Coping with Teacher Gift Guilt

Amanda and MP

Last year Amanda and I fretted over Camp Gap—the stressful break between school and camp. Today it’s the end-of-year teacher gift debacle.


Amanda contributed cash to her preschool kids’ class gifts—but then saw other parents showing up with beautifully wrapped presents, as well. “Should I be doing more?” she asked.


Don’t ask me. I am gift-challenged in the best of times. But figuring out the right gesture for your beloved child’s teacher is complicated calculus:


  • When other parents do more, you feel compelled to do likewise (a.k.a. “Keeping up with the moms”).


  • Yet you know that teachers don’t earn enough, and feel they deserve a bonus.


  • On the other hand, times are tight, and we’re all shelling out for camp!


“It comes down to how you define generosity,” a friend said. “I see women who drive BMWs, but they’re only giving their teacher $50. What’s up with that?”


I drive a Subaru (Amanda has a Toyota), but I take her point. Alas, this year I can’t do more than contribute to the collective class gift, so I’ll just have to be extravagant in my personal thanks to the wonderful woman who got my little Ninja Turtle through the year.

High marks. How do you decide how much to spend or what to give a teacher?

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