My husband recently purchased an espresso maker, which prompted the need to clean out a kitchen cabinet so he could have his espresso cups easily available. This led to the discovery of many, many coffee mugs that sit in our cabinet and are never used, some of which I received as teacher gifts.
With the holidays approaching, many parents like to give teacher gifts, but I know as a parent, it gets tiresome each year trying to think of new ideas outside of the mug or candle. Here are 5 ideas that may spark your gift giving nature in a different direction this year.
Read To Grow
When I had my daughter ten years ago, this organization had volunteers come around to all the new moms with a book to keep to encourage literacy. Two years ago, one of my Kinder scholar’s parents made a donation to Read To Grow in my name. It was such a thoughtful gift, and one that stood out from all the mugs of candy that I’ve received over the years.
Check in your area to see if your local hospital has an organization like Read to Grow. Or, follow the link below and make a donation anyway! It is sure to bring a smile to your child’s teacher’s face.
Along the lines of Read to Grow, we all know someone, whether it is an adult or child, fighting a health battle. Instead of purchasing a gift that may not be meaningful, use that money towards a donation to a particular charity. Again, it is a thoughtful gift that will have lasting benefits.
If donations aren’t your thing, here are a few more tangible gift ideas that your child’s teacher will love.
Monogrammed Note Paper and Fancy Pen
Teachers write A LOT of notes! I loved it when I received paper and note cards with my name on it one year. Vistaprint allows you to customize to include the school address and phone number as well.
Gift Cards to Bookstores, Craft Stores, or Office Supply Stores
Many teachers supplement their classroom supplies with books, glue sticks, and colored pencils that they purchase out-of-pocket. Even just a few $5.00 gift cards add up and teachers definitely appreciate not having to dig into their own wallets to restock classroom supplies after the holidays.
School Supply Basket
Teachers LOVE school supplies! Create a basket with pencils, erasers, colored pencils, markers, post it notes, seasonal stickers, glue sticks, and other items that you think your teacher could use in the classroom. Even hand soap and tissues in the basket are much-needed and appreciated items that your kids use daily in the classroom. Better yet: get in touch with the Room Parent to coordinate a basket like this with one donation from each student! Every one can afford one small item and your teacher will appreciate the thoughtfulness behind this bountiful, useful gift.
I went back to work the August after an unexpected medical leave in January 2016.
It’s been good to be back, even with the challenges of a larger group of students with varying levels of specific needs.
One of the things I love about teaching Kindergarten is that I can literally shape how a child views anything–even the most mundane task–just by my reaction or how I present it to them. Work they need to do becomes “a project” or “a puzzle”. Assessments or small group work becomes “working with Mrs. T” time –-and everyone LOVES one on one time with the teacher! Even a little post-it lunch box note from Mom turns into a gloriouslove note. The kids BEAM when I gush, “OH LOOK!!!! Mommy wrote you a LOVE NOTE!!” We read it together and the child toddles off with a smile on his or her face, so happy they got a love note from home.
Sometimes, the children bring in pictures for me—beautiful Kindergarten drawings of us together, sometimes with a drawing of my faithful puppet Red Word Fred intermingled with the hearts and shapes and colors. This year, I’ve had a few of my scholars say, “I made you a love note,” handing their treasure over to me when we collect the mail at the start of the day. I gush and preen over each note, thanking the child and putting it up on my bulletin board behind my table. My bulletin board is already filled with these notes, and I decided it was time to give back the love to my students.
This past Friday, I sent each of them home with a love note from me. Since we do mail in the morning, I had to remind them they couldn’t open it up now, or on the bus, or at the YMCA program after school. They had to wait until they got home to share it with their families.
Their reactions were priceless as they were handed folded notes. Some said thank you, some sat there in awe, looking at their name and heart drawn on the front, reminding me of Charlie Bucket when he found the Golden Ticket, and others were literally just beaming with joy and smiles. I had enclosed both a note and a dot-to-dot page. I’m not sure what will transpire as far as an extra little goodie inside each week—I haven’t planned that far ahead– but my goal is to give them each a love note every Friday morning to read at home.
I hope the love gets passed around this year between home and school!
Ok, kids. Technology has made things easier to some degree in our lives, but not necessarily any smarter. Let’s go over a few things to keep in mind when you are granting ‘all access to you all the time’ on your Smartphone and social media accounts. And let’s see how you can be smarter for your kids and you at your child’s school for the next school year.
REMEMBER: SAFETY FIRST
Oftentimes, Facebook pages light up with parent complaints about not feeling ‘welcome’ anymore at their child’s school when it comes to attending school functions. Translation: they are upset that they have to sign up to attend school events and just can’t “show up” to “help out” anymore.
When frustration takes over at these seemingly unfriendly school rules, we as parents need to remember that schools are first and foremost, places of learning for students.
