SEE! She's licking her fingers. gross.
SEE! She’s licking her fingers. gross.

You know the scene – it’s Christmas time (or “holiday tree time) and you want to show appreciation to your child’s teacher. You want it to involve your child, be meaningful, maybe even fun. You want it to be cheap. “A-ha! I will make her a dozen sugar cookies! My child and I will decorate them together! It will be an experience and she will see the time we spent on the cookies and feel appreciated!”

This is a very sweet idea. But…

I teach junior high Latin and Spanish, so I have roughly 130 students. At every holiday, my room is inundated with dozens of cookies. Some are the decorated sugar ones (which, let’s admit, aren’t ever tasty), some have nuts (cookie ruiners!), some have coconut (another ruiner!), some are from students whose hygiene habits I have serious doubts about.

I don't want to look like this. So I toss your cookies.
I don’t want to look like this. So I toss your cookies.

If I conservatively estimate that only 1 in 3 students will give me half a dozen cookies/candies/brownies, that is still sending me into the holidays with 260 “treats,” at 100 calories each piece that is 26,000 calories, divided by how many in a pound, that is a 7.5lb weight gain, just from eating your cookies out of obligation. Even if I only ate one treat from each child….that’s just too much.

So you know what I do with all these once the students leave and break starts?

I take one bite out of each of the tastiest looking ones, and then I throw them all away. I know, it’s terrible. And I do feel guilty. But my roommates are teachers with the same problem, my boyfriend doesn’t like them, and in my family we’re making our own bomb cookies at home! My belly is already full of my mom’s fudge and peanut blossoms!

It’s not that I don’t appreciate the thought or the time that went into those cookies, but that thought and time could be spent elsewhere on something I would actually keep once your student left my room.

I know you’re trying to express your love and appreciation for the work that we do, and I don’t want to put that love in a garbage can. So here are some ideas I’ve come up with, based on gifts I’ve been given or wish I had, that you can use to give your teacher something she’ll truly enjoy this season:

see? I eat this stuff up!
see? I eat this stuff up!

1. A handmade card from your child! I’m serious! These are the best. Make them sit down and WRITE something about how they enjoy my class, what they’ve learned, what they like about me. Here’s the “thought” and “time” element, and a great practice to teach your child – writing thank you notes. I definitely keep all of these to pull out on a bad day when I’m not sure I want to teach anymore.

I’ll even get you started….Type these up in a pretty font, and have your student write in their answers or dictate to you, depending on their age:

I like my teacher _________________ because she is _____________, _____________, and _________________. My favorite part about class is ___________________ and I like when we ________________________. My favorite memory from this year is _______________________________ and I liked when we learned about ____________________. I will always remember when my teacher/how my teacher __________________________. My favorite thing she says is ___________________. My teacher makes me feel __________________________. For Christmas this year, I bet my teacher wants a ______________________ and I hope she gets it because she is the best!

2. Nice ornaments – you can never have too many. Pick a teacher-y one, or something else your teacher likes. I’ve been given SF Giants ones and some beautiful cross ones.

yeah baby!
yeah baby!

3. Figure out her favorite granola bar or crunch snack and buy a box of those. I always have some on hand for snacking emergencies in my room!

4. Coffee! Either a gift card or a bag, but NOT a mug! We get these by the dozens.

5. Safeway/gas card/craft store card – even if it’s only 5 bucks, it’s something you KNOW she will use and be grateful for.

6. Teacher quote book/page a day calendars/magnets/motivation books, etc. – You can never have too many of these. I always have one on my desk and will pick up for motivation or ideas.

7. Nail salons certificates – our hands get TRASHED with fingerpaint, markers, scratching glue off desks, and washing washing washing. (Not for me though…it’s a waste because I play guitar)

8. Wine – if you’re close with your teacher and can deliver it off-campus, this is the BEST. In my house, we call it “teacher juice.”

9. Movie tickets – LOVE these!

we can do this :)
we can do this :)

10. Volunteer your time! I always have a thousand projects going on around my room I want done, but I never get to finish because of all the unglamourous sides of teaching like emails, administration, meetings, and crying in the faculty room because the copier is broken and I’ve waited until the last minute. I always wish my bookshelves organized themselves, my books were covered, and my craft supplies cleaned through.

I would LOVE to have an organize-y mom help me for even an hour to clean things out one day! Teachers also have to sanitize our rooms on a regular basis, so a half hour after school with you bringing your own cleaning stuff and wiping out all cubbies/tubs/chairs/desks, etc. would be AMAZING!

So those are my ideas! I hope they help someone somewhere somehow someday.

Now I’m going to eat some of my fudge bars I made this weekend. :)