For the majority of us, this past year has been one of significant change and adaptation. Households, companies, and even entire industries have been reconfigured, marrying past practices with technology in ways we may never have imagined pre-pandemic. We can see this in the transformation of our education system.
As a parent and a teacher I was on both sides of the 2020 school closure. I saw first hand how hard teachers worked to provide valuable instruction as well as check in on the emotional well being of their students during the initial school closure. I also got a taste of being an all of-a-sudden-I’m-working-from-home parent trying to balance my job responsibilities with managing my own children’s virtual education.
Then, as the 2020-2021 school year saw the return of most teachers and some students to in-person learning, I became part of that group of teachers balancing both in-person and remote students simultaneously. No matter how much teachers tried to prepare, every single day brought new challenges to face, new technologies to learn, and new struggles to overcome.
Aside from having to learn what felt like a million new technologies, teachers and students alike had to adjust to new and stringent safety guidelines that altered our day to day norms. For example, the pandemic shut down our nurse’s office for all but students with Covid symptoms or major emergencies. We were no longer allowed to send a kid with a bleeding papercut or a girl who needed to get an emergency maxi pad. Also, all the water fountains were shut off, so if a student forgot their water bottle at home, they went thirsty all day. And masks. I needed so many masks. Kids forgot them, or dropped them in the mud, or broke the strings, or sneezed in them. And do you remember how hard it was to find hand sanitizer back in August?
I felt so lucky when very early in the school year the parents in my district organized to “adopt” teachers. They asked us what we wanted or needed and then a parent provided us with the resources to succeed. I didn’t ask for gift cards or lotion or dry erase markers. What I really needed this year was bottles of water, band aids and middle-school friendly feminine products. I am to this day so grateful to have been given those items, and as an added bonus my “adoptive parent” put all those gifts in a brand new laundry basket. That may sound silly, but I was all like, “Yes! I need this container so bad!”
I say all that not to brag about a certain parent (although I’m beyond thankful for her) but to say that teachers have worked really hard, and sometimes what might make the best gift is simply something to make their job easier. Help them relieve some of the pressure they feel trying to balance teaching with providing literal food, shelter, and clothing to their students.
Teachers have been the glue that held the schools together this past year and were also the driving force of creativity and grit that allowed for a whole new perspective on education. To that end, I would challenge you to also rethink the way you express thanks. For example, instead of another coffee mug (not to diss the mugs – I still love them especially if they’re punny), consider giving your child’s teacher something that will save them time, serve them in the classroom or help them unwind. See below for a list of forward-thinking gift ideas that any teacher would love.
- A hand-written thank you note: It’s true. The cheapest gift is also the most meaningful. I have a “smile-file” with every note I’ve ever gotten and I still look back through them once in a while when I need a pick-me-up.
- A handmade or cute decoration for the classroom: It’s amazing how much teachers spend on their classrooms and a gift like this would be so much better than just another inspirational poster they picked up somewhere along the way.
- A TPT gift card: Teachers Pay Teachers is a website where educators all around the world upload and share/sell their creative and engaging classroom resources.
- School supplies: Just remember that school looks a little different now. In the past, I would have begged for pencils. I went through a box a week. This year, shared pencils are seen as dirty – kids stick to their own devices. Stick to things such as clorox wipes, felt-tipped pens for the teacher, post its, and screen or keyboard cleaners.
- A relaxation tool – think scalp or foot massagers, a Tibetan singing bowl, a microwavable heating pad or eye mask, or baoding balls.
- Reusable stainless steel drinking straws: Here’s an example of an item I never would have bought for myself. But one day I was given some (at a CECPTA favorite things party actually) and I LOVE them. Consider getting ones small enough to fit into the opening of a travel mug.
- And finally, you can never go wrong with a gift card. Consider cards for Amazon, fast food restaurants, DoorDash, or coffee shops. And if you feel like making it cute, go for it!
So, since teacher appreciation week is May 3-7, it’s time to #ThankATeacher and all who have acted as teachers this past year, helping to keep our little ones learning and growing even in difficult times. And don’t forget your CECPTA playgroup coordinators and leaders who have held our organization together and worked to make us even stronger!
About the Author
Carrie Thomas is a mother of 3 (Hailey 2, Caleb 4, and Jackson 7) and has been a CECPTA blue and yellow group member for almost 2 years. She moved to Carrollton from New Jersey in the winter of 2018 when her husband accepted a job at UTD. She is a middle school English teacher in Carrollton and loves spending time with her family, reading dystopian YA novels, and unwinding with a glass of wine and one of the well-written Netflix shows.