In the latest of the Chronicles of Things We Have to Do Virtually This Year, it’s now time to figure out how to give a gift to our kids’ teachers while still in the midst of a pandemic that has children largely learning from home.
Asking a teacher for their home address is not a thing I am comfortable doing, and most of the teachers I talked to in the course of writing this piece said sometimes they’re comfortable giving their address to families—but sometimes they’re not. So I can’t recommend putting a teacher on the spot like that, even if it’s because you want to send them a lovely gift.
There are a couple of other options for getting a physical gift to your teacher right now. You could ask to meet them in a neutral location, such as the school parking lot, or have their gift sent directly to the school itself and let them know it’s there. But that means they have to make a separate trip to pick it up or meet up with you. If everyone in their class did that, it would mean 20+ extra trips around town, and that’s a burden we shouldn’t impose on them either. So here are a few other ideas.
An emailed gift card might be the most obvious option—but that’s also because it’s one of the best options. Teachers may not want students showing up at their front door, but they won’t mind passing out their school-issued email address to parents. If you know they like a certain store or website, go with that. If you’re not sure where they typically shop, here are some safe bets:
If there is a local business that is a good fit (and offers the emailed option), that’s also a good choice. You probably can’t go wrong with a gift card to a popular local coffeehouse, bookstore, candy shop, or ice cream parlor—and it supports your local businesses, which is a huge bonus right now.
You may want to steer clear of Visa gift cards, though—or at least check with someone at the school before you go that route. Teachers may not be able to receive “cash” gifts, and their administrative teams may or may not consider a Visa gift card to fall into that category.
If you really want to get them a physical gift, ask them if they have any online wish lists you could peruse. In particular, teachers often have Amazon wish lists full of supplies and other items they are coveting for their classrooms. Since they will, some day, be back in the classroom, those items will still be appreciated now.
If you’re not sure whether they have an Amazon wish list, you can go here to send them an email directly from the site to ask if they have one and, if so, to share the link. You’ll be able to ship items directly to them without ever seeing their full address.
They may also have a classroom wish list of books on Scholastic; they can send you a link to that list if you don’t already have it.
A heartfelt letter from their student
It should go without saying that teachers are dealing with a lot this school year. What they need more than another coffee mug, water bottle, or tube of lotion is some acknowledgement of the challenging job they’re doing—and the positive impact they’re still managing to make in the midst of such challenges. And that is something any family, on any budget during a pandemic, can afford to give.
Here’s what David, a music teacher and a member of our Offspring Facebook group, says about receiving, specifically, handwritten letters:
I honestly would love to receive a handwritten letter telling me any positive difference I’ve made in their life. This year has been incredibly difficult for not just my students, but me personally. My virtual teaching has been one of the most important parts of my life that’s kept me sane. I love my students, and appreciate the gift they’ve given me this year: the ability to keep doing what matters to me, to keep being creative and challenged, to keep social when I can’t offscreen, and to simply be together. I hope that they feel the same, and cherish any words of kindness from them. I have a box with every single card and letter I’ve gotten over the last 20 years since I started teaching. I hope to have to get a second box just for this year as a memento for staying strong and united!
The handwritten part seems so key here, as the handwriting adds a level of personal connection that an email simply can’t. So David’s suggestion is to have kids write the note, and then scan it or take a picture of it to email to their teacher. The teacher can then print it out if they want to add a hard copy to their memento boxes.
Also, when you send that email? Copy their principal and the district’s superintendent. Their bosses should know how much you value them, too.
Grace, in general
Facebook group member Dan said something that stuck with me: “My wife (a high school teacher) would appreciate the gift of kids showing up, and parents giving her some grace.”
It’s a simple but helpful reminder that although parents and kids have it tough right now—and have for many endless months—our teachers are doing their best to show up every day to teach them in whatever new challenging form is expected of them. And that deserves our appreciation and our understanding that there will continue to be bumps along the way.