Did you feel it there? The first tingle of alarm at the back of the neck, which then trickles down the torso and seeps out your fingers. You've forgotten something, but you don't know what it is. Then it hits - you haven't contributed to the teacher's end of year present! Was a parent organising a WhatsApp whip-round? Were you meant to drop money into your PTA class rep, or were you all flying solo?
Someone needs to tell you what to do immediately. Don't fret - we're here to school you in what your kids' teacher really wants as the academic year comes to a close.
If you're new to this and currently thinking, "Why am I buying teachers presents to do their jobs? Isn't there enough expense to juggle already? Didn't we give them something at Christmas?", just be thankful that you don't live in London. There was an article in the TES (Times Educational Supplement in the UK) revealing that parents in certain schools were buying teachers flights as their end-of-year gift.
Clearly, there is a pressure to outdo each other. Now that some of us are feeling infinitely better about parting with €5-€10, let's address what teachers want versus what they actually get.
For the purpose of this article, an entire staff room of primary school teachers, plus a few peripherals from other schools, were queried. Naturally, they started in a very diplomatic fashion, with those assembled agreeing that "presents aren't expected or necessary, but it is lovely to receive them". As for what they receive - it's not quite plane tickets, but 'tis a far cry from the humble apple we've come...
While token handmade mementos are ideal for most parents (they're low cost while labour intensive for your child), do spare a thought for the teacher receiving a litany of 'bespoke' gifts from 20-plus children. Of course, "they are well received" as they "appreciate the time and effort it has taken to put into such a gift, especially as teachers know that children have listened to or noticed their teacher's individual likes and hobbies." Although, one teacher did say that while she appreciates the effort involved, she is, "less likely to keep the present if it's homemade". At least she was honest.
There is a way of giving your teacher a thoughtful handmade gift that isn't going to be unceremoniously tossed or destined to reside in a cupboard for all eternity - why not make it edible? One teacher mentioned he once received homemade chocolate, wrapped in a note saying: "Thank you for teaching me." While chocolate is beyond most parent's repertoire, there is always fudge, jam, lemonade, or - failing all that - negotiate a packet of Betty Crocker; it only takes 20 minutes (cooking time included). If it doesn't get eaten, at least it'll biodegrade and not become landfill fodder.
Or "crap" as one of our teachers delicately put it. So what qualifies as crap? "Cups with 'Best Teacher', key rings stating the same, novelty ties, that sort of thing." The gripe here is understandable; you're getting the clutter without any personal touch. It's akin to garage flowers on Valentine's Day, or a bumper sticker on your birthday.
Candles, aftershaves, hand creams, rattan reed diffusers, they've seen them all. How well they are received all boils down to personal taste and therefore - according to our array of teachers - "very much an individual thing". Again, it's down to us parents to do a bit of digging around on a teacher's preference for such things without coming across as creepy. Speaking of which…
A teacher once received soap handmade by a pupil. While this shouldn't really ring the 'creepy' alarm bells, he felt too uncomfortable having it in the bathroom. Like it was watching him or something. Judging him every time he washed his hands. Also, re-gifting is an obvious no-no. One teacher said they opened a present that contained a picture frame. Seemingly unbeknownst to the parent in question, there was a tiny plaque at the base of the frame saying "Happy Engagement". Going down this route will only ever result in regift regret...
Vouchers. Man, they love vouchers, with the 'whip-round' voucher being the Holy Grail of gifts. One tutor emphatically stated: "A joint pressie from all the parents, like a voucher, is much better than all the individual crap. It's so nice to be appreciated at the end of the year!" Another added: "The best one yet was a One 4 All voucher for €100, that was amazing. Wine and chocolates always go down a treat, and flowers are nice, but a good voucher is a clear winner."
Incidentally, the 'whip-round' is a fairly recent phenomenon. Prior to 2008, it was usually individual gifts, then the number nosedived during the recession. Now that we're crawling out of the budget bunker, the group gift has remained but the quality of it has improved incrementally, from a high-street shopping voucher to a weekend away.
Listen, some of us forget, or simply can't be bothered, but - be warned - a teacher friend of a friend (just to make her doubly anonymous) once said, "It's really nice to get something small or big, it doesn't matter", swiftly followed by, "This is going to sound terrible, but you do notice the ones who don't give anything." Consider yourselves warned.
On a serious note; what if you simply can't afford to partake in present purchasing? Is there another low-cost way to highlight your appreciation of all the education that's been poured into your child over the last 10 months? There is. According to our staffroom, it usurps all the aforementioned. What is it? The humble card. And it's becoming a rare and beautiful thing.
Teachers have noticed that since the classes have started pitching in to buy one group gift "there have been fewer cards". The general consensus is that "this is a shame" as it's "always nice to hear from students and parents individually". It is widely felt that "genuine messages written by students and parents in cards are often one of the best things a child can give as it means so much and really is treasured".
Nuggets of knowledge dispensed, you now know what to do… just get a card! And obviously team it with a bottle of wine, chocolates or - better yet - a Blue Book voucher.