School’s Out for Summer

Big Brother just finished his first year of preschool.  Seemingly worn out by nine months of twice weekly two hour play and snack fests, he recently declared himself ready for summer vacation.

I was slightly less ready, apparently, and forgot to buy his wonderful teacher an end-of-the-year gift until the night before.  I remembered in time, though, and sent Big Brother off to school with Husband, his teacher’s present nicely wrapped.

Upon arriving at school, Big Brother – according to Husband – handed his gift to his teacher with much excitement, explaining to her, “This is something Mommy picked up last minute at CVS!”

Ahh, out of the mouths of babes.

Big Brother’s accidentally awkward announcement made me think back fondly on several of the gifts I received during my years of teaching.  I thought it might be fun – and perhaps even educational – to share some of them with you today as you contemplate what you might give your child’s teacher at the end of this school year.

Among many gifts large and small, I received:

  • a gift card to a department store that had gone out of business the year before
  • a bottle of Glögg, a Scandanavian mulled wine that tasted to me like a cross between an Atomic Fire Ball and a shot of Nyquil
  • The Good Life: The Autobiography of Tony Bennett
  • a mantel clock the face of which was outlined with fake sunflower petals surrounded by contrapposto trumpeting elephants
  • a navy blue negligee (from a third grader)
  • a silver necklace with a pendant in the shape of the letter W (please note that neither my first name nor last name begins with the letter W)
  • a can of Goya garbanzo beans (it turns out that said can was intended for the school’s canned food drive and, apparently, my present ended up in the collection bin in its place)
  • heartfelt letters of thanks from students and/or their parents

I was grateful for each and every gift, for the effort, expense, and time my students and their parents put into these presents – even if some, admittedly, left me scratching my head.

But would you care to guess which ones I still have today, tied in a ribbon in an old wicker box next to my desk?

What’s the oddest gift you’ve ever received?  What do you think makes a good teacher’s gift?

Image: apples by Muffet via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

36 responses to “School’s Out for Summer

  1. Hi Kristen-This post made me laugh out loud, esp garbanzo beans…I sometimes think that people just keep a closet of random sh&% they don’t know what to do with and use any available occasion – a wedding, a teacher’s gift, a kids’ birthday – to offload it. At my old office, we had a small area where we kept random gifts we’d been given. My own contributions included a fake diamond-studded bumble bee broach (yup, you read that correctly) and some (used) lipstick. Thanks for the laughs!

    Delia Lloyd

  2. I did not receive anything so interesting. At the high school where I worked, parents contributed cash as a gift for us. It was very nice. Some teachers got gift cards or baked goods as well. My wedding was held at one of my student’s father’s reception halls, and he gave me a deal. That year, I noticed that her other teachers got a little gift, but not me, perhaps because of the wedding?

  3. Thats amazing. You have to love it when your own kids throw you under the bus!

    • Yes, it was yet another reminder to me that my three-year-old hears everything. I’m lucky he hasn’t repeated anything that I’d really regret. (Knock on wood!)

      Thanks so much for stopping by Motherese!

  4. Oh, I got a lovely chuckle out of this! If you drink the Scandinavian grog while wearing the blue negligee, then what?

    As we approach the end of the school year, gifts for teachers are no longer expected (at this age and stage), but, I’m planning on a bottle of Johnnie Walker for the high school guidance counselor. I figure he’s earned it.

    Come to think of it, those preschool teachers could probably do with a drink, too.

  5. Oh my goodness. I have given the sweet letter and the head scratchers. Good to know I’m well rounded.

  6. The gifts I’ve received have all been very standard– candy, cards, the occasional gift card. Twice, I’ve received a check (which I could not bring myself to cash). The cards and letters I keep, just as you do.

    I once found a very pretty Starfish necklace, and made a card with the parable of the starfish, and gave that as a gift. I think that was my best one.

  7. My husband is a teacher, so he’s gotten his share of “interesting” gifts. I especially love how he gets tons of Christmas ornaments every year – and his name could not sound more Jewish. We chuckle over it. My daughter’s preschool ends next week, and two of the moms organized a collection so the teacher and assistants will each get a decent check. Then we will make homemade cards for them.

  8. The oddest and most memorable gift I’ve received is a green and blue lava lamp. For my wedding. I laughed over that gift for years. A lava lamp ? Really… I still can’t believe it.

  9. A negligee? Really?
    Our preschools all allowed moms to pool money together, but our school district does NOT. So, we’re kind of new to the gift business. At Christmas, on my mom’s advice (a teacher too), we baked her teacher a nice loaf of homemade bread. My daughter was distraught. It was not an appropriate gift!!! Though her teacher was thrilled.
    For teacher appreciate week, I let my daughter pick out what she’d wanted to get the first round, a ‘fancy’ necklace from the under $10 area at the zoo gift shop. Don’t ask. It’s cool if you’re five. And that went over well too.

  10. I can now relate to this since Ben is finishing his year as a paraeducator in an autistic classroom (basically an aid). He has received many sweet gifts from the parents of his students. Our favorites, though, were the notes.

