Gifts for a new teacher?
July 15, 2005 9:53 AM   Subscribe

My girlfriend will be starting her first official job teaching fifth grade, it's her birthday soon, and I need gift ideas!

I'm pretty much at a loss for what to give someone who is about to start teaching. I thought maybe a briefcase would be nice, but then again I know MeFites are good at coming up with some awesome ideas.

Of note: She'll be 23 on her birthday. She's teaching fifth grade. We've been dating seven months. We're about to move into an apartment together, so maybe instead of a teaching related gift I could get an apartment related gift?

I appreciate any help I can get.
posted by bDiddy to Shopping (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Get her a gift certificate at the nearest good "teacher store" (ask at her new school, someone there can tell you where that would be in your area) if you want something teacher related.

Don't buy an "apartment gift", it only took a few days of marriage for me to figure out that a new blender or toaster would NOT meet the gift criteria for birthdays...

Or, an engagement ring would be nice.... :-)
posted by HuronBob at 10:11 AM on July 15, 2005

The teacher store gift certificate was exactly my first thought too. Of course, jewelry is always nice.

(As a matter of fact, don't tell my wife, but jewelry is always my perfect fall back. I am stupid you see and I can't do these things. With jewelry all I have to do is have money and I get her these shiny things and she is more than satisfied. Find a really good jeweler with good classic stuff, it will make the rest of your life easier. Oh, Rubini's in Alexandria, in case anyone was wondering.)
posted by Pollomacho at 10:34 AM on July 15, 2005

Make her a teacher's journal.

Fill a notebook with a page for each school day, with each page preprinted with sections like "Ideas for tomorrow's lesson", "What I learned from my students today", "The student who inspired me today", and so on.
posted by rajbot at 10:58 AM on July 15, 2005

How about a PDA?
posted by adamfunman at 10:59 AM on July 15, 2005

Response by poster: The teacher journal and the teaching store gift certificate are awesome ideas. I think maybe it's not the right time for the engagement ring, but thanks! (huronBob... are you my mom?)

I appreciate these ideas! Keep them coming!
posted by bDiddy at 11:08 AM on July 15, 2005

Like 23skidoo said: break up the gifts. Give her something personal and nice for her birthday. Then, give her something else as a "congrats on your new job" present to let her know how proud you are. A first teaching job is something to make a big deal about. But she's also celebrating her birthday with you for the first time- make it a big deal as well.

As far as what to give, the gift certificate is a great idea since teachers have to pay for so many supplies out of pocket. If you want to give her something that she will personally get to use, Levenger is drool-worthy for journals, agendas and briefcases.

For her birthday present, jewelry is, as stated above, always welcome if she wears it. You can give her something for the new apartment but it sure as heck better not be anything to do with cooking or cleaning. I would be thrilled with a Pottery Barn or Crate and Barrel gift certificate (but only if you don't give her a gift certificate to a teaching store!).
posted by wallaby at 11:38 AM on July 15, 2005

IPod shuffle if she does not have one. Screw the teacher specific gifts and get her something that will let her have fun and/or relax. All the teachers that I know are crazy busy and all have loved their IPods as a way to help them switch out of teaching mode.
posted by GrumpyMonkey at 11:42 AM on July 15, 2005

a year subscription to the New Yorker
posted by anadem at 11:45 AM on July 15, 2005

I'm 23 and am going to be a teacher soon (okay, so I don't have a job...yet...but things will work out, I think...). The First Days of School is a great book for beginning teachers. Lots of really concrete advice to help organize the classroom, which (I assume) is overwhelming at the beginning.

The only problem is that it's not really great as a girlfriend or new apartment gift. I would recommend it along with something else, though.
posted by jetskiaccidents at 11:45 AM on July 15, 2005

A beginning teacher is often mentally and physically exhausted by the daily demands of the job. I recommend a gift that will give pleasure in her non-working life -- something that she won't be inclined to put off enjoying because she's "too busy." Even if she loves to read, for example, a novel by her favorie author might go to the bottom of the in box if she's feeling stressed.

I don't know what her particular interests are. In her position, I would love to have a promise of a brief escape once a week, organized by my guy. A movie, a special meal, a visit to a few antique shops, a cooking class. The key for me: I wouldn't have to plan it, and my Other would cajole me into putting work aside in order to participate.
posted by wryly at 12:46 PM on July 15, 2005

Best answer: The first year of teaching is tough. She is in for a lot of long days and working through the weekend. How about a "First Year Teacher Survival Box" packed with all of the suggestions above, plus massage oils (and a note that you will provide the massages), bath salts, some handmade gift certificates for things like "One Free Foot Rub" "One Dinner Out" etc., something from Victoria's Secret, and booze. Oh, and a case of Powerbars, she will be eating lunch at her desk most days.

