I used to be an educator back in the day, and I’ll let you in on a little secret: your kids’ teachers have enough charmingly kitschy mugs, artisanal hand cream baskets, and Russell Stover’s candy assortments to last a coffee-swilling psoriasis sufferer with a mouth full of sweet teeth six lifetimes.
Don’t do it, man. Walk away from the Gifts-R-Us mall kiosk. You can do better. I’m here to help with some off-the-beaten-path gift ideas to wrap up your school year with style.
A Magazine Subscription
In this age of all-things-digital, print media is desperate, people. The deals on magazines are outrageously fabulous right now, so score your favorite teacher a year of kick-back reading. Here are a few ideas to spark your imagination:
Don’t know your teacher’s home address? No problem. Have it sent to school. The colorful glossy will shine a giddy ray of delight when it pops up alongside all the dull, black-and-white paperwork that drudgingly populates teacher mailboxes.
A Really Nice Afghan or Throw
Who doesn’t enjoy snuggling up with a cozy blanket at the end of a long day? There’s just something about a soft, fuzzy rectangle of fabric that turns you into a little kid in his parents’ bed again. Check out these sweet blankies, or take a stab at the clearance end-caps at Pier One, Ross, or Bed Bath & Beyond. You can almost always find a cache of last-season’s home textiles at cut-rate prices.
|Available at Amazon for $16.99|
|Available at Bed Bath & Beyond for $19.99|
A Bottle of Red… a Bottle of White… Whatever kind of mood you’re in tonight…
I have given bottles of alcohol as teacher gifts before, and got a great and grateful response. However, I did realize after delivering the wrapped libations to each of my children’s teachers that it’s likely frowned upon to bring alcohol into an elementary school. Or any other sort of public school.
It also felt kind of weird handing a Merlot to the school bus driver.
And, whatever you do, don’t put bottles of bubbly into your kids’ backpacks for them to deliver. Bad juju there. Bad. Really bad.
But, if you’re okay living on the edge a little bit, it’s not something too many other parents are bringing in. Cheers!
|Photo by Tom Ipri|
A Nice Tote or Reusable Shopping Bag
Have you ever seen a teacher exiting his/her car on the way into school? If not for the professional clothing they’d look like homeless people carting all their worldly possessions on their persons. Seriously, teachers have lots of stuff—activities and books and materials they amass and prepare and transport for the pedagogical benefit of our children.
So help them convey their gear in style. Our school did a fundraiser with Mixed Bag Designs, and I get compliments on my reusable shopping bags every single time I pull them out. Take a look at their ingeniously cool bags made from recycled plastics, or check out the many nifty—and inexpensive—bags sold at places like Marshall’s, Trader Joe’s, and Home Goods.
|Available at Grab Bags for $14.99|
|Available at Amazon for $21.90|
|Available at Mixed Bag Designs for $27.00|
Most teachers I know appreciate literature, and summer is the season when many of us catch up on our want-to-reads. Give the latest bestselling fiction, or a really good non-fiction tome in your teacher’s field, to bulk up their beach-reading collection.
If all else fails, or you’re hard-pressed for a gift right this very minute, you can’t go too far wrong with a gift card. My daughter’s fourth-grade teacher once told me his favorite meal was chicken wings and a beer, so we gave him a night out at Buffalo Wild Wings to celebrate the end of the school year. If you really don’t know where your teacher likes to eat or shop, there’s always a Visa or MasterCard gift card—but be warned, those companies charge a $4.95 “activation fee”. Every time I forget that and buy one I stomp my foot and yell, “Phooey!” (or something a little bluer than that) after I get home. Highway robbers, those credit card companies.
|Gift Card by nightowlpapergoods|
And lastly, please tuck a note in with your gift. You can’t imagine how infrequently teachers hear the words, “Thank you”. In fact, most teachers I know would be grateful for nothing else but a note telling them they are appreciated.
Actually, pretty much everyone I know would be grateful for a note telling them they’re appreciated.
Then go enjoy your summer, and count the days till the cherubs head back to school! (103 here.)
Thanks to all you questionably cultured folks who’ve signed up to get Wasting My Education in your inboxes!