End-of-school gifts for teachers and why the issue has divided parents

A school in Scotland has banned teachers from accepting gifts from parents. It’s after controversy over the fairness of asking people who can’t afford it to shell out for extras. Amanda Cassidy thinks they should all get medals instead.


Five hours a day, five days a week, 10 months of the year. That’s almost 1000 hours this poor female or male teacher has spent with my child. As engaging, smart and loveable as my offspring are, I am also very aware that not every moment spent with them is entirely pleasant.

That’s why for the price of a cup of coffee or two, I am delighted to wave a note in the direction of the class captains – the saintly women who usually organise the collections.

But not everyone can afford a financial contribution however small – and for those with multiple children, it can start to add up.

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The issue got a little heated on Twitter recently with one commenter (@stephie08)  describing a friend who felt pressurised to give €10 towards a class gift to each teacher. “So in response to my pal pointing out that this was not good, guess what the parent did? She said, “Well if you can’t afford, you don’t have to give.” Completely ignoring that the ridiculous collection puts unnecessary pressure on parents in the first place”.

Related: When your first parent-teacher meeting feels like a confession

Humiliation

Further humiliation ensued when the parent organising the collection left the woman’s children’s names off the card along with a handful of other children whose parents also couldn’t afford to contribute. “She signed a card from Junior/Senior infants and left eight children’s names off the card because their parents didn’t put money in”.

The mum in question felt excluded and isolated by some of the ‘alpha’ mums and was afraid her children wouldn’t be asked on playdates. In short, she felt humiliated.

Tweeter, @vanna36 weighted in “It's disgusting behaviour. It's not at all surprising. Thankfully I've not come across anything like it where my little boy goes to school. A small country school. He baked a cake and this is his present to the teacher and he wanted to get her a box of chocolates”.

Teaching is exhausting and underappreciated but there are ways to mark your gratitude that don’t involve cold hard cash. Louise, a teacher from Galway, points out that often it is the homemade cards that mean the most. “I have a little card with cut out owls glued on that I got from a little boy last year. It holds pride of place on my wall because it is so thoughtful and he put so much work into it.”

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Equally, an email or handwritten note to the teacher thanking them for putting up with teaching your son or daughter goes a long way.

The group WhatsApp

We all know how competitive some parents can be.  School WhatsApp groups can be a hotbed for passive aggressive comments where not saying things or radio silence can be intimidating at worst and simply annoying at best. But that’s another article for another day.

On Netmums, the issue is also widely discussed. One poster said she felt ‘mortified’ when she was asked to contribute £40 to a present for her child’s nursery teacher. She wrote, "Some other mums agreed (three of them wrote they agree over the WhatsApp) and I guess some in a similar situation like me (who find spending so much money over the top and irrational considering raising more than one child and paying bills for a larger family) were surprised. I decided I'd like to chip in but have to think about other expenses, so I contacted the mum telling her I sent her £25.

"I explained we have to budget and that’s how much I can spend," she continued. A few hours later she got a response, saying, "it is not fair towards the other mums to pay so much less than them and I am putting her in an awkward position and she will give me my £25 back!"

Gifts or financial gestures are lovely, but nobody should ever feel obliged to take part, especially when it involves money.  Like many aspects of parenting, we will be judged no matter what we do so brush off your pinking shears, bring out the glitter and get your smallies to create the world’s most beautiful thank you card for the world’s best teacher.

Or not.

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Image via Unsplash.com

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