Gifts Teachers Do NOT Want to Receive

The holidays are coming and you want to give your kid’s teacher a nice gift to express your gratitude.  You want to make sure you’ve spent your time and money on something the teacher would actually like, right?  I surveyed some teachers and asked them to share their thoughts about gifts received throughout the year.  I fully expected some of the responses, while others left me a little gobsmacked.  Read on for gifts that teachers do NOT want to receive, as well as those they would absolutely love.

Gifts Teachers Do NOT Want to Receive
Photo by Jony Ariadi-197568-on Unsplash

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What Teachers do NOT want

Oh boy.  I can just hear it now.  Some people reading this are up in arms and saying, “What do you mean ‘What teachers do NOT want?’  They’re lucky I’m giving them anything!”

Hear me out on this one.  I truly believe that teachers deserve a token of appreciation for helping your kids learn and succeed.  Teachers absolutely do appreciate the thought and sentiment behind all of the gifts they receive.  But, they are human beings after all!  There are certain items (ahem…mugs) that they have received from multiple students over the course of many years.  Wouldn’t you prefer that they receive something different or that they can actually use or have space for?

Without further ado, here is the list of items teachers most likely prefer not to receive:

  • Pinterest-made gifts: Lets face it, Pinterest has been around for a while. There’s a good chance that the teacher has already received that “original” framed crayon art with their initial.  While teachers appreciate the effort put into the gift, they only have so much space to hang things up or display in their classroom.  The last thing you want to do is burden them with stuff they can’t use.
  • Mugs/drinkware:
    Gifts Teachers Do NOT Want to Receive
    Photo Credit: Chris Scott on Unsplash

    I am guilty of gifting this. I bought a teacher a set of nice travel mugs when my kid was in first grade.  It honestly never occurred to me that they might have received a bunch of these from other parents already :/  The teachers I surveyed were in agreement on this one.  There is only so much space in the cupboard for mugs and drinkware.

  • Money: A few teachers told me that they have received money during the holidays and it was a bit awkward. You might be wondering why.  There are a couple of reasons:
    • Some jurisdictions do not allow teachers to accept money from students or their parents.
    • It might come across as you trying to bribe the teacher to give your kid good grades.
  • Homemade food:
    Gifts Teachers Do NOT Want to Receive
    Photo Credit: Jennifer Pallian on Unsplash

    This one was a shocker to me, then I thought about it a little more and realized why. The main reasons cited were germs, food allergies, and dietary restrictions. 

    • Germs: A former teacher told me she once received a homemade food item from a student. Upon seeing her about to eat some of the food, another teacher asked her, “Are you going to eat that?”  This person was told that most teachers at that school threw away homemade food items.  The reason?    You don’t know if the person was licking the spoon, using expired ingredients, etc. when they were cooking.  Also…have you ever watched an episode of hoarders?  You never truly know the cleanliness of someone else’s home.
    • Food allergies: I can’t believe I didn’t think of this one.  A teacher once asked her students not to gift her with chocolates.  It turns out…she is extremely allergic!
    • Dietary restrictions: Some teachers are trying to avoid certain foods or have been placed on a restricted diet for medical issues.
  • Extremely personal items: Lingerie…girdles…yeah.  Some teachers have actually received these!  Lets hope that these were kids just grabbing something from around the house to gift their teacher.  For obvious reasons, it would be very awkward for a teacher to receive this gift.
  • Scented Lotions: I know, I know. It seems like such a great idea.  You stroll by Bath and Body Works and smell that cucumber juniper apple concoction and think, “Who wouldn’t love to receive this?”  Weeeell….  There are a few reasons that a teacher might not like to receive this gift.
    • Scent is a very personal thing. Something that you think smells great can be very off-putting to someone else.  For example, I really don’t like to smell like an apple.  Some people like to smell like a piece of fruit.  Me, not so much.
    • They might be sensitive to scents.   Some people find the smell of scented lotions overpowering and experience sinus problems as a result.
    • They might be allergic. Some people have very sensitive skin and cannot put scented lotions on their skin.
    • They receive so many scented lotions, they can open up their own store.

 What Teachers MIGHT want

  • Candles: This one was a split. Some teachers like them, some teachers do not.  I think the reasons they might not want them fall under the same reasons given for preferring not to receive scented lotions.

    Gifts Teachers Do NOT Want to Receive
    Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash
  • Store bought food: If the food is store bought, you don’t have to worry about the germ issue.  Also, the labels clearly state the ingredients in the food, therefore making it easy for a teacher to avoid potential allergic reactions.  Of course, you never know if the teacher is avoiding sugar, vegan, etc.

What Teachers DO want

  • A heartfelt note:  All of the teachers said they love getting notes from students and parents.  Sometimes parents write notes about what they appreciated.  Kids oftentimes write about something that he/she loves about class or some of their favorite memories.
  • Personalized gifts: Instead of giving a framed copy of a generic poem about teachers and how wonderful they are, one teacher suggested that they love receiving something more personalized. Something with their own name on it, a poem written just for that specific teacher, something you know that the teacher absolutely loves, etc.
  • School supplies: I hesitate to write this in the “want” section because I always like to give teachers a gift that they will use for themselves. However, a teacher told me that he/she loves to receive school supplies like “Expo markers.”  When I pointed out why I would not want to give that gift, she/he replied, “Why not?!  I love getting school supplies because I would have to spend my own money on it anyway.  Kids leave the caps off of markers all the time!”

  • Your help: Teachers have a lot on their plate. I have yet to meet a teacher that didn’t want help in or out of the classroom.  If you can’t help during school hours, maybe you can help the teacher put together homework packets, study guides, etc.  If your teacher does NOT want your help in the classroom…you might want to do a little investigating 😉

    Gifts Teachers Do NOT Want to Receive
    Photo by Charisse Kenion on Unsplash
  • Gift Cards: These are like money, but without the weirdness factor attached. All of the teachers surveyed said they love to get Starbucks and Target giftcards- they really are pretty universal.  Some gift cards I’ve gifted in the past include:
    • Starbucks/Coffee Bean
    • Target
    • Amazon
    • In N’ Out
    • Panera
    • Dick’s Sporting Goods
    • Bass Pro Shops
    • Movie Tickets

There you have it!  Teachers really do appreciate any gift you give them and the fact that you thought of them.  But, I hope that this list helps you narrow down your gift ideas to presents you know your kid’s teacher will love.


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