Why I’m not buying gifts for my kids’ teachers

Expaters, did you buy your kid’s teacher a present this year? What did you give?

I scanned the web for teacher gifts and look what I found in The Independent, a major British newspaper:

‘A candle might be a bit of a teacher present cliché, but make it a luxury number with Jo Malone and you can’t go far wrong’. 

Here in Chile, gift giving is a big thing. Not just for kids, but also for the teachers. Teachers, assistants and other staff at my kids’ nursery celebrate their birthdays, ‘education day’ and random ‘let’s celebrate [insert name] day. Parents supply food and presents. Just to make it very clear, gift suggestions (from other parents) included, ‘handbags, spa vouchers and beauty supplies’. 

Christmas gift excess

On one occasion I bailed out. I felt enough was enough. But then my kid came home crying, ‘everyone gave the teacher a big present and I didn’t have anything’. So I’m back to giving (small) gifts.

But for Christmas I’m giving charitable donations instead. I’ve purposely chosen a very well regarded children’s charity here in Chile: Coaniquem, which supports child burn victims. My kids will be making Christmas cards too.

Now, I have nothing against my kids’ teachers. They are truly lovely people and I adore them as much as my kids do. I know they love children and they understand the value of giving, so I hope they’ll understand where I’m coming from.

I’m wondering if it’s a cultural thing? Are other countries the same? Or is it just me being a Scrooge?

Christmas gifts for teachers?

I’m no saint and I love shiny stuff; my nicknames include ‘princess’ and ‘magpie’ (I like shiny stuff). But Christmas is for kids. Christmas is about giving, right?

I feel we have a responsibility to shift the focus.

This year I’ve got my kids involved in three charity drives. I’ve been trying to explain to them about the gift of giving and how amazing it can feel to help. My child replied, ‘but my teacher gets lots of presents and parties… more than us’. 

In the UK, a parents group, Connect, teamed up with a teaching union and Child Poverty Action Group to discourage Christmas gift buying at schools. Some British schools have taken this on board and now ban gifts for teachers. It puts unnecessary pressure on parents already under financial pressure and fosters a culture of excess, they claim.

I wholeheartedly agree. Here’s hoping my kids’ teacher do too.


  1. Belen
    January 1, 2019 / 1:59 pm

    On the one side, I love your idea and it could be used on several celebrations (birthdays, even Christmas for adults..). On the other side, teachers’ salary is so low (<CLP$400mil), and pensions are even worst (<200mil) that these days are very special and considered an extra income or a nice moment. I know that this is not a something that parents have to solve, instead we should have better public policies… but reality is, we are not there yet…so presents are a nice gesture. It would be so great if parents can unify efforts and give them a giftcard (plus each kid giving them a letter, a card etc). My parents were both teachers, and I remember them arriving home filled with presents (chocolates, flowers, shoes etc) that we enjoyed together 🙂 it was teacher's day but the whole family was celebrating hehe.

    • January 1, 2019 / 2:45 pm

      This is so interesting to read, thank you! I totally agree that teacher salaries need to better reflect their hard work (and patience!)

      For our maid for example, we always give a token present (usually something handmade from the kids and something useful for her home) and then cash, as we know she has family who really need the extra income. I’d feel bad giving her a voucher – who needs a spa session when you’ve got your grandson’s education to pay for?

      But I hadn’t appreciated teacher salaries were so low, so thank you for raising this. But again I feel chocolates, handbags… it’s quite a waste and sends the wrong message to kids. Perhaps if I have the guts I’ll ask around parents and suggest a group gift card for somewhere useful next time. I’m the foreigner here, so I’m always a little scared to offend! Wish me luck!

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