Sadly, we live in a much more socially dangerous time, where adults and children have access to guns and other weapons. They cause unthinkable carnage at schools and other public places. Innocent people are killed, families are destroyed, and schools are left trying to make sense of it all while still continuing on valiantly to educate students in the pressing age of data driven instruction and assessment.
Many schools now have systems and procedures in place to account for people in and out of the building as a result of the violence that occurs daily across our country. Principals request all dismissal information to be sent in paper format and parents to call if a child is absent. Schools have set arrival and dismissal times and procedures for all students, whether they are driven in, walk, or ride the bus. And schools have much tighter security during the day, where doors are locked and teachers use swipe keys to enter and exit.
These are safety measures for your children and the adults in the building. The rules that are in place are not made to make you feel unwelcome. They are put in place to keep everyone safe.
So don’t become upset when your child’s school asks for parents to sign to attend a school function. It’s much smarter to realize that your child is in a building with hundreds of other children who also deserve to be just as safe as your child. And you would want those parents to follow the safety rules for the sake of your child’s safety, too.
ANNOUNCE YOUR VISIT
Imagine this: You’ve got a big presentation to that you are working on for your job. You went in early to get a head start on the day. Then there’s a knock at your door and your boss is standing there. She needs to you work on some other task right away, even though she knows that you are in the middle of your presentation work. Not the best time, right?
You may think you are doing something loving for your child by a surprise visit to the school by dropping off the forgotten homework or instrument. These seemingly innocent little unannounced visits interrupt the secretary trying to manage the school, the teacher trying to work with students, and your child trying to learn.
A smarter way: pack and check the bag the night before with your child. And don’t worry. One day without the violin or the homework isn’t going to put an end to your child’s school career. Use the forgotten item as a way to remember to plan ahead instead of an excuse to just pop in at school.
PARK IT, PLEASE
Parking can also be an issue at schools. As a teacher, I’ve almost been hit by parents countless times zooming in or out of a school parking lot. Imagine how you would feel if your child were hit by a parent. Or what if, in your haste, you hit another child? Parking procedures are in place to keep everyone safe, including your child, as well as the other students in the school.
There are universal parking rules, like marked handicapped spaces, that need to be adhered to whenever you public places, including schools. And then there are signs at schools that indicate where you can and cannot park because of bus drop offs and fire regulations. At my school, the whole front lot is for parents, and teachers need to park on the side and in the back lots. We work there, and we as teachers need to follow the parking rules just like the parents. Disregarding the signs or rules because you are the PTA President or because you are ‘just running in’ to the school puts others at risk and also shows that you feel you are above any rules. It also sends a message to your child that if my adult doesn’t follow the rules, I don’t need to, either. Everyone: parents, children and teachers, who are part of a school community, needs to follow the parking and safety rules for the benefit of all.
TURN OFF YOUR PHONE
I love my phone. And I know we all have become so attached to all the aspects of a Smartphone: texting, taking pictures, tweeting, and instant access to online information-all.the.time. It’s a great device for quick communication, but with it comes responsibility of how much and when to use it.
When attending a function at your child’s school, please turn off your phone- especially on field trips, when you are in charge of students. No one likes to hear it ring, and if you really have to check it for messages, or text someone, or look on Facebook, then you’re not paying attention to the kids, and shouldn’t you be? And don’t post those photos that you took of your child performing with other kids. You know the ones…the ones you took while you were blocking the view of the parents behind you who were trying to watch their child.
Save the photo ops until you meet up with your child afterwards. You’ll be able to enjoy the performance from start to finish and get better close-ups later on.
WHICH OF THESE TWO IS NOT LIKE THE OTHER?
I had the opportunity to attend two spring school performances this past year. One was my daughter’s chorus and band concert and the other was my niece’s school play. I won’t pinpoint which event was which, but let’s see if you can spot the difference between the two events. At one event, all the audience members, parents and children, were seated quietly and respectfully, listening and clapping as appropriate. At the other, younger children were wandering all over the auditorium with their friends before and during the actual performance, switching seats and just generally being not good audience members like they are taught in school. A pair of parents sitting directly in front of me could hear their children making noise in balcony seats overhead and instead of retrieving their children and sitting with them, the adults just watched them from afar, gesturing to their kids to be quiet.
Can you tell which event was the more difficult of the two to enjoy? In both instances, the children and teachers had worked all year to perfect their skills, and yet only one audience really showed the proper respect for all their hard work. And sadly, it was the parents who were the ones who weren’t holding their children accountable for their concert behavior, not the teachers.
TEACHER TROUBLE? TALK IN PERSON
I really enjoy social media. I have gotten in touch with friends that I haven’t been in contact with in years, and family and friends who are out of state can keep in touch with my family and me. I use it as a way to have fun, and I try to be very cognizant and careful about what I post.
