Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Why you can cross your child's teacher off your Christmas list.

It's getting to that time of year.  Reports are been written, Christmas concerts are being organised and as the school year comes to an end some of you may have added your child's teacher to your Christmas gift list.  You're thinking you'll pick up something small to thank them for the year.  And that's a lovely idea.  But I think you can save yourself some money and cross your child's teacher off that list.

I'm not saying you shouldn't recognise the efforts of your child's teacher or say thank-you, I just think it's done better by writing them a personalised thank-you card rather than buying a present. And if you can't think of anyone you'd like to thank less than your child's teacher you may like to read 'So your child hates their teacher?' instead!

Teachers have a special, demanding and often thankless job. Think about teaching a class full of hyper-excited and equally over-tired preps or a room full of sweaty Year 9 boys after a game of lunch time footy or staring at a wall of teenage angst and indifference while trying to excite them about the real-life benefits of Pythagoras' theorem. As I recently re-posted on facebook 'The best part about teaching is that what you do matters.  The hardest thing about being a teacher is that it matters every day (Todd Whitaker via 'We Are Teachers).

I'm not saying teachers are martyrs; teacher's choose to be teachers and I know a lot of people don't get thanked for doing their job on a day-to-day basis.  But think about those times when just your own kids are enough and you are glad to be waving them off at school secure in the knowledge that they will be safe and have the opportunity to learn.   Not many people have such a direct impact on your child's life and a good teacher is worth their weight in gold.  So I think taking the time to write a personalised note to our teacher can be a great investment in encouraging the good ones and can go a long way in rejuvenating a teacher at the end of a busy year.

Teacher's don't need an apple a day, just the occasional thanks!

I'm sure many of you like the idea of writing a personalised card or letter but when you think about coming up with a different and unique message to write for each child's teacher while also making costumes for Christmas concerts, food for every break up party and buying suitable Kris Kringle presents on a $5 budget it quickly becomes much easier to throw a few boxes of Favourites in a trolley and call it a day!

So I've tried to take some of the hard work out of it for you and give you some card writing ideas:

For Pre-school Teachers:

Idea 1:
Ask you child to think about their teacher and then ask them to finish the following sentences:
How old is Ms Teacher?
What does Ms Teacher do when she is not at kinder?
What is Ms Teacher's favourite thing to say?
What is Ms Teacher's favourite food/animal/hobby?
What is Ms Teacher really good at?
What makes Ms Teacher a great teacher?
What will you miss about Ms Teacher?

Idea 2:
Write a set of multiple choice statements down a page. For example:
Mr. Teacher is:
Happy  or Grumpy
Laughs a lot or Yells a lot
Nice or Mean
Loud or Quiet
Helpful or Not Helpful
Crazy or Quiet
Happy or Sad
Smart or Silly

The questions you write will obviously be influenced by how well you know the teacher, their personality and how you think your child will answer - in fact ask them the questions verbally first to ensure they are going to pick the nice one!

Put either of these on a card and help your child to write the 'To Ms Teacher, From Johnny' part and get them to finish it by decorating it with a picture or painting.  You can then add some of your own sentiments using the ideas in the Primary School section below.

For Primary School Teachers:

Again you can ask your child to write the 'To' and 'From' part and as they progress through each grade their own message of thanks can get a bit longer.  It's a great way for them to show off their hand writing and literacy skills.

You can then add a personalised message using statements like:
  • Your classroom always felt inviting/calm/welcoming/calm/exciting/full of possibility...
  • I appreciate that you have taken the time to get to know Johnny/ create interesting work/make the classroom a fun place to be...
  • Johnny has enjoyed your stories/songs/projects/sense of humour/kindness...
  • With your help, Johnny has developed more confidence/a greater understanding of .../an interest in...
  • Johnny was happy to go to school every day.
  • I always heard about the interesting things you were studying in...
  • Include a favourite and/or funny anecdote your child has told during the year

For Secondary School Teachers:

At this age, you can start to pass the responsibility to your child and help them write the notes themselves.  If your child has just started high school you may want to add your own comments to thank the teacher for their assistance in helping your child settle in and make a smooth transition to high school.

Some students may prefer to email their teachers, which is still a good option.  However if they have a teacher that they have formed a particularly good relationship, there is nothing quite like a hand written note.

They might find the following prompts helpful:
  • Thanks for teaching me...
  • I have most enjoyed ...
  • With your help I have got better at...
  • I'm glad I had you for Maths this year because...
  • I appreciate your sense of humour/passion for your subject/all of your help/fun learning ideas/kindness
  • I always completed your homework first because...
  • You kept me motivated/inspired to...
  • Your classes were great because..
  • I enjoyed the lessons when we got to...

Image source

Personalised letters and cards of thanks are the most treasured gifts a teacher can receive.  Even my husband, who could be described as quite a masculine and authoritative teacher, has kept every letter or card given to him by his students. As he says it is "fuel in the tank" to keep working hard.

