Recognizing our children's teachers with a holiday gift from the class is a tradition at our elementary school like many others. Each classroom typically takes up a collection and presents the teacher with gift cards, spa treatments, or restaurant certificates. (Yes, I realize this is very generous).
This year, given the economic crisis and being sensitive to family budgets, our PTO has directed homeroom moms NOT to collect money for teacher gifts. I applaud this move -- in our district, we have several parents who have been laid off. At the same time, I want to encourage parents to work together to make a meaningful gift recognizing and celebrating our teachers, who are with our kids all day long (how do they do it?!).
One thing the class CAN do together is set up a Thank You Meal Schedule. Parents sign up to send lunch or a take-home meal one day a week. If the parent is available, (s)he can also offer to bring the teacher lunch and supervise the class for 30 minutes while the teacher gets a well-deserved break. Of course, if you want to slip in a restaurant gift certificate when it's your turn, I'm sure it would be welcome.
At our school this year, parents gift teachers a daily break by taking over recess duty. We set up a recess monitor schedule using VolunteerSpot.com and parents signed up to take turns supervising kids on the playground each day. With a class of 20 kids, it turns out to be about one day a month per family. Moms and dads both participate (even us working moms) -- and our teachers LOVE their new found free time! (Many of them are working moms too -- 30 minutes free is a treasured gift.) Our teachers also appreciate that time is a guilt-free gift. If something comes up and a parent can't make the schedule, no problem -- just try to send a message ahead of time. (This gift works best in smaller communities where commutes are short and parents can get away for 45 minutes during the day.)
Giving the gift of time resonates with both parents and teachers, especially when budgets are tight. Parents share the time commitment, turning an individual small gesture into a collectively generous gift. What’s even more wonderful about setting up a meal or recess schedule, is your child’s teacher can enjoy this gift ALL YEAR, not just in December.