1. DRY-ERASE MARKERS AND ERASERS
We never have enough. Or maybe I never have enough. I don’t know. I love them. All different kinds: dry erase markers, dry erase erasers, chisel tip, thin tip, fat tip, funky colors, classic colors, highlighter colors, dry-erase spray, dry-erase wipes, shrimp bar b que, shrimp scampi, shrimp and potat….wait…wait…sorry got off track there.
We love the clippy-magnets you find at target. We can use them to clip important papers/ left over copies/ papers with no name to the board for kids to pick up, and it helps remind us to give them to said kid. If you get the clippy-magnets, make sure you get the HEAVY duty ones. The ones in the shape of a heart or a star are cute, but they don’t hold much weight. Believe me—there are LOTS of kids who forget to put their names on papers. Other magnets are great too. Barnes and Noble and other book stores often have teacher-geared ones.
3. COLORED COPY PAPER
We sometimes (for some teachers always) have to supply our own copy paper. So when we have something our kids will reference often, color coding can be helpful. “Get out your Green Project Description and Rubric” is easier to say than “Get your Project Description and Rubric…no….not that one…no it has an owl on the corner….no…that’s your poetry terms sheet. Biology?! No. This isn’t Biology! Why are your papers all crammed in there like that?! DEAR LORD! How long has that sandwich been in your bag? Ok, well that is definitely Biology now. “
4. FUN SUBJECT MATTER-RELATED T-SHIRTS OR POSTERS
I teach English, so I’m easy to shop for. (Or I am an easy person for whom to shop for my prescriptive grammarians). Almost any literary reference will do. OneHorseShy.com and Cafepress have some good ones. I love the one above, but be careful with spoilers. We can’t wear those to school—something about preserving the love of reading and stuff.
5. COLLEGE GEAR
Find out your teacher’s alma mater and give them stuff. Here is where to break the coffee-cup rule. College related paraphernalia helps us initiate conversations with students about how important college is. The more swag we have to show for it, the better. Plus, most of us no longer fit into our college t-shirts. One tip: avoid anything alcohol related (College beer-key). It is just bad form.
6. EMERGENCY DRILL SURVIVAL GEAR
Seriously. When should we have emergency drills? When it is bright and sunny? When the temperature is balmy 65 degrees? No, silly rabbit. We invariably have emergency drills when it is raining outside. Or cold. Or cold and raining. So a poncho and an umbrella just for me to keep in my classroom is a great idea. You could get them in school colors or just any old colors. A blanket is good too, because we are often outside with kids who forgot their jackets indoors. It’s great to be able to have these items exclusively for the classroom. Thoughtful and practical!
7. PRETTY BINDERCLIPS, PAPERCLIPS, STICKY NOTES, ETC
We have the regular silver ones we use to give to you, but sometimes we like them to be pretty or unique or cool, things we paperclip to give to each other (or even you). Having colorful ones makes us happy. The same way having different colored iPhone cases makes you happy. Can’t find any cool/ funky ones? Try clipping a whole bunch of them together to make the presentation fun. Maybe personalize some yourself.
8. PRETTY BINDERCLIPS AND PAPERCLIPS HOLDERS/ BOXES
9. SCRATCH AND SNIFF STICKERS
Kids and adults like scratch and sniff stickers. They are hard to find, so the kid that gets them for me is showing (s)he went to great lengths to remind me how much I mean to them. Can’t find scratch and sniff? How about fuzzy ones? Or vintage cartoons (He-Man, Smurfs, Scooby-Do) We put them on papers. This works for high school teachers too. I still put stickers on 11th graders’ papers. They still like it.
10. COOL WALL CLOCK
I’m pretty sure it is a law we have to have a clock in our room, for testing maybe. So almost all schools equip teachers with a single clock. They are regulation boring. Why not find a funky clock? Clocks are usually pretty cheap: $15-$20 at Target. You can spend more on something specialty. It is something we will look at every single day, so the more unique the better. Make sure it has numbers on it. Some cool clocks just have the hands and no numbers. For testing purposes, clocks have to have numbers.
11. WIRELESS PRESENTER MOUSE
You’d be surprised how many of us don’t have these wireless presenter mice. Largely because we just don’t think to buy one for ourselves. Or we do buy one for ourselves, but it dies and we never replace the batteries. Or we lost it. Or a kid lost it. Or it fell into a parallel universe. Whatever the reason, we can always use one. We can also always use a back up one, because ours usually ends up dying the moment an administrator comes into our classroom to observe us. It’s easier for us to just have a back up in a desk. They are really cheap too.
