Alternative Gifts

Over the weekend I was like some kind of insane Amazon Prime machine. But after ticking off my main list of gifts, I always have a second little shudder of panic as I remember all of my “tier 2” gifts, like things for teachers and neighbors and extra items that I want to recommend that Santa include in the kids’ stockings. But eventually we’ll get there.

As you’re planning gift-giving, I have two suggestions that you might want to think about.

The first is that my church does an alternative gift project, where you can “buy” items for various local not-for-profits. It’s grown, too, so the Gazette did an article about it this year. There are a wide variety of choices, too, to fit different tastes. So it’s a great way to give to locals while you’re. . . giving to locals. Cool, right?

The second suggestion is about teacher gifts. I asked folks about the protocol for giving gifts to middle school teachers. In the past, I’d usually give a bigger gift to my child’s classroom teacher (like a bookstore gift card), and then other folks (“specials” or switch-to-math teachers, the TA in the classroom, etc.) would get some token (a plate of cookies, a smaller gift card) based on our how inspired we were feeling. But now M’s got 8 different teachers, so what do people do? As it turns out, there’s a pretty wide variety (lots of folks gave nothing, some cards, homemade cards, token gifts for all, chocolates for all, Ticonderoga pencils and Post-Its for all), but the most interesting suggestion which was completely new to me was a card or letter that could be put in the teacher’s APPR binder.  I talked a little bit about the APPR (Annual Professional Performance Review) process in that rant I wrote a while back about standardized testing & Common Core. Apparently teachers would appreciate a card that provides documentary evidence that parents think they’re doing their job in a Highly Effective manner. This had never, ever occurred to me. But what an easy way to show your appreciation that can not just brighten a teacher’s day, but help support the job that they’re doing.

So if you happen to think that your K-12 child’s teacher is Highly Effective, consider a thoughtful holiday card that cites specific examples of why you appreciate them and the job that they’re doing. That might actually be more appreciated than a mug or a plate of cookies. Or, you know, you can include the card with  your mug or plate of cookies.






  1. Claire

    That’s a really good idea. I’ve been really overwhelmed by how many teachers cross my son’s path now that he’s in elementary school, and how to acknowledge each one of them. I got a large gift for his kindergarten teacher and $5 Panera gift cards for all the specialists. But I will keep your idea in mind for end of the year gifts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *