Ask the Teacher: Back to School Gifting

Dear Julie,

I hear my daughter’s teacher is wonderful, and I want to make sure she knows that we’re excited to be in her class this year. I read that parents give gifts to their teachers on the first day. What should I give? What is the appropriate amount to spend?

I swear. Parents stress out over gifting… it’s not worth it. Really. Because, in a word, nothing. Give them nothing monetary on the first day of school. Give them a well-rested, well-fed, happy/nervous/curious/shy child and be a supportive parent and the teacher will be happy.

against back to school gift

Here’s what you should consider:

On the first day of school your child’s teacher has about 23 new students to greet. She has 46 new hands to teach to wash and raise. She has 46 pairs of feet to remind not only not to run, but to walk in the right direction to the classroom or bathroom. She has 23 pairs of eyes to watch her as she stumbles and 23 pairs of ears who will hear her call Joey, Jason. She’s a wreck trying to just connect with her students and let them know that they all mean something to her.

She’s dying to get to know every child. She’s excited to welcome every child. (and every parent, sure.) But, really. You, the parent, you’re not her number one concern right now. So if you must go to the classroom (and I really do advise you against it unless your school encourages parents to take their students into the room to hug good-bye), do not do anything that would take the attention away from your child. Your child is what is important.

So why not send your child to school with a gift?

Think back to that teacher welcoming 23 new names with bright, shiny desks and 6 sharpened pencils in each pencil box. Imagine her having to show every child where his coat gets hung and what do do with his glue stick and tissue box. Imagine 23 children running up to you (the teacher) asking where the bathroom is and if he can borrow a book and what he should do next? Now. Imagine all that, in the first 2 minutes since the kids walk into the room, with a handful of gifts in your hands. Not a pretty sight, right? Not at all when you’re also dealing with a child in tears of nerves and another child frightened because his best friend from last year is across the hall. And then another little girl comes in and she doesn’t even belong in your room.

no gift to teacher

And all the teacher wants to do is hug these children and guide them. But she can’t. Because she has a handful of un-vased flowers and wrapped gifts and heavy books with big ribbons.

Still want to give a gift?

  • Send a note on the second day, telling her what a great first day of school Sammy had and that you’re happy to help out around the room if she needs it, just call!
  • Send a food tray (or home made desserts or a few pizzas) to the teachers’ room to welcome the staff back to school.

I’m not getting it, right? You really, really need to send a gift:

  • Give your teacher a tiny bud vase with a single flower in it. Then, each Monday for the rest of the year send in a single flower to keep it fresh. (really, though, send the vase the 2nd week of school so this idea doesn’t overwhelm the teacher on the first day.)

Again, the most imporant things to send to school on the first day? A well-rested, well-fed, happy/nervous/sad/outgoing/shy/quiet/loud/confident child who knows that he has your love in his pocket. That. That is what a teacher wants most of all.

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mom of 3 and wife living in the Philadelphia suburbs, Julie is a former elementary school teacher and a Public Relations manager. She is the owner/editor of Julieverse, a merchandiser with Chloe + Isabel ( and founder VlogMom and Splash Creative Media. A marketing strategist and freelance education and parenting writer by trade, Julie attempts to carve out time to enjoy playing with her kids, PTO, cooking and exercise.

© 2010 – 2014, Julie Meyers Pron. All rights reserved.


  1. Marie says

    Julie, a beautifully written post, once again. As a teacher, I can say that there is so much buzz the first day of a new school year, a gift would be put to the side and possibly forgotten about. I LOVE the idea about sending in a bud vase and then a single flower one a week. A wonderful idea that would make any teacher smile. I think I may steal this as our little girls enter into the next phase of schooling. Thank you for this lovely read!

  2. says

    I linked over from “Musings of a Housewife”. Thank you so much for this! My son is in preschool, and I was trying to think of something cute to send the first day of school, and you had the perfect idea… my son! ;D I like the idea of sending a note on the 2nd day of school.

  3. says

    What a great perspective!! I always send our teachers a “thank you gift” at the very end of the week – usually a caramel / decorated apple. Now I’m curious what you think about that:)

    • says

      Um. I think “YUM!” I love caramel apples. And at the end of the week is much easier than the beginning. Still not necessary (at all) but a really nice thought. And I love that its a thought that doesn’t break the bank. Some of the gifts (Brighton watches, anyone?) are a *bit* over the top.

  4. says

    Here from So beautiful. I was just reading Five Love Languages for Kids and it talked so much about how important love is to education. Great post! And P.S. there is no way I’m organized enough to send a flower a week but God bless anyone who does that!

    • says

      I’m not organized enough, either. I’d hate running around on Sundays looking for a flower. Would never, ever do it. But I do think its a lovely idea! So glad you came by!

  5. says

    As a teacher, I completely agree! If I could trade all the mugs, calories and trinkets I’ve received over the years for more support and parent involvement, I would in a New York minute!

    Oh, and I have 35 4th graders – half or more of them language learners. What I would give for 23 kiddos. That’s California for you. : )

    • says

      35 4th graders. Oh my. I’m so sorry. (and I’m sorry for the kids. I’m sure you’re a wonderful teacher, but you know what I mean.) I had 33 in middle level math one year when I taught 4th grade. I felt so terrible that I couldn’t really focus on their needs. Totally made me understand why people complain that the average kids get lost in the middle.

  6. says

    I love this!! I used to be a teacher, and I appreciated a card or a note. Sometimes the gifts did get overwhelming, although I was thankful… and then there was the pressure to get out thank you notes!

    The best gift for me was Restaurant gift cards!


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