I live and die by timers. I coach debate but also use them in English class. I have kids time themselves, each other, and tasks. If I have 20 timers I can have 20 different activities happening simultaneously at different times because as soon as the timer goes off, the kids know to move on to the next task. They can do this independently without having me have to say, “Okay. Is everyone done? No? We’re all waiting on one kid? Great. Let’s all sit here in silence while that kid finishes up….no pressure.” Instead, I can set my 20 timers and say you have four minutes to get this done. Gather your thoughts. Hit the start button when you are ready to start writing. Yes, I realize this can be accomplished with a kid using his phone—but there is something about that little beeping or dinging that wakes kids out of their reverie. The trick with this gift is to get a very specific type. Egg timers are good, but if you want a GREAT gift, go with a programmable digital one. They sell them at WalMart for about $7. Grab a few.
13. MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION
I had a student who gave me a year’s subscription to Marie Claire. It was sent to the school and was put into my mailbox. When I came back from Summer, I had two magazines waiting for me. It was a great idea, and I am pretty sure she bought the magazines from her own fundraiser. Most of the subscriptions are cheap and if you don’t know what your teacher would like, go for something generic.
14. WALL LETTERS
Those big wooden wall letters you can get at a craft store? They’re not just for nurseries anymore! Those are great for our rooms or to hang outside our door on orientation nights. If you can get enough for the whole name, great! If not, just get the first letter of the last name. Hand decorating is a plus, but not required. My last name is complicated, so Mrs. K is on most of my stuff. It just adds a hint of personalization to our rooms.
15. PERSONALIZED CLIPBOARDS OR STAPLERS
Speaking of personalization, personalized stuff with our last name is practical and thoughtful. See, in a world where kids touch and borrow everything, our items have a tendency to wander away. Having our last name (no room numbers because we have to switch rooms sometimes) will help ensure they eventually make it back home. All it takes is some office supplies (stapler, clipboard, three-prong binder) and a paint pen. Make sure you spell the name right!
16. TEENY-TINY COFFEE POT
I just can’t even express how much I love this thing. 4 CUPS JUST FOR ME. I turn it on as soon as I get into school. It is small enough to stay in MY ROOM. It is just….I …..words….no….mer.
17. INSTANT SOUP
I know this is starting to sound a little sad but we DO spend a ton of time at school. Sometimes it is good to have a stash of instant soup in case of a late night. Or the flip side of that—if we have had a late night, we sometimes forget our lunch/ lunch money at home. When you are monitoring students during your lunch hour, you can’t just pop out to grab a salad. Instant soup is a nice alternative. Want to jazz up the packaging? Give it to us in a cute bowl with a personalized spoon.
The other sad part of this is that we sometimes have hungry kids that need food. I always keep some soups/ granola bars for those kids. Hungry kids can’t learn. I would normally supply this for my own classroom, so by supplying soup for me, you are being helpful and kind. You go, Glen CoCo.
18. FAVORITE MOVIE LINES PENS AND PENCILS
WHICH LEADS ME TO THE NEXT GIFT IDEA…..If you are getting this special gift for a teacher, I assume it is because you really like him/her. That means you should have SOME idea of a fave movie of theirs. If that is the case, you can always get them movie pencils. Be careful though. Some of them are not cool for school.
19. MOVIE TICKETS
We go to the movies when we can, but truth-be-told, most teachers admit to watching movies far after they have left theaters. We catch them on Netflix because frankly, going to the movies costs us an arm and a leg. Get us two tickets to take our significant others out. It shows us you know we are human and that maybe we just NEED to see that new Night of the Living Dead Three while it is still on the big screen. And more importantly, that you as a student WANT us to see it. Because we are good enough, smart enough, and gosh darnit- people like us.
20. BOARD GAMES
There’s a caveat to this one. Make it classroom related. I teach English. Twister is not workable in regards to the English classroom. Catchphrase works. Now before you get on your high horse and start snipping at me about, “Why are you playing games in the classroom when kids should be learning?!” and “How does playing games make us a more educated nation?!” Let me say first of all, games are an important brain break for kids. When is the last time you sat through six hours of school? Think about when you last had to go through a presentation. It is exhausting. Kids need breaks. Secondly, there are tons of board games that relate to the curriculum that create teachable moments. Thirdly, shut up.
21. HANDMADE GIFT OR PERSONALIZED CARD
I know I said I didn’t mean a personalized note on this list. I know. I’m sorry. But it really IS the best gift. I had a kid who made a pair of chair pillows (my school supplied chair was less than comfy) and a post card one year. On the back of the card, she explained how much I had shaped her life and helped her through the hard times. It wasn’t just the note, it was what she SAID in it. Not just- “You’re a great teacher, and you’re smart, and gosh darnit, people like you.” She really got to the root of me because she explained how much our relationship meant to her. I still talk to her. I still have my pillows. It still is the best gift. One from the heart………………….and dry erase markers.