The end of school is looming, but before you start searching Pinterest for last-minute craft ideas or head to Starbucks to buy a $50 gift certificate, stop and consider what your child's teacher really wants for an end-of-year present. The Globe and Mail asked a handful of teachers to reveal their best and worst gifts, and how much is too much.
We gave them anonymity, and, in return, they gave us the honest goods. (Spoiler alert: they don't need another World's Best Teacher mug).
An elementary school teacher in Brampton, Ont.
A gift-giving policy? "We don't have an official policy. I prefer students don't bring me gifts. I do tell them that it's not necessary."
Best gifts? Her favourite gifts are handwritten notes from her students or their parents. She files them away in a shoebox at home, and looks through them often. "I just had one last week saying 'My child has never liked going to school. Now, he's happy and excited and looks forward to going.'"
Worst gifts? "I've had some interesting clothing, like shirts that are four sizes too big or a few sizes too small. And glassware that is probably from a dollar store."
How much is too much? Anything above $20.
An elementary school teacher in Toronto
A gift-giving policy? "I tell my students not to give me gifts. I say that I won't accept them. But if they bring it on the last day, I wouldn't send it back."
Best gifts? He worked in a low-income neighbourhood and one student brought him an open bottle of cologne. He was touched. Another student brought him a tie from Value Village. "I loved it." He prefers notes or cards at the end of the year.
Gifts that make him uncomfortable? Co-workers have received televisions, jewellery and gift cards from the whole class for as much as $500 to a shopping mall.
Should gifts be given? "Personally, I have so much junk at home, I don't need any more stuff. I remember the first time receiving a mug as a teacher. I thought 'This is great.' But now I probably have 20 and that's not even counting the hundred other mugs that I've gotten as gifts that I have given to relatives."
How much is too much? "I have a son in kindergarten. Even though I don't want to get gifts, I understand that you want to show the teacher how appreciative you are. My son had a great year and I really like the teacher so we'll probably send a $10 or $20 gift card to the LCBO or Starbucks or Tim Hortons. I personally think $10 is already more than enough. Anything more than $20 I think is getting unnecessary."
What happens if you don't like your kid's teacher? "If you're really not a fan of your child's teacher, give them something unwieldy and bulky that they will have trouble packing in the car on the last day of school," he said with a laugh.
An elementary school teacher in Vancouver
Best gifts? "All the best gifts have been the ones that come from the heart – cards or pictures that have taken a great deal of thought, care and effort. But Starbucks gift cards are nice, too."
Worst gifts? "My wife teaches, and one year she got a sparkly blue ceramic dolphin. It was so hideous. I wish we had kept it. One year I went on and on about how much I love really stinky cheese. I was hoping someone, if they were going to get me a gift at all, would think of a gift certificate to les amis du Fromage. Instead, I got a box of crackers."
Most common gift? Chocolates.
How much is too much? "Really, I don't expect anything but if you insist, don't spend more than $20."
What do you think of parents who don't give gifts? "I don't expect parents to give gifts. I hope, however, that parents are teaching their children to practice gratitude and encourage their children to make a nice thank-you card."
An elementary school teacher in Brantford, Ont.
Best gift? He once had a student make him a candle holder because he told his class that he enjoys sitting on his deck at night during the summer. "It was creative, it showed a personal connection and that she had been listening to my dumb stories."
Strangest gift? His colleague once received a box of Kraft dinner that was half empty.
Gifts that make you uncomfortable? He's heard of classes giving their teachers gift cards of more than $2,000. "I guess in some circles, families get competitive."
Do you prefer a gift card to a coffee shop or bookstore? "As nice as it is to have a Tim Hortons gift card, that's okay, we can buy our own Tim Hortons. Getting stuff for the classroom is more important, and more useful."
What about parents who don't buy you a gift? "It's fine. It kind of depends why. Sometimes they're just overwhelmed, overloaded, and sometimes they just don't want to play that game. That's fine and I respect that. For my own kids, I would often say at the very least you can write a little note to say thank-you. Just something simple and that doesn't cost anything."
An elementary school math teacher in Mississauga, Ont.
Best gifts? A student once gave him a coaster that she painted and put his name on it. Another student wrote him a note that said 'I like math.'
Worst gifts? A student gave him a laminated map of Italy. He has also received many mugs, and with the school year winding down close to July 1, there's been a few Canada Day souvenirs. A colleague once received a mini-skirt.
Fun gift? Parents gave a teacher colleague movie tickets, a bottle of wine and a note apologizing for their kid's behaviour that academic year.
Are gifts expected? "I think there's enough expectations in the world, and I don't think that should be an expectation. We make good money and we're public servants." But "you do know who's the well-liked teacher when they cart out the most gifts on the last day," he said with a chuckle.