How does one "show" appreciation for their child's care takers?
July 24, 2007 11:17 AM   Subscribe

My children go to a day care where the parents rotate responsibilities to show 'appreciation' for their child's care takers. Intent is to do something 'special' to express (however remotely we can demonstrate the scale of appreciation) how much we appreciate our care takers/teachers. These appreciation days rotate on a bi-weekly basis in my infant son's room and I have this Friday. The class has three teachers and their charges are all kiddies age 6-12 months. (continued...)

Guidance we've received is that the "appreciation" can be something as simple as bringing in some cookies, chips (in essence, a small token) or something slightly more elaborate (multi-tiered cake, flowers, balloons, dancing unicorns, talking bears, celebrity visits, fireworks, and so on). The scope of appreciation for that week is up to the parent who has responsibility for that week.

Now, I have an out of whack altruistic nature so I'd lean more towards the dancing unicorn and fireworks angle. I really like the teachers and want to do something appropriate.

What's an appropriate gesture?
posted by lostinsupermarket to Human Relations (30 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Gift certificate for a massage.
posted by thirteenkiller at 11:23 AM on July 24, 2007

Maybe instead of bringing your favorite baked goods you could poll the staff and reach a middle ground on something they could all enjoy?

I really loves brownies and milk for this sort of thing, but you've got food allergies and gluten issues, lactose intolerance and god knows what else these days so I'd do some preliminary legwork to get your options lined up with those who will be on the receiving end.

I mean who knows, maybe they'd really love a veggie and cheese tray after a long week?

If you have the time and some photography/computer/crafty skills and access during sessions you could take a few snapshots and make a collage or poster to liven up the space and add a personal touch to the atmosphere, maybe work it in with some of their other poster boards and wall accessories.
posted by prostyle at 11:31 AM on July 24, 2007

I'm puzzled: do you not pay these people?
posted by progosk at 11:35 AM on July 24, 2007

I'd really like more information about *you* before I answer this. What are your talents? For example, are you a great chef or do you suck in the kitchen? Do you love to cook? Only then would I recommend a dessert or meal.

I think the most appreciated gifts I have given and gestures I have made have come from the heart.

For very general ideas: some kind of pampering (yes, on preview a massage) the caregivers wouldn't give themselves or anything that makes their lives or jobes easier.

Massage, gift certificate to book store or educational store for supplies, a night out (dinner and a movie), etc.
posted by misha at 11:35 AM on July 24, 2007

Progosk, sometimes people like to show that they really appreciate a service, not just that they appreciate it enough to pay for it.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:38 AM on July 24, 2007

Maybe something other than food. I work in a place where people sometimes bring goodies or the leftover snacks or lunch or treats from meetings get put out, and much as I love free food, especially in large quantities, it's also a pain to be confronted by tempting, mainly bad-for-you crap often. Since the appreciation is a regular, scheduled thing, I'm guessing the staff gets more than its fair share of noshing. Or not.

As someone in the education biz, if I put myself in these folks' shoes, I'd guess that a good way to show genuine non-generic appreciation would be to make each person an individual card briefly mentioning specific things s/he did or qualities s/he has that enhance your little Snookie's life or learning. The kind of thing that shows you notice and value this person's care of your child. Maybe have your older kid (?) help with the drawing or decorating part and have your partner (?) do some of the writing so it clearly comes from the whole family?

That may seem too hokey or cheapskatey, but if there's this whole systematic appreciation rotation, I'm betting that it includes competition on the part of some parents to see who can impress the staff with some token more lavish than the next guy's. For teachers, being on the receiving end of that kind of shallow one-upping gets old fast. (I don't mean that you're being competitive, honest.) I'd prefer the delightful goofiness factor of something amateurishly homemade, but that's just me.
posted by FelliniBlank at 12:16 PM on July 24, 2007

My mom is a preschool teacher, and much of our extended family teaches young children as well. Most parents show their appreciation by giving sweets. Usually chocolates. We always had several pantry shelves permanently dedicated to storing all the excess goodies that well-meaning parents handed out. Most ended up re-gifted. The problems with giving food: you don't know the teacher's preferences or if they're trying to lose weight, and there's just way there's too much of it overall. If you do give food, know that the gesture will be much appreciated but the item itself may or may not.

If you do give food, give it only to the teacher and DON'T give it in front of the kids. Most schools are working hard to maintain a contentious meal plan and instill good eating habits, so it puts the teacher in a spot if the kids see that she has treats "available".

Every teacher I know is delighted by a warm thank you and a simple gift certificate. The positive feedback is gratefully appreciated, and usually the certificate will be immediately reinvested in supplies for the classroom.

Another nice gesture is to ask the teacher for a wishlist. Because many have to shop/pay for their own room's supplies, you can be helping the teacher as well as your child.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 12:56 PM on July 24, 2007

Mod note: a few comments removed, please keep the "don't do this" comments either constructive or in MetTalk, thanks
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:45 PM on July 24, 2007

Since having an opinion is apparently now a no-no around here, I'll re-post my objective question:

I don't have a child, so perhaps I'm out of the loop- is this kind of thing common? Who is organizing it?
posted by mkultra at 1:55 PM on July 24, 2007

It's not common, but ought to be more so, imo. For the most part, day-mommies, as I call them, get paid squat, so appreciative gestures are important.

