Teachers value gifts from their students, no matter the form. What truly matters during this gift-giving season is that teachers feel appreciated and families feel that they have acknowledged the great work teachers do all year long. Deep down, though, everyone wants to give and receive a gift that really delights!
The holiday season and Teacher Appreciation Week in May are two times of year when families typically want to express their appreciation of teachers. That said, the holiday season is one of the busiest times of the year for everyone. Most gift givers begin with high intentions to choose gifts that are personal and meaningful for everyone on their list. When the sand runs out of the shopping hourglass, though, many busy families revert to quicker, universal gifts.
One teacher gift-giving plan that’s popular today is that of giving teachers generic credit card gift cards at both the holidays and at the end of the school year. Sometimes, individual families choose to give gift cards. Other times, the class will get together and purchase one bigger gift card for the teacher. Lots of people seem to have opinions about these gestures so Teacher Peach took a closer look.
Class Gifts Are in the Cards
Some schools encourage families to contribute to an official class gift. In these cases, the room representative usually collects a suggested amount of money at Go-to-School Night from those families that wish to contribute. The rep typically buys a generic credit card gift card, signs a holiday card from the entire class, puts the gift card in the envelope, and pops it in the teacher’s mailbox before break.
The concept of the universal gift card began with two good intentions. A gift card gives the teacher one bigger amount of money to buy a more significant gift instead of receiving a cacophony of small items. A gift card gift also protects all families in the class through its anonymity model. There are lots of PROs and CONs to this approach.
Pros and Cons of Generic Gift Card Teacher Gifts:
- PRO: Teachers receive a dollar amount to spend with great freedom.
- CON: Teachers don’t have a direct sense of how families feel about their work and don’t really have the chance to directly connect with those who contributed to the gift.
- PRO: When teachers know, based on their school’s protocol, that there is a very high likelihood of receiving a generic gift card, they can anticipate its arrival and plan how they’ll spend it.
- CON: Because teachers know they are likely to receive a generic gift card, actually receiving one can feel somewhat perfunctory at times. (Everyone knows what’s in the bag!)
- PRO: Some room reps do more than leave the gift in the teacher’s mailbox. They come into the classroom and actually present the gift in front of all of the kids and many even invite family members to join them.
- CON: As lovely as this gesture may be, it’s not very practical for working family members to join in this presentation during a school day at this hectic time of year.
- PRO: Giving a gift card makes the money collection process a simple one when it is tied to Go-to-School Night. It simplifies the group decision-making process, too.
- CON: Families spend hard-earned money contributing to a gift with little input as to the specific gift card their money will help to buy or what the teacher ultimately will purchase.
- PRO: The holiday season is one where some extra cash can come in handy. In fact, some teachers appreciate receiving gift cards as ready cash to buy gifts for others on their own shopping lists.
- CON: When teachers elect to spend their gift cards as cash, the intent of giving teachers the chance to buy themselves gifts they’ll really enjoy disappears. There is no lasting reminder of the class’s gift.
- PRO: Collecting money for gift cards anonymously makes it optional for families to contribute. This is helpful when families simply prefer to give their own gifts separate from the class gift as well as when families cannot afford to contribute. Students don’t know, teachers don’t know, and the class comes together as one cohesive entity.
- CON: The protective anonymity of the class gift can sometimes backfire. Class gifts are given from the entire class, regardless of which families actually choose or are able to contribute. Because teachers don’t know which families actually contribute, they personally thank each student/family. This note, instead of delivering the intended heartfelt thanks, can make those unable to contribute feel worse when they receive a thank-you note for a gift they could not be part of giving.
- PRO: Because funds are often collected very early in the school year, contributing to a gift card is simple and takes away the need to think about finding a teacher gift at the holidays. It’s already done.
- CON: It’s very early in the school year when gift card funds are collected at September’s Go-to-School Night. This event is also the first time many families and teachers meet. They don’t know one another in many cases and are simply giving money, much like they would to a class activity fund.
It’s All Good When Teachers Are Acknowledged!
By the December holidays, most families and students have solid relationships with their teachers. The early contribution to a class gift card, while convenient, often feels detached from the actual relationship the families and teachers have established. As a result, many of these families (and kids!) want to do more and some elect to give their own additional gifts, independent of the class gift. The families know much more about the teacher’s interests and preferences by this point. Often, the kids have very set ideas about what their teacher will like, too. When this happens, the class gift card comes to the rescue. While some families may opt to give more, everyone feels a part of the class gift through the giving of the class gift card, thanks to its anonymity.
All Gifts Count
As these PROs and CONs show, gift cards can be great time savers, equalizers, and offer benefits to everyone involved. At the same time, gift cards can feel impersonal to all concerned. These sentiments aside, all gifts count when they are given with heart!
Teachers Appreciate and Acknowledge Gifts
Teachers greatly appreciate the gifts they receive, regardless of form—from homemade to store bought and from thoughtful cards to generic gift cards. In most cases, every teacher gift is immediately acknowledged. A “Thank You” and “Have a Wonderful Winter Break” note is often in students’ hands or hits the mailbox by the time the just-before-break school bell rings.
Whatever gift families may choose to give to teachers this holiday season, by remembering the intent behind the gift, every gift will be special. For families that would like to give a gift certificate with all the convenience of a gift card combined with a specific, teacher-centric twist, choose a gift certificate from Teacher Peach. The certificate is quick and easy to download and print out; roll it and tie it with a ribbon. Giving this certificate, while just like a gift card, can seem much more personal to teachers because it directly connects the appreciation to the teacher’s profession.
What do you think about gift cards as a gift-giving strategy for teachers? Where do you fall on the gift-card giving spectrum? We’d like to hear from you.