What teachers really want for Christmas
By Janita Gray
No candles, no soft toys and definitely nothing emblazoned with ‘World’s Best Teacher!’
It’s December and right on cue comes the annual press features flurry about Christmas presents for teachers. This year’s favourite gift to the media (so far) was from a parent who tweeted The Good Schools Guide a decidedly un-festive letter sent by an Oxfordshire independent girls’ school. This bureaucratic gem was offering ‘guidance’ as to maximum spend on presents for teachers which, in case you’re wondering, is £50. Yes, that’s right, £50.
Though the letter was no doubt intended to be helpful, it really could have been better expressed. Nonetheless, we have some sympathy for its unsuspecting author. Had he or she known it was going to cause a feeding frenzy among journalists desperate for a story that was a) vaguely festive and b) not about Brexit, we’re sure they would have paid more attention to their composition.
At this very busy time of year most parents have already gone into multi-tasking and spending overdrive, what with demands for last minute nativity play costumes or festive knitwear for the now seemingly ubiquitous ‘Christmas jumper day’. Add to that obligatory attendance at said nativity play and carol concerts, events which will almost certainly clash if you have children at different schools.
So, as the end of term approaches and reserves of time, money and bonhomie are running low, let us save you at least a little of all three with our no-nonsense answers to your teacher presents dilemmas, based on what actual teachers have told us (off the record, naturally).
Parent: Do I have to buy my child’s teacher a present?
The Good Schools Guide: No.
Parent: But all the other parents seem to do it and I don’t want my child to feel left out.
The Good Schools Guide: In that case buy them something inexpensive but thoughtful. Or get your child to make them a card/gift -- teachers tell us that they really treasure these, and we believe them.
Parent: There’s no time! I know, how about a ‘World’s Best Teacher’ mug/pen/mouse mat/tea towel …?
The Good Schools Guide: No, no, no, no and, finally … no.
The Good Schools Guide: Really. Teachers tell us they have attics full of this kind of stuff, mainly because it’s impossible to wrap up a ‘World’s Best Teacher’ item and give it to someone else. If the someone else is another teacher, they’ll know; if they aren’t then it’s just weird and they’ll also know.
Parent: Surely teachers don’t re-gift presents from their pupils?
The Good Schools Guide: Er, you do know that teachers are human beings with emergency presents drawers, just like the rest of us?
Parent: Interesting. How about chocolates?
The Good Schools Guide: Opinions vary on this one. Some teachers are always happy to receive chocolates, others complain of staffrooms ‘inundated’ with sweet stuff. We say, go for it. If you’re worried about being unoriginal then choose quality over volume, although come to think of it, volume is also good.
Parent: How about some wine?
The Good Schools Guide: Yes please, large glass.
Parent: Excuse me?
The Good Schools Guide: Oops, sorry, it’s been a long day. You mean a bottle of wine for the teacher?
The Good Schools Guide: Wine seems to be a pretty safe bet. Even teachers who didn’t drink themselves said it was always useful, ‘particularly at this time of year’. But did they mean for cooking or are we back to emergency presents?
Parent: Any other no-nos apart from the ‘World’s Best Teacher’ stuff?
The Good Schools Guide: Soft toys. Apparently early years teachers get a lot of these and would like to politely remind parents that someone who teaches young children can also appreciate wine. And chocolates.
Parent: Anything else?
The Good Schools Guide: Scented candles came in for a bit of a bashing (‘especially the ones that smell like loo cleaner’).
Parent: How much should I spend?
The Good Schools Guide: You saw the ‘guidelines’, it’s £50! Only joking. No more than £10 tops.
Parent: Help! It’s the last day of term and we’re already running late.
The Good Schools Guide: We refer you to our answer to the first question. Otherwise there’s always the emergency present drawer …