The last day of the school year was my favourite! I hated school for the most part but even I wouldn’t miss the last day. Three hours of sheer joy celebrating that there would be no more school for six weeks. No work! Lots of free stuff to take home like all your school supplies which suddenly become a lot more interesting in the home environment. Art you had worked on for six wretched weeks which now you are so proud of…even though you might be prouder of the slog than the finished product. Lots and lots of chips, cake, sweets and fizzy drinks to gorge on. And, if you were really lucky, your teacher might give you a little gift. Maybe a chocolate and a bookmark.
But funny, one of my favourite parts of the last day of school was watching my teacher open all her gifts. I love (LOVE!!!!) watching people receive gifts! I used to start Christmas present planning in July, people! I still remember what I gave my Grade 1 teacher! It was a milk jug my mom had painted at a ceramic class filled with Quality Streets. Bizarre that it’s the only gift I remember!
My mom is also a teacher! Her car would be overflowing on birthdays and at the end of the year with delicious delectables and sweet-smelling scenties. It was enough to make me go into teaching!

Just to burst my bubble, I got a measly two gifts my first year as a teacher! I got more for being an intern the year before! Clearly they didn’t think I was worth my weight in chocolate. Needless to say, things picked up a few years later. One gift I remember getting was a very fancy looking box of chocolates from a fancy food shop. However, the chocolates weren’t great and I don’t know how their Christmas selection passed the taste test! They tried to enclose Christmas flavours in chocolate and failed miserably! My friends couldn’t get over the fact that I was willing to share this extravagant box with them (I never, ever share chocolate with anyone other than my husband!) and I responded, “That’s how bad they taste!”
I went into the shop and took a gander at the price of the velvet cased magnetised box with a pull out drawer for the second layer and nearly fell over in shock! R250!! I could have bought a pair of shoes and five slabs of good chocolate for that price!! (Now I sound like an ungrateful person!)

With the end of the South African school year fast approaching and, if you’re overseas and just want to gift your child’s dedicated teacher with a lovely Christmas gift and score points for next year, I thought I would compile a list of good gifts and a list of things teachers may gift to others. This is not to make you feel awful about some of the gifts you’ve given nor is it intended to show up ungrateful teachers. This is a guide to help you show these dedicated people some love!

Gifts Teachers Put Away for Other People

1. Hand Cream
Guys, this by far is the worst gift to give a teacher! Without fail, when I asked my teacher friends, this was the most mentioned gift that we all would rather not get. No one, and I mean, no one, could possibly get through the amount of hand cream we are given. We certainly can’t use it up in time for the next year! I still haven’t run out and have several unopened bottles. I haven’t been teaching for two years. And I’ve given some away!

2. Bath gift packs
These look nice and are always packaged beautifully but, again, we don’t shower or bath more than twice a day. Most of us, unless we’ve been vomited on, probably only shower or bath once a day. There’s only so many shower gels and loofahs one can use.

3. Gifts that are personal in taste
I’ve received some stunning and very thoughtful gifts that fall into this category. And honestly, I truly appreciate the thought put into them! I think hand creams and bath gifts packs require no personal touch. When parents buy scarfs, items to decorate my house or items of jewellery, I am honestly moved! The problem is that our tastes could and probably will differ. And, no matter how thoughtful the gift, some of these types of gifts have stayed in my drawer or cupboard because I truly appreciate the thought so I can’t give them away but every time I put them on or take them out, I can’t bring myself to use or wear them. This one is a bit of a risk if you decide to gift something like this. I would say not to chance it unless you’re sure you know the teacher’s style or likes. I, personally, hate to think that people have spent money on me and I’m wasting it by not using what they’ve bought me.

4. Stationery
This may just be me, but I really am not a stationery person. I never have been. I know some teachers love stationery but, unless you’re hand writing novels, there are only so many journals one can use. And there are only a select few who write hand written letters now. So although they look pretty and feminine, they are not very practical.

5. Space Taker Upperers
Sometimes we get really random things…I’m not even sure how to sum up the things that would fit into this category! Ornaments would definitely go here. Basically things that take up space and aren’t much use for anything else. Someone I asked said décor for their home is something that is so dependent on taste and style that this sort of thing is only nice for the classroom. But, let’s be honest, we have more than enough clutter in our classrooms already! With all the lost Koki lids, hairbands, toys from Kinderjoys, highlighters, pens, water bottles and the like, we have no more surface space left!

