Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The conundrum of teacher gifts

I've tried a few different ideas for Christmas gifts for teachers over the past few years.  I have several good friends who are teachers so I polled some of them for ideas of what not to get.  No mugs (obvious), no homemade gifts by kids (sounds harsh, I know, but the teachers don't know what to do with them afterwards and feel bad throwing them away), no wine (in case they don't drink).  With all that in mind, I've normally stuck with something small from Ten Thousand Villages and then baked them some goodies based on what I already know they like.  This usually seems popular.  This year however, Emily's teacher announced right off the bat in September that she LOVES chocolate brownies and I've already heard that many of her students' families are giving her brownies.  So, while I am willing to put myself out there and say that it's possible that I make the best brownies EVER, I'm not going to make Mrs. B any brownies.

So, what to do?  I started with getting each teacher a can of Ten Thousand Villages Milk Hot Chocolate (super yum).  And I was thinking of taking the easy way out with a Chapters gift card but then I got a small catalogue in the mail from Unicef.  It's entitled Unicef Survival Gifts 2011/21 Gift Guide.  You can view the catalogue online here .

The first page of the catalogue reads: "Give gifts from our carefully chosen Survival selection, and give children what they need most to survive and to thrive."  The next page of the catalogue has a detailed map of where the Unicef Survival gifts will go (some to Central America but most to Africa).  The gifts are divided into sections: Health, Education, Water, Food, Emergency and Play.

I was intrigued but assumed that, like most Living Gift programs, none would be priced at what I budgeted for teacher gifts (around $20 per teacher).  I was wrong.

You can buy pencils for a school for $20 (that is 1,000 pencils), water purification tablets for $20, a Plumpy'Nut packet (peanut-based food for a child) for $10, therapeutic milk for $25, a writing and sketching pack for $10, and storybooks for $23.

I chose the pencils for schools for one teacher and the storybooks for another.  There are also lots of gifts in the $30 range as well.  I particularly like the Art-in-a-Box for $30 and the Literacy Pack for $30.  I will be mailed a card for each teacher that will inform the teachers that these particular gifts have been bought in their name.

I think they'll appreciate these gifts a lot and I know there are children in Africa who will appreciate them even more.  It feels good to do something like this and to know that I'm not adding to a pile of gifts that aren't really needed.  I think it also sends a great message to my kids about eschewing consumerism and using your money where it is really needed and that giving a gift doesn't have to be about buying something tangible.  It can be about finding a different yet meaningful way to express your appreciation for someone that also helps someone in dire need in the process.  I hope that they see how well this represents the meaning of Christmas when they present their gifts to their teachers.

I can see this becoming a yearly tradition for teacher gifts for our family.

What do you normally do for teacher gifts?  If you're a teacher, what do you love to get? Or dread?


Anonymous said...

this is an awesome idea, karen! thumbs up from this former teacher! i agree to avoid mugs, homemade stuff, and candy as it is so abundant at this season. (i did enjoy christmas tree ornaments and gift cards!).
it's a win-win situation to support unicef in this way. not too many weeks til christmas break!

Julie said...

i have 7 "teachers" to buy for, so my budget is considerably smaller (2 teachers, 2 ECEs and 3 after school facilitators). but i love the idea. maybe for the jb's full time teacher and i'll make some felted stuff for the others.

Abbril said...

We donated to Breakfast for Learning in teacher's names. http://www.breakfastforlearning.ca/

little b said...

I love this idea. I was trying to figure out what to do. I'm doing to do this. Love it.

Wendy Janzen said...

We do the same thing - 'living gifts' through MCC. They have an $11 'gift of education' - school supplies for a student in a developing nation. Seemed to be appreciated last year so we're sticking with it for this year again.

Isobel said...

Ah! You're so smart!! Fantastic idea!! I always have a hard time deciding...

Lynn said...

We are a gift card family. I struggled with gifts for the first few years but now I just do the Chapters thing (recently wondering if Staples or WalMart would be more useful). I like your idea though, and it's really great to hear that other teachers like it too. We will definitely consider this for next year.

Pam said...

Great idea! Our son's teacher took the lead for us on gift giving. She sent an email note requesting she not receive gifts. She asked us to consider donating to CHEO or the Ottawa Humane Society in lieu.

I love the message donating to charity gives kids. Did I tell u that a recent b-day party our son attended requested absolutely no gifts for the 7 year old? If a gift was to be given they recommended donating to Ryan's Well Foundation.