets worse.” Calm as a clam… just like that, I realised that my years of parenting my son and living by my “love is all we need” outlook on life, wasn’t working….

And so, all my sons brand new Christmas toys sit in a pile on my livingroom floor. He has lost use of his computer, x-box, T.V, and anything else I think of at a later date. He is confined to his room until further notice, and the only exception of the above is for the purpose of chores, amusing his sister, or eating his meals. He is to write apology letters to both teachers involved, and a letter about why lying is wrong. He is to think about what he did in the first place that was wrong, and the lie that he used to cover it up. He is in BIG trouble, and he knows it. I feel bad on some level, but the truth is, even if I have to keep him grounded until he is forty in order to make him realize that his behaviour today was unacceptable, and prevent him from becoming a very troubled youth later down the line, (it may seem a little extreme to think that one lie can lead to a life of crime, but I am not taking any chances) then so be it.

Lying children live miserable lives in my house…. lesson learned?