I love you, Miss... and here’s a bag of spuds - are these the worst teacher presents ever?

Clintons offers a large selection of "thank you, teacher" cards. Picture: LJM

Clintons offers a large selection of "thank you, teacher" cards. Picture: LJM - Credit: Archant

The summer term is drawing to a close and whilst worrying about how to entertain the kids over the six-week break, parents are also sterssing about what gift to buy the teacher, according to parents’ website Mumsnet.

Teachers love to be thanked. Picture: HIGHWAYSTARTZ PHOTOGRAPHY/GETTY IMAGES

Teachers love to be thanked. Picture: HIGHWAYSTARTZ PHOTOGRAPHY/GETTY IMAGES - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

In my 13 years of schooling, I never gave a present to a teacher.

I don’t know why - it never occurred to me, I suppose. But then we’re talking about the olden days (1960-1973) when “an apple for the teacher” was the ultimate show of gratitude.

Forty-five years later, not only are gifts to teachers a customary part of the end-of-summer-term tradition (along with sixth formers going to the pub on their last school day), but the retail industry is geared up for it, offering a range of cards and presents for children to give their form teachers.

You can tell, I’m sure, that I write this with my lips pursed in a rather disapproving way. That’s because it is yet another thing parents have to sort out. There’s always something – lunch box fashions, birthday party one-upmanship and myriad other demands on hard-pressed parents. I was always pleased with myself if I got the kids to school on time.

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Teachers wholly warrant a special “thank you” at the end of their gruelling school year and most of all, they deserve our respect, less paperwork to complete, shorter working weeks, and higher salaries.

I do not know when all this gifting started – it was certainly not prompted by teachers. It must be another of those things that starts out innocently, gains momentum and then becomes yet another thing parents have to keep up with.

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The online parental gathering, Mumsnet, has surveyed over 1,200 teachers and teaching assistants and revealed what they would really like as an end-of-year gift - as well as some of the stunningly bad gifts they have actually received.

The all-time worst gifts mentioned by teachers and teaching assistants included:

• A bag of potatoes

• Jewellery “which I’m sure was stolen for me”

• A regifted reed diffuser from the Christmas raffle (“I know because I’d put the raffle ticket on it”)

• An opened, part-drunk bottle of wine

• A “Plan Your Wedding” book (“I was in no way close to getting married”)

• A thong

• A stolen car radio in a carrier bag

• A box of half-eaten chocolates

• Lube

• Aftershave (“I’m female”)

This is probably a good time to say “it’s the thought that counts”. And I am delighted to note that one child seems to have shown the same lack of willpower as me when it comes to a box of chocolates. I’m not going to look up what “lube” is because I have an idea what it might be and I don’t want to go there.

So, assuming that none of the above is the perfect gift, what would teachers like?

According to the survey, what teachers and teaching assistants really want is something personal - and cost-free. Nearly-two thirds (64%) say they would like a heartfelt personal note from their pupils, while 57% say they would love to receive the same from parents or carers.

Almost half (47%) say they value any present, but 77% worry that parents or carers may feel pressured into contributing to a whole-class gift and 68% worry about children feeling left out if their parents can’t afford to contribute. That said, 32% of teachers or teaching assistants say they love to receive gift vouchers and 30% say that wine or spirits are also welcome.

My daughter-in-law is a teacher and she has a repository of gifted chocolate which she ekes out over the year. She has also received hand-written notes of thanks, which she treasures.

Mumsnet found that end-of-term can be a bonanza for charity shops, with almost two thirds (62%) of those who have received unwelcome gifts saying they donate some of them to charity, while 42% say some are re-gifted. Just 11% say they put unwanted presents in the bin - although one person admitted they forward unwanted gifts, without postage, to a former partner.

Justine Roberts, Mumsnet founder says: “This feels like a classic gifting struggle: hassled parents trying to do the nice thing but not at all sure what to give (and occasionally going very wrong indeed), and teachers inwardly quaking at an avalanche of scented candles and wishing they could have something cost-free and personal.

“The ideal solution seems to be a low-pressure class collection for a voucher and a scrapbook full of messages from the small people concerned.”

Maybe just the messages?

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