The end of term is finally in sight. And amid all the Christmas celebrations and festive fun is the vexing question about presents for teachers.
Should teachers get presents? And if so, which teachers, and what to get them?
If my anxiety levels weren’t high enough at this time of year, stress levels go shooting up at the sight of other, more organised, parents smugly handing beautifully wrapped gifts to class teachers.
Now, that’s mostly a primary school phenomena, but I gather it continues to happen at secondary. Parents are giving – or encouraging their children to give – presents to their teachers at Christmas. Pupils are trudging through the door with their schoolbags packed with carefully wrapped tokens for favourite teachers.
It’s lovely to get a pressie. It shows that someone is thinking about you and, sometimes, the gift is exactly what you want or something to treasure.
Most teachers say that they don’t expect gifts, but are delighted when they get something. Of course, they would say that.
But writer Jayne Howarth tells of spying her carefully chosen offering being ‘regifted’ into the school tombola. And I think we can all recognise that slightly heart-sinking sensation of having to enthuse about another set of smellies or funny mouse mat.
At a time when money is tight all round and the planet really doesn’t need more unnecessary stuff in circulation, the last thing we need is for more ‘it’s the thought that counts’ gifts. Certainly the thought does count – if the thought is gratitude and affection – but not if the thought is obligation or one-upmanship.
So before we dash out to grab the last gift set on the shelves, isn’t it time to ask what all this mindless wrapping and handing over is all about.
If the teacher is on your shopping list because they make you feel the warmth of gratitude and kindness, then fantastic. Your child has a teacher who deserves to be made to feel special. But surely they’d feel even more special if you or their pupil spends time rather than money on them. A hand-made card inscribed with a personal sentiment. A letter or photo that means something to both donor and recipient will go much further in the Christmas spirit stakes.
When your children come home saying they want to give a present to their teachers, ask them why. And if the answer is because everyone else is doing it and they don’t want to feel left out, it’s time for a seasonal rethink. However, if the answer is about thanks and kindness then be proud and refer them to the previous point about a hand-made card or meaningful note being a gift to treasure.
Whatever you decide to do, have a wonderful Christmas.