Should you tip or gift your child’s teacher this holiday season? A complete guide (2024)

The holidays are swiftly approaching, and for many families thatmeans a lot of people to tip: the doorman, the housecleaner, the newspaper delivery person, to name a few. But what about the person you trust tomoldyour child’s mind?

Showing appreciation for your child’s teacher canget tricky. Doyou give a teacher cash? How much do you give? And what if your little darlinghas seven teachers?

Well, first of all, you don’t actually need to give anything

Most Americans said they didn’t give gifts or tips toteachers for the holidays in 2013, according to a Consumer Reports survey. The teachers Quartzspoke to said they don’texpect holiday gifts from students, though they appreciate thegesture.

Should you tip or gift your child’s teacher this holiday season? A complete guide (1)

But why not give something?

Teachers do not make a lot of money, and an end-of-year gift to show your appreciation of all they do for your child is a nice gesture, says Maralee McKee, a manners and etiquette teacherand parent of two from Florida.

“Who else do you want to thank more than your child’s teacher, who spends more waking hours with your childthan you do?” she asks. “It’s a vitalrelationship and one that needs to be nurtured.”

Some parents may look for reasons not to give anythingtoa teacher for the holidays, but McKee urges them to get over that, especially amidst the general excess of the holiday season. “If you’re being frugal, then being frugal limits what you purchase for yourself,” McKee says. “Being stingy limits what you purchase for others.”

First, find outwhat’s permissible

States, school districts, and even individual schools all have different rules when it comes to teacher gifts. Some states have laws prohibiting teachersfromaccepting gifts. Soemail the head of the parents’ association or the room parent, or call the school’s front desk to find out the policy.

How much should you give?

Themedianvalue of the gifts parents gave teachers in the US in 2013 was $20, according to the Consumer Reports survey. But like most things, the normdepends where you live andwhere your childgoes to school.If you’re paying $18,000 for tuition, spending $150 to $200 isn’t absurd, McKee says. But in a public school, that price tag mightbe excessive.

In one of New York City’s wealthier neighborhoods, Park Slope in Brooklyn, a parents group conducts an annual poll to find out how much parents are tipping:

Should you tip or gift your child’s teacher this holiday season? A complete guide (2)

Don’t give cash

Even if it is legal, handing over an envelope of cash is generally consideredinappropriate. It can come off as a bribe or make the teacher feel awkward, according to both McKee and the etiquette titans at the Emily Post Institute.

The only time cash is acceptable is if a parents’ group or enterprising parent collects cash for a group gift, or a group gift certificate, for the teacher. In that scenario, the students all give the gift together, and individual contribution levels aren’t divulged.

Presents no teacher wants

If you’re going to go to the effort of buying something, it might as well be a gift the teacher willuse. Avoid mugs, andanything that’s shaped like an apple (unless you know for a fact that the teacher has a special fondness forapples). Teachers get a lot of these cliche “#1 teacher!” items every year, and they accumulate.

Stay away fromoverly intimate items such as clothing. And skip theornaments and home decorations, when you likely have no idea of the recipient’s preferred style, McKee says.

Be careful with food—some teachers tell Quartz they enjoy baked goods and homemade food, while others say they prefer to stay away from it, because of dietary restrictions, allergies or just not knowing where the food came from. Oneteacher, Sadie Wright-Ward, shared this cautionary tale with the Boston Globe: “He came in, sniffling and feverish, just so he could give me a carrot cake that he’d made himself,” she said. “Nice thought, but it went right in the trash.”

If you can’t resist giving a food gift, be sure to find outabout preferences or allergies first.

Go for agift card

Agift card is a great idea, butmake sure it’s one that the teacher will use—perhaps for a book store, coffee shop, or movie theater. For a restaurant, make sure the card isenough to cover the priceof a meal, and for stores, the price of an item.

A gift card toa school supply store can also be helpful. Manyschools are underfunded and teachersspend money out of pocket on their students. Last school year, US teachers spent an average of $513of their own money on “classroom supplies, instructional materials, books for their classrooms, and professional development.”

There’s no need to buy a dozen gifts

In elementary school, it makes sense to giveyour child’s primary teacher a gift. Once students reach middle school orhigh school and can have up to seven teachers, it’s unnecessary to gift every one. Ask your child to choose the one or few she’s closest to or learns the most from, and remindyour child not todeliver the gift when other (less gifted) teachers are around.

In elementary school, ifyou want to give secondary teachers—the classroom aide, physical educationteacher, arts teacher—something as well, the gift doesn’t need to be as high in value as what yougive the primary teacher, since they spend so much less time with your kid,McKee says.

Give your child a chance to do the gifting

Agift doesn’t have to cost money to send a message. Have your childwrite a note to histeacher for the holidays, expressing gratitudeand specifying one or more way in which he haslearned or enjoyed himself in the classroom. That’s often the kind of thing teachers will keep and go back to.

“The best gift is a note from a student saying thank you for what I do and/or sharing what impact being in my class has had on them,” Larry Ferlazzo, a Sacramento teacher, tells Quartz in an email. ”One memorable note from a student said ‘One thing that I’ll always remember about you is that you never, ever let me fail.'”

Should you tip or gift your child’s teacher this holiday season? A complete guide (2024)
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