Parents often agonize each year about what to get for the vast number of people that work among, care for, and interact with their children on a regular basis. School teachers, coaches, dance instructors, den mothers, classroom aides, daycare workers, on and on and on!
If you are a parent wrestling with what to get your son or daughter’s dance teacher, you will have to decide how to spend (or not spend) your money this year. Who to give to, what to give, and how much to give are personal decisions each family must make. It is my opinion, however, that less is almost always more. I’ve heard over and over that people are concerned with the amount of clutter in their lives and in their home. Yet, often out of obligation, we add to our stress and our stuff during the holidays. Givers feel exasperated and overwhelmed, but remember that those receiving may also be feeling overrun by gifts. I can’t offer any hard and fast rules about gifting at the holidays, however, I will suggest that simplicity can be a gift to yourself and others. Perhaps keeping this in mind will help to reduce your stress and guide you in your choices.
The Low-Down on Loot
Teachers, especially, get a lot of stuff at the holidays, particularly candles, mugs, and bath/body products. These are great, but one runs out of places and opportunities to use these. As a dance teacher, I appreciate edible treats (healthy snacks like granola or trail mixes are very thoughtful) but remember that it is not always safe to assume that everyone will appreciate food items. For those with allergies or special diet concerns, holiday treats often go to waste. In addition to treats, I prefer items that are small, personal (something obviously purchased with the recipient in mind), consumable (movie passes, coupons, certificates), or handmade by my students (like cards, jewelry, or artwork). Holiday ornaments and decorations were nice when I was a young teacher and didn’t have a lot of my own yet, but now that I have been teaching for a number of years I’ve amassed plenty of these.
If you are planning on spending a bit of cash for a dance teacher (perhaps one that you really think is special or has made extra effort for your child), gift cards or certificates are usually well received. I know that sometimes it feels like $5 is too little for a gift card, however, I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone who didn’t appreciate that bit of extra pocket money. Just keep in mind what type of card you are buying. If the items in the shop cost well over the amount on the card, the recipient may end up spending money that they otherwise would not have just to make use of the card. Choose a card for an establishment which you know the teacher frequents. For example, a coffee shop, the eatery near the dance studio where he/she grabs dinner on the run between classes, a dancewear shop, bookstore, or music site like iTunes®.
Alternative Gift Ideas
Rather than individual gifts, a class can consider organizing a collective gift for a teacher. This cuts down on the amount of individual items given and ultimately can result in a more useful or meaningful gift. A collective gift does not need to cost a lot of money. The class can work together on making a scrapbook, card, or craft with a holiday theme. Each member of the class could take a turn cleaning the studio mirrors or staying a few minutes after the last lesson to assist with tidying the studio. Get creative!
Another alternative gift idea that is becoming more popular is making a donation in someone’s name. This type of giving/getting is not for everyone. Some are for donation gifts and some are against the idea. You may want to consider if this gift is right for the recipient. If you have a creative way of telling someone that you’ve made a donation in their name, be sure to tell us about it in the comments for this post. Typically the gift recipient receives a card or note about the charity to inform them of the contribution made in his/her name. Another suggestion is to buy/make a small item that is a representation of the charity (for instance, a school-themed magnet for an educational charity).
Something to consider if you receive an abundance of gifts each year is to ask others to donate in lieu of a present. Teachers could hand out a card or note prior to the holiday season and encourage those who would like to give a gift to donate to an organization instead. Providing a short list of charities from which to choose will ensure that both you and the donor are happy about where the money (or item) is going. Changing the Present is one online not-for-profit site on which you can set up a registry/wish list, letting others know you’d welcome a donation made in your name.
The Thought That Counts
More important that gift-giving or receiving, the holidays are a great time to say thank you to the people who spend time with and care for you or your kids in all of their activities. These folks deserve a show of appreciation but saying “thank you” with money or stuff isn’t necessary. I’m going to write that again… Teachers, caregivers, and the people who spend time with you or your kids deserve your thanks but do not need money or stuff to feel appreciated. If they did, they would probably not have chosen a career working with children! Have your kids take the time to write or decorate a card/note and offer your sincere thanks for their time, care, and energy. For most, this gesture of appreciation will be worth more than any thing you could give! Here are some tips to help you or your child write the perfect “thank you” note.
So what are your thoughts?
- Do you give teachers gifts at all? (I know some schools have a policy discouraging this)
- What types have you given in the past?
- What are you planning to give this year?
- Do you make homemade gifts, crafts, or other creative presents? Post your ideas in the comments!