Holiday Wishlists: Alternative Ideas for Gifts for the Classroom

First of all, I realize that I should have blogged about this much earlier than now….but perhaps it will be helpful in this last week of school or to save for next year.  Second, I realize this may not be (and probably isn’t) a new idea for some of you.  However, when I ran across it, it was to me so I thought I would share.  And I felt like focusing on the holidays in blog posts!

Many of you who have been teaching for more than a year, even in special education classrooms with 8 students in them, probably have more mugs, apple trinkets, and bric-a-brac than you know what to do with from holiday gifts given to you by your students and their families.  In well-to-do areas, you might have gift cards for Starbucks or other restaurants and stores that are useful.  You may have more candy then you could possibly (and should possibly) eat.  I know when I was the director of a program, my mother loved it because I would bring home many boxes of chocolate for Christmas to share with her because as much as I love chocolate, I couldn’t possibly eat it all.

Add to that the fact that many districts and states now have limits on gifts that teachers can accept from parents.  I know that at a school where I used to work, the limit is $10.  In some districts gift giving to teachers is actually forbidden.

And finally, I was with a parent and school staff the other day when the parent was trying to figure out how many presents to buy to assure she didn’t leave any one out who works with her child.  For one of her children with special needs, it was 8 people and that only included those who worked with him directly.  Successful education for students with special needs involves a team.  It’s different to be a parent of a typical child with one classroom teacher and another to be the parent of a special needs child who has 8, 10 or 12 people working with her child each day.  That’s a lot of Starbucks cards!

So, how to avoid having a house full of trinkets and desk full of chocolate and keep parents from feeling obligated to buy gifts for each person important to their child’s education?  Think about suggesting, accepting, or giving materials for the classroom.  The pictures above were actually developed for open house in a school where parents “adopted” a classroom. However, a similar wish list could be developed on paper and pulled out only if a parent asks or a parent talks about gifts for the classroom.  I know that talking about gift giving with families is a touchy issue and I’m not suggesting that you make them feel obligated to give gifts or to give specific things.  However, if it comes up this is an alternative that might work for everyone.

This is an idea I’ve seen in several schools over the years that I really love.  The one thing that schools and teachers, no matter how well off their district, can always use is material for the classroom.  And to be honest, while I know the gift cards for Starbucks are nice, most teachers would probably be happy to buy their own coffee with the money they save from not having to buy Velcro.  So, this year, you might want to consider having a gift list for your classroom.  If you are a parent reading this, ask the teacher if there are materials they need for their classrooms.  If you are a teacher and parents ask, suggest materials for the classroom.  If you are an administrator think about how you talk to families about gifts and having this as an option.  And if you are on the PTA and thinking about gifts for schools, think about giving something that can be used everyday in a classroom with the money to appreciate teachers.

Here are some ideas from classrooms I’ve worked with that I know would be a nice addition and can be small expenditures or larger.

Wipes, paper towels, and antibacterial gel are always needed in self-contained classes (and most others as well)

Spring loaded scissors like the ones from Amazon below (Disclosure: affiliate links included).  Buy a few pairs for the classroom and everyone can benefit from them.  They make cutting laminate so much easier.

Or nonstick scissors that I just learned about from a reader this year–they are awesome for cutting

Velcro–teachers would love Velcro coins to avoid having to cut the Velcro each time they need it, but I’ve never known a teacher to turn down Velcro of any kind

Laminate–consider whether the teacher has a personal laminator and find out what weight of laminate it will take.  She would love laminate that is as heavy as her laminator will stand.  If she doesn’t consider a class parent gift of a personal laminator with laminate.  I wrote about laminators and laminate here for more information.

There are tons of other things that could go on this list but the focus is really on giving something to a teacher that can benefit the classroom.  Let’s face it, teachers are in it for the kids (since we know they aren’t in it for the money) and parents want to honor the teacher with gifts because of the care the teacher takes of their child.  If you are giving (or getting) a present, what better way to say Happy Holidays than a present that benefits both.

How does your school address holiday giving?  Please share in the comments as I know this is a tricky area that many districts/ classrooms struggle with.

Until next time,

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