It's holiday gift-giving time again!
From mid-December on, schools are in a holiday mode. During these last days before the traditional 10-day break, there are performances, decorations and parties. Most parents and kids find it a good time to thank teachers for their hard work and maybe to cheer them on for the next term.
Luckily for elementary school teachers, there is usually a class parent to organize a classwide gift and then it is easy to conform to the city rules on gifts for teachers. Middle and high school kids see different teachers for different subjects and gift-giving becomes less common and more complicated. In any case, before a gift is given, it's helpful to know the city's rules.
Teachers are governed by City Conflicts of Interest law restrictions and an even more explicit Chancellor’s regulation C-110. Every year, the Department of Education reminds parents that teachers are prohibited from accepting too much in the way of a present. For instance, the regulation says that teachers may accept presents that are principally sentimental in nature and of small financial value.
If class parents organize a joint holiday present from all parents in the class, parents should not be asked to contribute more than a small amount or be required to participate. The gift must be identified as coming from the entire class, not just from the individual students whose parents contributed.
If collaboration is not the norm in your child's class, or it's just too late to get it together, think about home-baked goods or handmade crafts. Cookies or bread that the kids bake themselves, or help to bake, are a good bet. Try to confine crafts to useful items such as bookmarks or pot holders. Nice kid-made cards with a big thank-you inside are also welcome.
Of course, you can honor teachers and others on your list with donations to your favorite charity or by contributing through some websites that support charities such as shopforcharitynow.com, run by longtime Insideschools blogger Marni Goltsman. Websites specific to children include www.mystuffbags.org and www.ChangingThePresent.org. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, you might contribute to groups that are working to help families get their lives together. Some suggestions: Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City, Brooklyn Recovery Fund and Tunnel to Towers Foundation.
What about the gift of time? If you are not already too frazzled by volunteering perhaps you could offer to lead a storytime in the classroom, help organize a lunchtime club or teach the kids how to prepare a special food. The options are endless.
Happy holidays to all!