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Useful tips on what gifts to give your child’s teacher come year end

You would think I’d have it taped by now. I’ve had children in all sorts of schools for the past 12 years and in all this time I have still not discovered that perfect end-of-year gift for my children’s teachers. Don’t get me wrong; my intentions are always good. My timing however, is not. Needless to say, many of the gifts have been bought on the fly, en route to fetch the children on their last day at school, at shops that I know will always gift wrap and charge like wounded bulls. Inevitably I forget to buy for at least one teacher and just spend way too much money – not that the teachers aren’t worth it, but, you know, we’re all on a budget. This year I am going to plan ahead and get it right.

Step 1: write a list

This is where I always come short. It’s pointless standing in a shop and trying to count on your fingers just who needs to be bought a present. How many subjects does Alex have again – maths, social science, natural science, English, Afrikaans, Xhosa, art… ? And who teaches what? Is the music teacher a man or a woman? Before you know it you’ll be using your fingers on both hands. I can’t remember exactly what teacher matches what subject so I figure I will just pull out the boys’ latest report cards and work it out that way.

Step 2: work out a budget for teacher gifts

Now that you have at least half a dozen teachers to buy for, and let’s not forget the headmaster, the ladies in the office and the piano teacher, you realise this list has just doubled and the budget has not. Are all teachers treated equal? My children certainly have their favourites so I consider consulting them. Then I think about consulting the report card instead, to check out the percentages, and decide that if my child gets 80 percent for English, then I will spend R80 on the English teacher. It looks like the natural science teacher is going to luck out big time. He’s getting a gift for less than 50 bucks. No, that’s not fair, I think. It’s not his fault Alex keeps forgetting to study for his tests. So I work out what I am prepared to spend in total and divide it out from there. And it seems as if all teachers are getting gifts for under 50 bucks this year.

Read our article on the gift-giving for teachers.

Step 3: go beyond soap on a rope, scented candles and chocolate

My mother was an English teacher at a girls’ school. As a child, I loved it when she came home on the last day of term. She had a basket loaded with gifts and my sister and I would spend the afternoon unwrapping soap, soap and… more soap. Scented candles were not big back then, but today I hear they have taken on soap status as the preferred gift to give teachers and anyone else you are unsure of what to get. Then there was the chocolate which never lasted long in our house, but was much appreciated. Today, a luxurious Swiss chocolate brand is making a killing out of the parents and is possibly the reason why the admin staff appear a little larger each year.

Step 4: make it home-made and from the heart

This year, fresh is my theme for end-of-year gifts. I certainly don’t have green fingers, nor am I a notable cook, but, to get around the R50 limit issue, I’m going to get smart and make it myself. Actually, I’m not. The boys are. These are their teachers and they need to step up to the task. On the list of things to make is red onion marmalade, butter biscuits and salted almonds. Package them simply in a few glass jars – you’ll be super stylish and saving the planet at the same time, all for less than R50 a teacher. I am also planning to pull a few herbs from the garden, repot them and serve them with a pair of herb scissors. It’s a different form of “regifting”. It’s novel and nice, and darn useful if you ask me. I am having a Martha Stewart moment here.

Instead of spending loads of money on presents, spend time making affordable, special and unique gifts of joy.

Step 5: write a card

No amount of red onion marmalade, butter biscuits and salted almonds quite measure up to the simple words, “thank you”. Take time out to write a meaningful message to each of the teachers. I remember the letters my mother received from appreciative parents and students at the end of each year. Some were pages long, others just a few lines, but they would bring tears to her eyes. She is retired now, but they still live in a box on top of her cupboard.

Whether I actually pull this off is another thing. Trying to find that spare afternoon to bake, stir, package and pot in the hectic final weeks before school closes on yet another busy year, is virtually impossible. But I will set aside a few quiet moments to write each teacher a message. With report cards in hand, I won’t leave anyone out – I hope.

Christina Castle