    On a side note, being the precocious teen I was, one year I made cookies for all my teachers and wrote unique notes for each of them. I intended to drop them off and not receive anything in return–I mean they gave so much to me, you know? But one teacher kept me after class, with my friend, and told me how much he and his wife appreciated the gift. I was SO embarrassed! What I learned? To tell teachers there is no need for a thank you note (verbal or written).

  11. Growing up with a teacher for a mother, I have first-hand witnessed the best of the goofy teacher gifts that came her way. There were always kitschy coffee mugs, a few extravagant scarves, outdated gift baskets that surely were picked over at Christmas. Because it was a small, private elementary school, it didn’t take long before the parents learned GG’s most treasured gift was a gift certificate to the book store. Oh yes. I mean books are great but Tony Bennett? We much prefer to make our OWN choices in my family. 🙂

    So glad you’re back! So glad to BE back. xo

    • Yeah, I’m not really sure of the reasoning behind the Tony Bennett selection. I love reading and I do like music, but Tony Bennett?

      Like Geege, a gift certificate to a bookstore was always my favorite gift. (And that’s what my son’s teacher got for Christmas this year.)

  12. The canned beans are priceless! I might have done that to one of my sons’ teachers at one time or another, now that you mention it…

    I usually go with a hand-made card from the kid, and a pre-paid card to the local Starbucks. Seems a safe route to go.

  13. Funny….I like to get a nice gift card of American Express or Visa. I think teachers make such an effort and they are teaching our children and I like to show my gratitude. Nice post, Kristen.

  14. I once got a resin paperweight with a scorpion mounted on red velvet inside. I tried not to think very much about the symbolism of that one.

    And I’ve always heard that (usable) gift cards or money go over well with teachers. I actually just saw a teacher-friend post her end-of-the-year gift on Facebook. It was a gorgeous plant with several $5 bills attached to strategic leaves … a money tree! It was pretty darn cute.

  15. Next time I am deciding between a negligee and a heartfelt note, I will remember to go with the note. 🙂

  16. Thanks for reminding me that, in my never-ending illness, I’ve totally spaced the end of year gift! With Borders out of business, though, it ends up making me look like their elderly aunt – you can’t really buy teacher a gift card to Ross! I guess I’ll do a restaurant of some type and, like you said, a card, so she’ll know that her year of teaching 22 fifth graders did not go unappreciated!

  17. Oh my God! This reminded me of the gifts my mother got when she taught first grade: A pair of pantyhose that was, seriously, like size HH or something. My mom was 5’7 and 100 lbs soaking wet. A box of chocolates; 2/3 of them were missing. A pair of Isotoner gloves, one large, one extra small. And her favorite: a box with an engagement ring in it. The kid’s mother’s engagement ring. Now THAT was a funny phone call.

    Since I taught high school, my gifts were not nearly as hilarious. Most memorable was a huge gift basket from Godiva; this student, Laura, worked at the mall after school and bought it with her own money. I was both dismayed and amazed that she spent that kind of money on a teacher’s gift. The next year, she died in a freak accident. *…whew…* Sorry. Off to take some Prozac now…

    • That story about Laura blows me away. You must have made a real impact on her for her to give you such a generous gift using money from her own pocket.

      I taught elementary school for two years and high school for seven. Needless to say, most of the unusual gifts on this list were chosen by my third graders. I made out like a bandit with the gifts I got from the students at the prep school where I taught. Some of the parents thought nothing of giving us Tiffany necklaces or Burberry scarves for Christmas.

  18. “The problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world,” says Bogie in Casablanca… but perhaps the strivings of a noble teacher does amount to a can of Garbanzo beans. As for the neglige, I’m sure I would have gotten Ms. Swanson, my 3rd grade teacher, one as well—if only I’d had the sophistication and courage.

  19. Good God! One year, at the end of the year, I received a stick of Secret
    deodorant. I am pretty sure I didn’t stink, as a teacher or otherwise, but the school was located in a very poor area and I know that was all they could afford.

    The best presents are the letters I get during the year. This year, Barnes and Noble had a contest where children wrote about their favorite teachers. I had a few parents pass along their children’s entries about me. There is no scarf or gift card that could bring the joy those essays brought me.

    Great post!

  20. You did NOT receive a negligee??!! Come on! Did the kid take the wrong gift? That’s just insane.

    We typically bought gifts only at Christmas, and we usually got a nice ornament.

  21. Great gifts! (giggle)
    I love giving my teachers gift cards – I know they don’t get paid very much (at this particular school) so I like to give them something they can truly use. And a letter of thanks. As a matter of fact, I need to get on it!

    • Hi, Missy,

      Thanks so much for visiting Motherese and taking the time to leave a comment.

      I think I can safely speak for all teachers when I say that your appreciation is much appreciated. 🙂

  22. I am laughing out loud. I have to share this with all the teachers in my life.

  23. I usually do a cash card so the teacher can buy whatever she wants. This year I found the cutest hand-painted plate at a local shop and had to buy it. I have no idea whether she’ll like it, but I couldn’t help myself. It’s 3 kids in a classroom and the plate reads “Because you believed in us … we believed in ourselves.”

    • I always had a soft spot for teacher-themed gifts. Although I haven’t taught for a few years, I still drink with pride from my “Those who can do. Those who can do more, teach” mug.

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