Teachers Gifts: Offering To Organize The Class Present Was A Bad Idea

By  | 

teacher giftThe end of the school year is fast approaching and with it talks of gifts. Not “Do you or don’t you?” but rather “Who’s in for the group gift?”

As nice as it is to receive a trinket, token or Starbucks card, it’s even better to receive a big whopper of a gift card. And that’s what happens when the parents in a class pool their money together. Sounds simple, right? It should be, but rarely is.

First issue is who exactly will buy this wonderful gift card. I know at my sons’ schools, there are plenty of moms who work freelance, at home, or not at all. They seem to have no trouble hitting up our local mall – until gifting season arrives (then they’re suddenly much too busy).  Then there are the “official” class reps – aka the class parent. Technically, gift-giving is not part of their job description yet, at our school, it’s become de riguer for them to organize – and purchase – the gifts.

With that in mind, one would think the other parents would be grateful they don’t have the responsibility of doing anything other than handing over some cash for a group gift. Hell no. The amount is always a testy topic. For some, $15 is $5 too much. For others, they wouldn’t dream of spending less than $50. Personally, I think somewhere between $15-20 is adequate, especially if you have a lot of children, who have several teachers each. I know one class that’s giving two presents: one from the self-proclaimed big spenders, and one from the realists. Once the amount is finally agreed upon, the real work begins: collecting the cash.

In recent years I have issued an email stating a group gift will be purchased. Anyone can opt in or out. At one of my sons’ schools, some participated, some declined completely and some were in for the assistant, but not for the teacher. I don’t understand exactly how these decisions are made and, frankly, I don’t care. But if someone else is doing all the work, I don’t see why it should be so difficult to pay up.

As a mother, I’m used to being an unpaid chauffeur, cleaner, cook and caretaker. But collection agent? I don’t think so. People go AWOL. They don’t respond to emails. On one occasion I paid for the gift card upfront and still have yet to see the contribution from one errant parent. Of course by the time school resumed in the fall, I was too tense to acknowledge the debt, but every time I bump into that person, I wonder if she’s thinking what I’m thinking: that she owes me $30!

Now I’ve wised up. I set a deadline. Whoever misses it without an acknowledgement that they want in, is out. And whatever money collected post-deadline is donated to the school library. This way, everybody wins: I don’t supplement the gift, the teacher gets a lovely shopping spree and the school benefits from the inevitable late donors.

Sure, there are some that go above and beyond and buy a little something extra. Sometimes as an extra thank you and sometimes, I suspect, to sweeten the pot, which by year’s end seems pointless to me. By mid-June I’m like my kids: I just want school to be over. Bring on the summer. Enjoy your group gift. And next year, please let somebody else do the organizing.

(Photo: urfin/Shutterstock )