Gifts from studentsIt's that time of year again. Like the famous scene in "A Christmas Story," we all have one or two "Ralphies" that bring in an overindulgent gift, even if...

Gifts from students

It's that time of year again. Like the famous scene in "A Christmas Story," we all have one or two "Ralphies" that bring in an overindulgent gift, even if they're just being nice and not striving to "bribe" the teacher.

Here's the question: Where do you draw the line at student gifts? Is there a price limit? Do you not accept them at all? How do you handle it when one wealthy student provides you with an expensive present, when your poorest students won't even have a Christmas to speak of?

Most recently, one of my boys came in after hours and presented me with a pen and pencil set. The token looked to be about $10 in price, and I kindly said thank you, Merry Christmas, and accepted the gift with no further questions asked. If, however, the pen had been a Waterman or even a Cross pen and pencil set, I might have had reservations. Where do you stand?

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27 Answers | Add Yours

accessteacher's profile pic

Posted on

Interesting responses. I guess I accept all gifts but do not make a big thing of it at all and just try to avoid attention to it. It is very hard not to accept gifts as you are obviously in danger of offending the student and their family, and at the same time I think we as teachers deserve every gift we can get! I definitely would refuse any gift though if it was clear that there were strings attached. I have never received an expensive gift however - maybe I am just not a good enough teacher :-)

kiwi's profile pic

Posted on

I have obviously been lucky in that I have always received gifts from students even having taught in a range of schools. I try to make sure the student and the family are thanked for the gift to ensure that all is above board. I was warned against accepting 'small valuable gifts' at my first school as there had been an incident of thefts.  I was touched to receive a pen from my class who announced 'We had it engraved so you know we didn't steal it'. I think it is good to allow students to show their appreciation in whatever form, and I respond as positively to a home-made gift, a valuable gift or even just a 'thanks miss'. All are equally precious to me.

ms-charleston-yawp's profile pic

Posted on

I agree with "lynn30k," accept all gifts lovingly and kindly, but NEVER open them as a class function.  If the student begins to approach you with a gift with other students present, perhaps you could suggest a better time for his or her well-wishes.  My first teaching experience was in an inner-city high school and the most precious gift I ever received was a half-eaten piece of cake, . . . because that was all this poor teen had to give me.  (She was given the piece of cake as a present, herself.)  With this in mind, continue accepting gifts in order to experience some of these unforeseen and unbelievable rewards of teaching.

litchick2011's profile pic

Posted on

I would have difficulty not accepting and appreciating a gift my students gave me. Granted, I have not had much more than small trinkets, like Christmas ornaments, or cards and things like that.  I would accept the gift in the spirit that it is given.

alohaspirit's profile pic

Posted on

I teach in a low income school too, so gifts are usually candy and cards. But I would not think much about it, they want to do this and I am sure the parents paid for it so they are ok with it.  I think if you were to set up a no gift policy or not accept one that actually can ruin your relationships with your students.  Many children look up to their teachers and they want to show them their graditude, so enjoy!

linda-allen's profile pic

Posted on

Just had to add a quick update: One of my other students came in early this morning and presented me with a Starbucks gift selection. It had about six different kinds of coffee and all kinds of nuts and treats in it. The student knew that I am a pretty big coffee drinker, and his family is one of our school's more affluent. I graciously thanked him for it, taking special consideration to point out exactly what was great about it. Next question: If a gift exceeds a certain dollar amount, do you think it is necessary, or just appropriate, to write a thank-you note to the responsible party? For that matter, is there ever a "wrong" time to write a quick note of gratitude?

I don't often get gifts from students, but when I do I always write a thank-you note regardless of how expensive the gift looks. It sets a good example for the student and makes him or her feel respected and appreciated.

cybil's profile pic

Posted on

Just had to add a quick update: One of my other students came in early this morning and presented me with a Starbucks gift selection. It had about six different kinds of coffee and all kinds of nuts and treats in it. The student knew that I am a pretty big coffee drinker, and his family is one of our school's more affluent. I graciously thanked him for it, taking special consideration to point out exactly what was great about it. Next question: If a gift exceeds a certain dollar amount, do you think it is necessary, or just appropriate, to write a thank-you note to the responsible party? For that matter, is there ever a "wrong" time to write a quick note of gratitude?