I sometimes pull out some of the cards I've received from students (particularly those written by Year 12 students who can be very generous in their praise as they get sentimental about leaving school!) if I've has a hard day or need a little extra motivation.  When a student takes the time to write a card it makes you glad and proud to be a teacher and helps give you a kick along to keep doing the little (and big) things that make a difference between your child just going to school and your child going to school and enjoying it.

At the end of a busy year, when elbow deep in exam marking and report writing, it reminds your teacher of why they became a teacher.  It reminds them that they can have a significant and positive impact on every student they teach and if teachers can be reminded of this at least once a year that can only be a good thing for the teacher, the school and your child.  And, hopefully, maybe your next child that also gets that teacher!!

And if money isn't an issue and you can afford to buy a gift to go with that amazing card you've just written, you'll do well to remember that chocolate and alcohol have been recognised as the official diet of a staffroom.

Or you can do what my friend's Prep class did - organise for the whole class to contribute and pool your money to buy your teacher an outdoor heater and a three figure gift voucher - yes, really!?!

I'm just sayin'...

(BTW I can write this post this year since I'm on maternity leave and so this won't look like a desperate plea to get my students to write me thank-you cards!)

I'd love to hear if you are buying your child's teacher a present!

Linking up with Essentially Jess for I Blog On Tuesdays

Keep smiling


  1. Normally at my son's school we always pool our money and the class parent organises a gift voucher, spa treatment voucher etc depending on the teacher, but I love the idea of an individually written card. This year we will still contribute to the class present but my son will be writing a card also. Thanks for the suggestion!

    1. A spa voucher and handwritten cards would be my perfect gift - your son has a lucky teacher!

  2. I am hoping to organise a gift voucher for my son's teacher. He has so many teachers he likes so he will write cards for all of them. For a gift for both preschool and big school I was going to take clippings off of our money tree and give those out.
    I know you say teachers do it for the love but seriously anyone who can teach a room full of kids deserves a little something!!

    1. A gift voucher is a great idea - primary school teachers are a bit more fortunate in this area compared to secondary school teachers!

  3. Great points! Writing a personalised letter is so much nicer, and I'm sure they value and appreciate it more. I'm sure getting 30 boxes of chocolates/coffee mugs/or soap can get tiresome eventually!

    1. Any gift is lovely, but I agree there can be such a thing as too much soap and hand cream!

  4. This is FANTASTIC. We have gotten my daughter's whole kinder class together to organise some Gold Class vouchers for her teachers. By going in, we're not breaking our budget and hopefully it's something that will be appreciated and enjoyed instead of just mindlessly consumed. Or tossed in the trash. I'll be adding a card like this!

    1. That's an excellent idea, and I agree going in together is the way to go! I hadn't realised how good primary school parents were at doing this, it doesn't happen so much in high school.

  5. Great post! I would much prefer a thoughtful card with a message instead of chocolates (that I usually end up taking to share with the family on xmas day so I don't eat them all myself!)

    1. At our extended family Christmas we have 8 teachers amongst us and we have been known to do the same!

  6. Last year my daughter gave her daycare teachers a plant with 'thankyou for helping me grow' tag and a handmade drawing/card. I prefer to give something useful or personal. Will definitely be doing to drawing/card again and maybe something small to go with it.

    1. That's such a great idea, I've never seen that before. I'll have to remember that for my boy's teachers.

  7. I received two presents today (which is quite early). I try not to make too much public fuss when I get a present because I don't want the other kids to think it's expected. I'd be thrilled with a card and a lovely note.My kids know I love cows so I often get cow ornaments and cow print lanyards etc which is cute and shows they thought about what I might like. As I said I don't ever expect anything.

    1. Thoughtful gifts that reflect something about your personality are special and I agree, you don't want to make thanking you feel like an obligation!

  8. A lovely idea as I was just speaking to my Year 1 about what to get her teacher. I think a lovely card or hand written note would be very special !

    1. Your gift to your teacher of time and new display folders was awesome - you'll be the toast and talk of the staffroom :)

  9. I love these message ideas. I think we'll definitely do that. I always write personalised messages to my daughters' teachers at the end of the year. They have put so much into my girls throughout the year and I am grateful for that. I want to let them know what a positive impact they have on my children. Great post.

    1. You sound like a parent I would love to have in my classroom!

  10. I always struggle to a accurately thank the teachers properly. They do such a wonderful job, it seems hard to qualify it without an essay,or sounding gushy. I like the prompts here though :)

    1. We're teachers - gushing or essays would always be gratefully appreciated :)

  11. I always feel a lot of pressure when it comes to teacher presents. My kids always write a personal card but I also want to adequately convey my thanks and I never quite know how. Great tips, thanks.

    1. If you are putting worry and thought into your present/card I have no doubt you will adequately convey your thanks!