Gifts Teachers Love

1. Food
Guys, I’m not even going to lie about this one! It’s hard to go wrong! Food can and will always be eaten! Our holiday supply of Christmas treats was funded out of the pockets of others! Some people say it’s not personal. I think anyone who buys anyone else food has their basic needs at heart! We have to eat to survive! What’s not personal about that?!? Chocolates, cakes, biscuits, you name it, it will be eaten. And it’s something we can share with our families…if we want to.

2. Flowers – potted or cut
We all love flowers! There’s something refreshing about walking into a room with cheerful happy blooms to greet you! Even better if they are plants that won’t die in a few days. Although, my luck….

3. Gifts that are handmade and have had thought put into them
Never underestimate these gifts! In this case, we don’t mind if these are space taker upperers. The fact that you (or your child) took the time to sacrifice doing something else and instead, make us feel loved and special is heart-warming. These are the gifts that we show to our colleagues and spouses when we get home. We know how crazy things are at home. So we know that your time is precious. When you spend yours on us, we’re so touched!

4. Gifts that your child chose
These are by far in my top ten favourite gifts! What blew my mind was that these five-year-olds read me better than their parents did. There have been multiple gifts that I’ve received over the years that I haven’t used or “just weren’t me” but on the two occasions parents have let their kids choose a gift, this is what I received.

I am a Disney fan! I have never needed to have children around as an excuse to watch Disney. I listened to Disneyland theme park music when prepping my lesson plans. I know the words to the songs by heart. And between my sister and me, we own over thirty Disney movies! So when I opened this gift, I nearly cried! I was blown away that a little boy could know me so well!

Another gift I loved was also given to me by a little boy. I’ve been a Royals fan since I was a child. Princesses are probably what many little girls aspire to be (thanks, Disney!). Princess Diana was popular when I was little and we (more like my sister) owned a Princess Diana paper doll that we loved to play with. I always loved her engagement ring and, at one stage in my teen years, wanted a design similar. Well, this little boy chose a necklace with a replica of the design on a necklace. I had no words! How do children know? Many parents have got my tastes wrong many times but on the two occasions they let their children choose, their little ones were spot on!

5. Things that you have paid special attention to
Some parents have been really attentive. And I can pick that up in their gifts. They listen to me when I chat to them and notice certain things about me that I’m unaware that even communicating. Come the end of the year, the gifts they buy are bought with my interests in mind and they are personal.

6. Vouchers and a handmade card
When Christmas or birthday shopping for my family, I hated it when they said that all they wanted was a voucher. So impersonal! And yet, receiving them as a teacher, I’ve come to realise what a lovely gift they are. I feel like this is a way of saying, “I admit I have no clue what you like but here’s a token of our appreciation to say thanks for turning our child into the next Einstein. Go and find yourself something you’ll actually use.”
Mall vouchers, clothes vouchers, coffee vouchers, dinner vouchers, beauty treatment vouchers – they are all great!

7. A letter from your child and you
Lastly, here is something you cannot put a price tag on and it won’t cost you a cent. Without fail, all the teachers I asked mentioned something that was personal from a child or parent (or handmade). A handmade card from you or your child with something more than a “Merry Christmas” or a “You’re the best teacher!” means the world! I cannot overstate how lovely and heart-warming it is to get a card that is filled with personal, encouraging words that you know are meant and specific to only you! As teachers, we often doubt ourselves and the impact we have made. We question whether anything has gone in when we look at a sea of blank faces. We wonder if our requests and pleadings fall on the deaf ears of parents. We get tired and burnt out. And there is nothing like a letter to tell us just how much we have meant to parents and their child! Nothing could be more special! These are the cards and letters I tuck away in my bedside drawer and take out to read from time to time. They always bring back a fond memory in my heart and a smile to my lips.

So there you have it! Hope these are helpful! If you’re a teacher, I’d love to know about your hits and misses. If you’re a parent, let me know what gifts you have gifted to the special people who look after your kiddies.

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