Is your child’s teacher on your Christmas shopping list?
They most likely are, unless you’re enviably organised and have already ticked them off.
Or, usually like me, they’re the one you forget until the holidays are nigh, prompting a rush to the shops at peak festive frenzy.
But, even though we know teachers are worth their weight in gold, are Christmas gifts for them really necessary? (Sorry, teachers!)
Buying a present for your child’s teacher – and possibly several depending on the size of your school-age brood – is a custom that’s developed in recent years.
I don’t recall bringing gift-wrapped parcels into school when I was child or seeing my friends do so.
But since I became a primary school mum eight years ago, I’ve bought gifts for every teacher my pair have had.
At the risk of sounding like the Grinch and like I don’t appreciate the efforts of teachers (I really, really do), I wish it was a trend that could be thrown out with the turkey leftovers (sorry again teachers, but I know many of you agree!)
Lots of folk choose to buy gifts for other people paid to provide a service; the postie, the refuse collectors, perhaps the window cleaner.
But this isn’t something everyone does and it’s highly unlikely that your neighbours know whether you do or don’t so there’s no shame to excluding them from your gift list.
When it comes to teachers, it’s become a social norm – almost an expectation – to gift.
And not doing so risks the embarrassment of your child being the only one in their class without a present to hand over.
Or, just as bad, you’re the only mum (or dad, but in my experience it’s only ever been mums) who doesn’t contribute to the parental whip-round for a joint gift. And God forbid you give less than everyone else (what will the organising mum think, and will they tell all the other mums I’m a skinflint?!)
Cost of Christmas teacher gifts
It’s not just the one teacher either. Do you also buy for the classroom assistant?
Many families struggle to afford Christmas and even for those that can, the festive season deals a pounding to the bank balance.
Particularly in the cost-of-living crisis, it’s an additional expense many could do without.
And most teachers – many parents themselves – wholeheartedly agree with this.
They know which of their families are struggling financially and probably squirm when they see they’ve spent money on them they can ill afford. I’m certain they’d much rather they used that cash for their own children.
And besides, just how many ‘best teacher’ mugs/candles/boxes of chocolate (delete as appropriate) can one teacher want from their class of potentially 30 kids?
Gifting teachers has become a social expectation which can cause awkwardness for both giver and receiver.
Teachers don’t expect gifts and will be well aware of the burden doing so can place on parents.
Some I’ve spoken to say they often gift on many of the presents they receive or donate them to charity shops.
And they also say that what’s much more appreciated – unless, of course, they’re in the habit of being gifted numerous bottles of wine – is a heartfelt hand-written note.
A personal message is a much more meaningful way of saying thank you than a token purchase for someone whose likes and dislikes you have no idea of.
Messages of gratitude ‘preferred’
In a recent debate on the issue on Mumsnet there was a consensus among teachers who chipped in that gifts were not expected.
One said: “I always feel guilty when kids bring in expensive or elaborate gifts.”
Another said: “I don’t need 32 mini Yankee candles!”
Many suggested that notes or messages of gratitude were much preferred, one keeping them as their ‘bad day box’ for when a morale boost is needed.
While some parents were resolute enough to say they just ‘can’t be bothered’ others shared the guilt they would feel if they didn’t partake.
I want to be the former but I know I’ll probably buckle and be the latter.
My daughter is a generous soul – obviously more so than I am – and I can’t bear the thought of her being the only child without a gift to hand over.
But I’ll be sticking to my usual £5 coffee shop voucher and hopefully Mrs B will enjoy a cuppa and a cake knowing she’s appreciated all year round, not just at Christmas – and be grateful she’s not adding another ‘best teacher’ mug to her collection.