Once August hits and teacher assignments are determined, I often see posts from parents asking about whose kid has or had this teacher and whether the teacher was kind, nice, mean, etc. If you like or dislike a particular teacher, that is certainly is your right. But guess what? It also can remain your private business! It gives me a pit in my stomach, wondering what is being said about me. I am a teacher myself, and I know I work very hard to do the best job I can do for my students. I also know that I am human and have made errors in my career. I would just rather hear about it in person rather than read about it on social media.
Think of it this way: Would you like your kid to post on a social media site how mean, nice, or strict you are at home? Probably not. How about your boss posting on your work performance for everyone to formulate an opinion, regardless of whether or not all the facts are presented? Again, probably a negative.
Conversations about placement should be held in person with the teacher, not with your friends on Facebook.
That’s it for today. So, how do you measure up when it comes to social media and school relationships? Do you pass with flying colors or do you need to brush up on a few skills?
That’s why we go to school.
Track how often you check and use your phone for messages, texting, and checking your social media accounts for three days. Compare that to the amount of time you spend with your children and spouse.
I started teaching Kindergarten in 1999. I was a late hire; the district needed to open two more full-day classrooms, and I was one of the two fortunate teachers that was hired that September.
Just like any kid starting in a new school, I felt a little out of place, especially since I was hired after all the teachers had started and probably knew each other from previous years. I was in Room 6 at the end of my hallway, and Kate’s room was across the hall from mine.
Over the school year, we became teaching buddies. Not by necessity, but more by luck. And what great luck it was! She was a tall, curly haired blonde and very organized. I am a short curly haired brunette and not as organized. I like to say that she is Type A and I am Type X…but between the two of us, we work buddy magic like nobody could ever imagine!
Kate is a special education teacher. By law, identified children need a certain number of hours with non-disabled peers as outlined in their individual education plan. Kate and I were well above the curve on this! We would get our children together for stories and songs after lunch, we had recess and center times together, and we would plan whole team teaching units. We would do Buddy projects on Fridays, where we would pair up the kids to create a theme based art project. We would marvel at how well the children would work together, nodding in agreement and saying to each other, “THIS is what they should be doing!” instead of the mandated reading , writing, and math work and assessing that gradually was taking over the curriculum for both regular education and special education students.
As each school year progressed, her kids became mine and mine became hers. We’d take pictures of our kids early on and keep them in our classrooms all year. Sometimes, my students would include hers to attend birthday parties, or hers would include mine. That’s when we knew we’d done our job at creating buddies! We’d share gifts around the holidays for and from each of our classrooms, and we created great memories. Our units on the Food Pyramid with Chef Mario and Chef Luigi were always great fun to teach. The Weather Girl video, when we were allowed to show videos, always put us in hysterics, but the kids really liked it! One year, we hosted our own Olympics complete with speed skating and medals, and another year, we worked with our extra active kids to race around the playground multiple times before actually going to play on the playground.
At the end of each year, I’d host a ‘show’. The kids from our classes would select their favorite songs to sing, I’d put them on a CD, and we’d make patriotic t-shirts and sing the songs for the parents. It was always a highlight of my year, and the integration of our kids always brought tears to our eyes when we’d sing songs like “It’s A Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong or Celine Dion’s “God Bless America” using sign language.
We have been through many poignant life events together, too: 9/11 and the death of a dear friend of hers, my marriage and birth of my daughter, her daughter going off to college and getting her first teaching position, the death of her dad, the Newtown shootings, her nomination for Teacher of the Year in our district, and the death of my niece. All the while, we would comfort and support each other and carry on with our jobs as teachers.
When the school district was reconfigured to a K-2/3-5 model a few years ago, we were moved to a new school, and we were informed that weren’t going to be teaching together in order to integrate new staff and build a new school community. We understood, but we were devastated. We cried like little kids in front of our new principal when we heard the news. Even though we were going to be right down the hall from each other, it wasn’t going to be the same. We were buddies! How could we be separated? It was heartbreaking to us. Still, we soldiered on in our own classrooms, waiting for the year when we could work our team teaching magic again.
This year, we were finally given the “ok” from our principal to teach together again! The buddies were back! We were overjoyed!
But our new-found joy was short lived when I became ill with Lyme. I had to take a leave of absence from work that started in January 2016 and will continue to the end of this school year.
I have never had to take a leave like this. Even after the birth of my daughter, I was back to work within a few months. Kate has been a buddy to me through all of this. She’s sent me cards and emails. We’ve spoken on the phone, and I know she has been behind the scenes helping my subs (I had two because of the uncertainty of my coming back this year) with my kids.
It’s not often that you find a buddy at your job. But when you do, it’s a magic that can’t ever be replicated. Love ya, Buddy!