Students giving small gifts to their teachers at the end of the year is a longstanding and lovely tradition, a meaningful gesture of thanks and appreciation. For teachers, it’s not about receiving something valuable or expensive, but knowing that all their hard work has meant something to students and their parents.
And increasingly, teachers are returning the favour with classroom gifts of their own. But where elementary students have to find presents for (at most) a handful of teachers, teachers often have to find presents for upwards of twenty students. It’s an additional strain – mentally and financially – at a time of year that for many is already stressful enough.
Yet that’s no reason to ditch the idea of gift-giving entirely. You don’t have to break the bank to wish your students well with a meaningful gift; all it takes is a little creative thinking.
We’ve all seen the little kid who, when given a big sparkly present, ends up being more smitten with the box it came in. The fact is, the content of the present often isn’t all that important; for children it’s more about the excitement of receiving a gift in the first place. Small, practical presents like erasers, pencil sharpeners or cheap books can go a long way, especially when nicely wrapped in bright paper.
Give one present, not twenty
Rather than giving individual gifts to each student, consider buying a single present for the whole class to share. Board or computer games are a great idea, as are new books for your in-classroom library, art and craft supplies and room decorations.
Cookies are a great gift that, with some creative icing, can be personalised for each student. Even better, bring in the plain cookies and have the children ice their own to turn your present into an impromptu art class.
If you live in a cold climate you might consider making scarves out of fleece – all you need is a pair of scissors (even the craft-impaired can handle this one).
Host a party
It doesn’t have to be anything wild. Bring in those cookies, make some punch and listen to fun music while colouring, or watch a summer-themed movie. Extend the festivities by having your class make decorations the morning before the party.
A great way to give something valuable with no expense is to make a book of coupons for your students. The coupons can be redeemed for a variety of school-related rewards, such as a night off homework, choosing music for the class to listen to or picking a classroom activity for the afternoon. It’s a fun, simple and cheap way to reward your class for months of hard work.
Nick Nedeljkovic is a freelance writer and blogger from Sydney. With a love of learning and more degrees than he can afford, he’s a passionate advocate for education in all its forms.