I should add that I was just talking with a fifth grade teacher who said she adores her kids: “Fifth graders are old enough to think and young enough to still love their teacher.”
posted by LarryC at 12:53 PM on July 15, 2005

I really liked what wryly and LarryC recommended. If I were just starting out as a teacher, that's what I would want. If you're looking for a 'first day of school' type gift, these are cute:

Personalized 'teacher-themed' stationery, with matching note paper.
posted by invisible ink at 1:10 PM on July 15, 2005

Best answer: Coincidentally, there's a book called Among Schoolchildren by Tracy Kidder (Soul of a new Machine, House, Old Friends, etc) that documents a year in the life of a fifth grade teacher in a poorish school district in Holyoke, Massachusetts. It's a very good read, but might be a little close to home.

If you offer to do things for her (getaways, massage appointment etc), book them. She will be going into a very busy, very regimented schedule. If you do not put these things on a schedule, it is painfully easy for them to never happen. Instead she will be able to say, "no I can't stay late today to work on the bulletin board for the hallway: I have a previous engagement".

You might also offer a few gift certificates to help her do her grading. When I got into crunch mode at the end of a quarter, or if I had a stack of tests, there were times when I handed my spouse half the stack and my rubric and the job was done that much faster.

If she's open to getting a Palm OS device, this software, while somewhat limited, was an absolute godsend for grading and attendance. If you do the work up front for getting email addresses for the parents your students, it will send email notes out when you sync to the desktop machine. In addition to keeping the grading, it's possible to pull a kid aside, show the current grade as well as play the "what would happen if you actually turned in all those assignments" game.
posted by plinth at 1:18 PM on July 15, 2005

I second The First Days of School book - but as a secondary birthday present. An ipod mini and the book would be a wonderful combination. (I read the book every year when I was a teacher and found new ideas each time.)
posted by kdern at 1:40 PM on July 15, 2005

Okay so presumably she already has a note-taking system, which renders the journal idea possibly redundant.

She's going to be very focused on work. I think something personal would be best to help her feel like she can still have a life outside of work. I say this as someone who is in a teaching masters program and just got home from the end of the first week of teaching summer school. I'm tired and my brain doesn't want to go anymore and I don't really feel human. Find her something to bring her back to humanity and adulthood.

Concrete suggestions: music, funny movies, tickets to something cool, gift certificate to a fancy restaurant, liquor, plane ticket (she will have vacations, after all).
posted by mai at 3:19 PM on July 15, 2005

If you have the budget i'd go for an iBook or at least the iPod shuffle if only for the "Apple for the teacher" joke.

Then again, I'm corny like that.
posted by softlord at 4:03 PM on July 15, 2005

Best answer: for the last dozen years, i am a fifth grade school teacher.

i say that because, as your girlfriend will soon learn, being a teacher quickly consumes you; you become "mrs. so-and-so" everywhere, all the time, and often it's difficult, during the school year anyway, to remember who you once were... before. perhaps other professions experience this to one degree or another, but, in my experience (i've had lots of other jobs, including a few real ones) teaching is rather unique in this regard.

so, that said, i think getting her a teacher-gift is maybe a mistake. to be sure, she's stoked to be getting started with her teaching career, but, i dunno, i'm inclined to believe she's still gonna need to be encouraged to be herself, not-a-school-teacher on the weekends. i say get her a bike, or a membership at the climbing gym, or a three-day vacation or something equally affirming and frivolous... and not-teacher. she may complain, she may balk at her time constraints, she may try and refuse to leave her classroom alone on saturday. it will be your task to remind her of your gift and that you want her to use it. even if she appears rabid in her desire to grade papers on sunday afternoon, one day, she will thank you for making her hang on to her humanity. i promise.

but, if you're not willing to take the advice i've proffered above, get her the palm pilot; i don't know how i managed before i got mine.
posted by RockyChrysler at 9:07 PM on July 15, 2005

How about a nice leather briefcase/shoulder bag type thing?
posted by electroboy at 7:15 AM on July 16, 2005

I'm a fan of giving my SO lots of different presents. So you could do something teacher-related - like a subscription to or a nice daily planner and then something non-work related and romantic like jewelry or a coupon for a weekend getaway during the first school holiday or something.
posted by FreezBoy at 8:14 AM on July 16, 2005

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