Always write a thank-you note. People are pleased to know that the recipient liked the gift, and they are typically touched that the person took the time to write a note, particularly in a time when so much communication is done electronically. Regardless of the size of the gift, someone has remembered us, and we should be grateful for their thoughtfulness and kindness. In my case, I have to write the notes as soon as possible, or I'll forget---even if I make a list!

engtchr5's profile pic

Posted on

Just had to add a quick update: One of my other students came in early this morning and presented me with a Starbucks gift selection. It had about six different kinds of coffee and all kinds of nuts and treats in it. The student knew that I am a pretty big coffee drinker, and his family is one of our school's more affluent. I graciously thanked him for it, taking special consideration to point out exactly what was great about it. Next question: If a gift exceeds a certain dollar amount, do you think it is necessary, or just appropriate, to write a thank-you note to the responsible party? For that matter, is there ever a "wrong" time to write a quick note of gratitude?

cburr's profile pic

Posted on

I agree with #9 that not accepting a gift would be worst of all, at least if you decline to the kid.  I've received every level of gift over the years, and some years it has bothered me.  One thing I tried which worked well was to send a letter out as Holiday time approached, mentioning that if they were inclined to give a gift, what I'd appreciate most is something for the classroom.  You can include a wish list that includes things they might have at home at be able to donate, inexpensive items to buy, decorative items the kids could make, and even one or two more expensive items that would really make a difference in your program.  That way they can even get a deduction.

NOTE: If you do this and you are a private school, be sure to let whoever handles donations know so they can send a tax letter for anything with more than token value. 

jennyrocks's profile pic

Posted on

I teach in a middle-class school out in "the sticks" as it were. I LOVE it when my kids draw me something and proudly display them on my "filing cabinet of awesomeness and potential Monet's". I have had kids bring in cookies, candies and the like and now my waist-line is paying for it, but it is my personal belief that if I was to NOT accept a gift, it would hurt my kids' feelings. They obviously thought enough of me to either make or purchase something they think I like, or had their parents pick something up.

sostrowski's profile pic

Posted on

I teach in a very low-income school, where any gift I receive is usually something small.  However, my mom teaches in a private school and receives extremely large gifts, for example $75 gift certificates to restaurants and the like.  I think no matter what you get from your students or how much it costs, the best thing is simply to accept it and be extremely greatful, whether it be a $5 notepad and pencil or a $75 gift certificate.  However, I do think that the best way to deal with any kind of gift is simply to accept it and say thank you when it is received, but to not open and spend time looking at gifts until you get home.  That way, no student needs to feel bad about giving you a smaller gift, or not giving one at all if they couldn't afford it.  I usually write thank you notes once I am home and have looked at my presents to give to the students after the holidays.  That way, everyone gets thanked, but nobody feels bad.

lynn30k's profile pic

Posted on

The main thing I would add is please do not open them as a class function, in front of all the kids.  It is one more stratifying event. The kids don't buy them, the parents do, and I've seen some children look very sad because they didn't bring anything, and other kids' families can afford to be generous.

kwoo1213's profile pic

Posted on

I would accept the gifts with a "thank you" and not worry about it, honestly.  I understand your concerns, but I would honestly accept the gifts and not feel "guilty" about it. :)  You obviously are liked by your students, which is awesome!  Some schools and colleges have policies about accepting gifts of any kind, whether from students or from the community. At my college, instructors are not supposed to accept gifts of ANY kind from students. 

morrol's profile pic

Posted on

You are lucky. I teach at a private school where most of the students come from very wealthy families. I have only received one gift ever, a $10 Starbucks gift-card. I don't think that I would have any difficulty accepting gifts from my students, but I don't expect to receive any.

slchanmo1885's profile pic

Posted on

When I was teaching third grade I had a policy of home-made gifts only, and would receive things like Christmas cookies and baked goods, clay ornaments made by the kids, etc. If you're worried about children purchasing expensive gifts and crossing the line, you could always instate a policy of home made gifts or even ask that they donate to a charity in lieu of gifts.

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