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My 16 year old wants to give her teachers Christmas gifts. She is in 10th grade, so there are quite a number of teachers.

As a retired teacher, I do not think teachers need gifts. I would have loved a card or note with a comment or appreciative remarks. I taught special needs students and liked when a parent made snack for the entire class or contributed to the trip fund, but I never needed them to spend their hard-earned money on me.

I suggested my kid make cards -- she is very artistic, and add a heartfelt message. She disagrees and wants twenty dollar gift cards, which for the record, she cannot contribute to.

We are trying to find a compromise. I think that over $100 is ridiculous. It is also too much to 'lend' my kid.

(Deep background, this is not my own daughter but my godchild. When her parents died, I became her guardian. She was 4 when they died. So sometimes she uses that as her trump card. Teens aren't 'easy'.)

I said I'd ask what others think.

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    I think this is probably too opinion based, with a wide range of likely answers. My opinion - if she wants to give presents, she needs to fund them herself. That helped my kids understand the value and cost of presents, and drove them to prioritise gifts, cards and other items to fit within their budget. – Rory Alsop Dec 1 '16 at 19:05
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    When my daughter was in elementary school and only had a single teacher, we would help her make a card and would include a little wrapped package of chocolates. That was a fairly inexpensive way to just add a little extra sweetness to the card :) But we certainly have never considered purchasing gift cards for all her teachers, not because we don't think they are great teachers but because it just isn't financially practical. Does she get an allowance or work? If so, she should be buying her own gifts. If not...well, here's a life lesson, if you don't work you don't have money to spend. – Francine DeGrood Taylor Dec 1 '16 at 19:44
  • We are on the same page, thanks. She has a learning disability and instead of working, she goes to tutoring. She gets a generous allowance, but it would never cover that amount. – WRX Dec 1 '16 at 19:54
  • You probably want to note the fact that I've seen students purposely gifting their teachers at the beginning of the final term to try to bribe them for prize giving. Make sure you don't create that impression, or do it for that purpose. – Bradman175 Dec 10 '16 at 6:11
  • why can't your 10th grader contribute? Surely she is receiving some allowance. – kevin cline May 11 '17 at 9:35
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If a student wants to give me a gift, I'd ask for things we all use in my classroom. Staplers don't last a year, and I need six at a time. When we can get everyone's papers stapled in two minutes, we all have more time in class and less homework. Pencils . . . when one kid doesn't have a pencil, the whole class comes to a stop until he can borrow one. Give me a gross of pencils, and we all have better days. Notebook paper? Yeah.

If somebody gives me a Starbucks card, I'll use it, but I'd rather have things that make our shared classroom experience better.

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    Would a gift card to an office supply store be a solution? I love the notion of gifting in a way that directly relates to the teaching experience that's been provided. – Acire Dec 2 '16 at 13:23
  • I love this idea. I can't manage 20 per teacher, but we do donate to the school. Perhaps we could make this work together. Thanks! – WRX Dec 2 '16 at 13:29
  • Kids seem to like giving a physical object that can be wrapped, and that they will see in the classroom. Gift cards are ok for the teacher. I guess it depends on whether you want it to be a more memorable lesson in sharing and generosity for the child. – Marc Dec 3 '16 at 16:36
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  • First of all, it is perfectly ok for you to refuse to pay for these gifts. You are in charge of the money, and if you decide something is not worth its price, you are free to refuse to pay.

  • Secondly, and more specific to this case, it is often a bad idea to give a gift of real monetary value to a teacher, because the teacher may have to refuse it. A teacher accepting gifts from students may raise suspicions that the students are buying favors, such as good grades or just some leniency.

For example, in Germany teachers (like all government employees) are officially forbidden to accept any gifts that are "connected to their job", unless they get explicit permission from their superiors (and teachers have actually been fined for accepting gifts). Many other countries probably have similar laws, or the school may have internal rules.

However, this very much depends on the country and local rules. In some countries (such as Germany or Denmark), giving gifts to teachers is unusual, except possibly symbolic gifts like cards. In the US, giving gifts to teachers or preschool teachers appears to be fairly common and accepted - however, there may still be regulations forbidding it (see this article about Alabama). So if you are unsure, it's probably a good idea to check what others do (though you are not obliged to do the same). Thanks to Ida for these points.


Explain this to your godchild. In addition, point out that the teacher probably earns enough that a $20 gift card does not make a great difference - but that a christmas card or similar personal present which shows genuine appreciation will, because it is something money cannot buy.

That said, if she insists on buying a gift card with her spending money, I don't think you should (or even can) stop her. Just warn her of the possible problems, then she'll have to make her own experiences.

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    I think this is VERY depended on the country. I grew up in Denmark, and people rarely gives gifts (or even cards) to teachers. Now, living in the US, most people give gifts to kids teachers/preschool teachers. The culture is very different. – Ida Dec 1 '16 at 23:28
  • I often got expensive gifts, and many I did not like. Perfume, clothing, art... these are not appropriate though they could have been re-gifts. I am in charge of the money. I am retired and fine, but there are not a ton of extras. My kid has a college fund and a dandy inheritance... and if possible, we won't be using them. She will be able to buy a nice condo and a new car and still have savings if I can manage to get her to 25 without dipping into those funds. thanks! – WRX Dec 2 '16 at 0:26
  • @WillowRex: Well, that sounds like you have made up your mind :-). I hope you can help your godchild understand your reasons. – sleske Dec 2 '16 at 8:22
  • @Ida: Thanks for the input. I took the liberty of adding it to my answer, hope that's ok. – sleske Dec 2 '16 at 8:23
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If your question is if I give gifts to my children's teachers - the answer is yes. My kids are in preschool/kindergarten, and we give a small gift card at the Holidays, and usually bigger gift at the end of the school year/preschool class transfer. THe larger gift is usually a giftcard plus some 'pampering items' such as chocolate, bath salts, things like that. I prefer to add a gift card as it is impossible for me to guess the teachers preferences.

The preschool is quite pricy, and this is an affluent area. This seems to be the norm. It might also be because the kids are just babies to Kindergarten, and maybe require a little less 'teaching' and more 'parenting' - all the teachers are a great help for our family.

For a 16 year old though, I think she should provide her own gifts. It is fine she wants to give gift cards, and really a $20 is not that much even if it adds up. It is not your job as a caregiver to give a gift, especially if you don't feel it is necessary.

She should be capable or either saving up with an allowance or job? If she hasn't saved, maybe say she can give them something handmade now, and save up for the end of the school year?

Lastly, for your specific situation, I would wonder if there is any sort of peer pressure involved? Has her friends told her about the gifts they give the teacher? Does her friends parents pay? She may want to fit in.

  • this is not a preschooler and we did give gifts when she was... thanks! – WRX Dec 2 '16 at 0:27

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