Five Christmas Gifts Not to Give Teachers: Advice from a Former Educator

teacher mug Christmas gifts not to give teachers

I was an elementary teacher for eight years. During those years, students gave me gifts of all types. While I appreciated the thought behind all of them (OK, MOST of them – there was that “please give me an A” gift given right before final report cards that was highly suspicious …), I quickly identified a few gifts that teachers do NOT need more of.

Gifts not to give teachers

  • Lotion. I love lotion. It smells good. It keeps my hands soft. But, I don’t need five bottles each Christmas season. And that’s usually what I ended up with.
  • Mugs. I like a good mug of hot chocolate as much as anyone. However, during my eight years in the classroom, I became the proud recipient of approximately 93 mugs. For awhile, I even had a shelf in my apartment devoted to a mug display (no snickering please; I was young). The worst offenders are “best teacher” mugs, of which I have maybe 27.
  • Homemade goodies that the child proudly announces “I made for you!”. Okay, please don’t call me a grinch. As I said before, I love the thought behind gifts and love the idea that a little crumb cruncher spent a Saturday morning baking up goodies for his beloved teacher. HOWEVER. Would you enjoy eating goodies that a seven-year old, in an unknown kitchen, made for you? (Now, to be totally honest, I love treats so much that I usually ate pretty much any that I received from students. But the sentiment I originally expressed is one I heard often, from many of my teaching colleagues. I felt bad seeing lots of homemade goodies hit the trash can).
  • Candles. This is similar to the lotion. Smells good, but don’t need ten more each year.

And … the Number One gift not to give a teacher … drum roll please …

Teacher Knick Knacks! Of any kind! Really, after a year or two in the classroom, teachers do not need anymore small wooden decorative apples, rulers proclaiming “world’s best teacher,” dollar store pins featuring apples with a smiling worm, etc. This even includes teacher-themed ornaments, often inscribed by a child “You’re the Best!” (or, as I received more than one of, “You’re the Beast!” I’m not sure if this was intentional or not). Actually, apple-themed ANYTHING is probably a bad idea. Some teachers don’t even like apples!

Lest you think I’m a total grump, let me give you a couple of ideas that teachers LOVE receiving.

  1. I love getting notes and cards written by my students. Unlike knick knacks, they don’t take up much space. They are heart-felt and I have a folder of them I have kept for years.
  2. Gift cards. Especially wonderful – have the entire class pitch in for a single gift card. I challenge you to find any teacher who would not enjoy this gift.

Knowledge is power, so now you’re ready to shop wisely for your favorite teacher this Christmas season!

6 thoughts on “Five Christmas Gifts Not to Give Teachers: Advice from a Former Educator

  1. It is a rare teacher that eats anything homemade that students give them. I personally would not eat it. Tis the season so shop wisely.

  2. My brother was a grade-school teacher and got so many bottles of after-shave lotion! He used to try to pass some extra ones to my husband just to get rid of them!!

  3. It would take a well-organized child to get all children to contribute to a gift card for a teacher. Just saying’ And as much as this will make me sound like a Grinch, I would not want one from one of the most popular chain stores right now because I’m boycotting them because of their bathroom policy. Enough said.

  4. I’ve heard these things echoed by many teacher friends. One gift idea I’ve heard some suggest is classroom supplies (stickers, pencils, bulletin board edging, etc.) or gift card to a teacher supply store because teachers often have to use their own money for such things.

    I hope all my kids’ teachers knew I made the goodies, and not my child. 🙂 But I don’t often give baked goods because you just never know who is allergic to what or who likes what, and some years (even without being a teacher) we received so many sugary goodies that I feared a sugar high that would last for months.

    The thing with lotions, too, is that everybody has their own preferences. I wouldn’t give that unless I really knew the recipient liked it. I personally am allergic to a lot of artificial scents, ruling out most scented lotions, soaps, candles, etc. We had a gift exchange at a ladies’ party last night, and I was just praying I wouldn’t get anything like that. If I do receive them I have to try to pass them on to someone else.

    I’d also naysay any big personalized gift from the class, unless maybe it is a tee shirt or something. One year one mom of one of my son’s classmates had a good-sized wooden tree cut out, and she painted it and put all the kids’ names, and I think maybe pictures on it. It was really cute, but I wondered what the teacher would do with it 20 years hence (and 20 classrooms later).

    Re Elaine’s comment about a well-organized child – in my experience, below high school it’s usually the moms who organize group gifts.

  5. This is so helpful and informative, especially with the end of the school year quickly approaching! Love this post!

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