Should you give teachers gifts?

This question might also take the form:

Q. Why give someone a gift for doing their job when they’re already being paid?

A.  Because giving a gift shouldn’t be an exchange! It shouldn’t go: you do something for me, I’ll give you a gift. That’s a transaction. A gift should exist outside a transaction.  

Let me tell you a story, specific to the teaching profession. When I was at primary school, a boy called Lee was dared to eat a pencil and he accepted the challenge. He also ate stinging nettles, banana skins and paper, but the pencil was the real coup de théâtre.

And who had to fish the pencil shards out of Lee’s mouth? A teacher. And who had to intervene when other children offered Lee bits of tree bark to eat? A teacher. And who sat with Lee next to them in the dining hall to ensure he actually ate his (far less interesting) school meal? Yup, a teacher. And that was just one week. 

They’re the people your kids spend most of their day with. They are the only other people in the world who will be as interested in your child’s development as you. A good teacher will spot and encourage that hidden talent that you might overlook, they have to be on the lookout for signs that things might not be alright in your home.

Their job doesn’t stop when the kids leave at the last school bell. They have to mark and prepare lessons and work out how to manage twenty individuals with their own unique needs.  

I’m not sure it’s a cost-effective thing idea to gift every teacher in your child’s life a gift, but if there’s one who has gone further than they needed to help your child, give thanks.

What should you give?

You can’t go wrong with a thank you note.

 My mum cherishes everything that her pupils give her: lollypop sticks covered in glitter, pebbles. But that’s my mum. At the other end of the spectrum, my friend who works at an international school in north London was given a Longchamp bag and vouchers for spa treatments.

Seneca, my spiritual gift-giving guide relates the following story which might help or it might not:

Alexander, who was of unsound mind, and always full of magnificent ideas, presented somebody with a city. When the man to whom he gave it had reflected upon the scope of his own powers, he wished to avoid the jealousy which so great a present would excite, saying that the gift did not suit a man of his position. “I do not ask,” replied Alexander, “what is becoming for you to receive, but what is becoming for me to give.” This seems a spirited and kingly speech, yet really it is a most foolish one. Nothing is by itself a becoming gift for any one: all depends upon who gives it, to whom he gives it, when, for what reason, where, and so forth, without which details it is impossible to argue about it.