Today I am working with DonorsChoose to share a story and gift ideas with you.
Many years ago, when I was still in college, I was lucky enough to be assigned a student teaching position with the most wonderfully enthusiastic kindergarten teacher. She was so excited to see her students every day, and she made them feel like they were in the best room in the whole world. She was just the type of teacher that I knew I wanted to be one day.
Soon, December came, and my time student teaching in her classroom was coming to an end. One of the last projects that we did together was to plan her class holiday party. We made fun decorations and silly games for the kids to play. We came up with snowman math problems to share, and winter-themed books to read. Then, we sat down to write a note to the family. This note would go home, explaining the events coming up in the next few weeks.
This teacher, however, added something to that note that I loved. It was something along the lines of…
“I want to thank each one of you for sharing your gifts with me every day… your children. They are the greatest gift. On the same note, your constant support and helpfulness is just one more gift that means the world to me.
This year, instead of buying gifts for me for the holiday season, as you so generously do, I’d love it if you could donate to your child’s education. I’d be honored if you would use that money to either buy your child a book or buy something for our classroom so that we can share in your gift together as a class.
We will open these gifts together during our holiday party.” (She then went on to give details of the party.)
She finished up the letter with a simple… “Again, please use this money on your child’s education, whether it be on something for the class, or something to keep at home. Just knowing that we are working together to give your child the best education is a wonderful gift in itself.”
It was such an excellent way to talk about gifts. She later e-mailed me after I had left for the year to tell me about the party. (Our college semester ended before her grade school semester). She said that she was overwhelmed with the generosity of the parents, as she was able to have new books, crayons, and so much more, to help her teach her students.
Here are some examples of the gifts that she received, and a few more that I think would be wonderful “class gifts” if you wanted to do this for the teacher in your child’s life.
1- Find your child’s teacher on DonorsChoose.Org.
You may remember hearing about DonorsChoose on Good Morning America. Each year In the United States public school teachers spend over $1 billion of their own money on materials for their classroom and students. This means that teachers are probably spending around $500-$1,000 each. When I was hired for my first job, one of my colleagues said “Be prepared… we spend around 20% of our income on our classrooms.” That was a surprise to me, but it turned out that I did spend quite a lot on classroom materials and supplies for our students.
DonorsChoose is one way that teachers can access supplies or experiences for their students, without spending their paycheck on it. Many teachers put their online wishlist with supplies or projects that need to be funded on DonorsChoose. From there, people can find that teacher and donate money towards their list or project.
DonorsChoose is the leading way to give to public schools, with more than 4 million people & partners donating over $900 million since 2000. DonorsChoose, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, even vets the request and ships the funded materials or resources directly to the classroom.
For the holidays, DonorsChoose will honor GivingTuesday on December 3rd. All donations will be a 50% match! It’s a great way to give (and don’t forget that this counts as a year-end tax-deductible giving)
PS- If your child’s teacher is not on there, suggest that she/he add a project or a wish list to the website, so parents are able to donate towards that project or list.
2. Books for the class!
There have been so many times during my teaching career, that I had wanted specific leveled books. You could buy like-sets of books for the students, or you could buy books for the teacher to read to the child.
One of my favorite centers, when I taught second grade, was our books on tape center. I had a DVD player that read a book. The students followed along in their own book.
3. A group purchase:
One year, my friend was gifted student chair balls for the entire class – the parents went in on it together and helped the teacher purchase them. This is the kind of project that you can find on DonorsChoose.org, so be sure to find your child’s teacher on there. In the case of the chairs, it was the room mom who organized the entire thing, and my friend was over-the-moon!
One of the best gifts that I received when I was teaching was the gift of games. Three parents went together and bought our class toys for recess (balls, jump ropes, sidewalk chalk) and board games to keep inside for rainy days. I used those games & toys all year long, without fail.
5. Building Sets
I had a lot of building sets when I taught, and I used them in many ways. I had linking cubes that I used to make word families. I had lincoln logs that I used when talking about measurements, I had dominoes when I talked about cause and effect.
The best part was that each of these sets could also be used and manipulated by my students.
Teachers deserve so much, but mostly they deserve our thanks, as they help to inspire, educate and shape our children’s lives, one day at a time. Now that I am on the other end of things, as the parent, I know how much a teacher matters to their students. As the saying goes… “Students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”