The ones that were prized the most when I did it were pictures of my kids with the teachers, developed at the drugstore as a "Thank You!" type card. Then a note inside, with the date, and name and age. I put a sticky magnet on the back to they could put it on the fridge.
posted by lysdexic at 2:03 PM on July 24, 2007

Ok, let me rephrase & counterbalance my removed remarks:

Short answer: make a small, personal present (i.e. something related to them individually, and to you/your child individually); and at all costs avoid falling into one-upmanship versus the previous/other "appreciators".

Longer aside: the fact that you have made a routine of what you yourself cannot call appreciation without using quotes, strikes something of a false note, implying that whatever the specifics of your gesture, there might be an underlying issue that is not being addressed. Are you paying the caretakers too little? What is it that has led something normally spontaneous such as appreciation to become scheduled bi-weekly on rotation?!
posted by progosk at 2:12 PM on July 24, 2007

Yeah, I was going to ask about that, too. The event that was scheduled for our teachers (two daycares ago) was an annual one. Pictures every two weeks would get old under this kind of scheme.
posted by lysdexic at 2:14 PM on July 24, 2007

Jeez, people, lay off.

This kind of thing IS common in some areas, and mine is one of them. It's because a scheduled event because it makes it easier on everyone.

For example, if someone doesn't want to participate or agrees to help but is really a slacker who never does his part, at least everything doesn't get ruined because, say, no one brought the plates for all the food, or the collection for the gift certificate we all agreed on was $10 short because one person didn't chip in, or the gift basket to put the gift basket goodies in never even showed up.
posted by misha at 2:17 PM on July 24, 2007

I'm a little surprised that people are so resentful about the possibility of doing something nice for a child caregiver.

Food is always appreciated, but instead of sweets, how about one of those veggie trays with dip? Or something similarily healthy, something people won't feel guilty about indulging in?
posted by agregoli at 2:29 PM on July 24, 2007

The recent Family Fun magazine had some craft ideas to make for this. Looking on their website I found some additional ideas, and can't quite find the ideas I remember, but one I remember (that may be quite different in a private rather than public school setting) was gift cards or supplies for the classroom, since at least public school teachers may dip in their own pockets. I guess every two weeks may not allow for this sort of generosity, depending on how often the responsibility falls to you.
posted by artifarce at 2:34 PM on July 24, 2007

Just to make my point a little clearer: there is nothing resentful at all in my comments, least of all towards the caretakers(-givers? ok whatever).

I'm just honestly confused by the issue, and I think some of the answers here are so too. Contributing/helping/doing your part is obviously part of any parent dealing with a childcare situation, but that's not what was asked for: the question was what would be proper "appreciation" for the teachers/minders.

I don't think routinely chipping in your $10 addresses that. I dearly hope the people you have chosen to take care of your children do merit explicit thankfulness - but to me, having that come from some group-enforced routine altogether defeats the meaning of real appreciation. Ymmv.
posted by progosk at 2:41 PM on July 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

MeTa, sorry.
posted by artifarce at 2:54 PM on July 24, 2007

They make essentially no money. What they need is cash. Cash is such a crass gift though, especially in this situation. I suggest gift certificates to a book store or some similar universal need.
posted by caddis at 3:08 PM on July 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: First, allow me to echo the statement that the folks at these places make very little money; our kids' school just lost an awesome teacher who loves our kids, and who our kids love, because she just finally ran out of cash. Granted, tokens of appreciation wouldn't have changed her financial situation, but if you can keep a great teacher around with such activity, it's worth it.

So I gave this a lot of thought, based in large part on my own experiences at our day care facilities in the last year and a half, and I don't have a one-off gift to suggest. However, I did want to suggest something for everyday use, as it will help them feel appreciated without a contrived, rotational system (and so will be of use to people other than yourself as well):

Every day, spend a few minutes talking to the teachers, not only about your kids, but about them.

My wife (and me, to a much lesser extent) have personal relationships with our kids' teachers, because that's just the way we are. They confide quite a bit in us, and it turns out that one of the shared pet peeves among the teachers is the sheer number of parents who come, get their kids, and leave, without so much as acknowledging the teachers!

They genuinely appreciate your recognizition that they're people, and that they're an important part of your child's life (and so a relationship with you on a personal level is critical.) After all, they see your kids as much as you do in many cases, and they're acting in your stead; it's much easier for them (and better for your kids!) if they know you're all on the same page, and that they can let you know about things that went wrong without fear of an unpredictable response.

You know what? I just thought of an answer for your question, specifically, basesn on what I just said: do whatever you end up doing for your turn "on shift", but then at some point in the near future, bring them a token gift when it's NOT your shift. THAT will let them know they're appreciated even when it's not a mandated appreciative gesture, and so it'll mean ten times as much.
posted by davejay at 3:57 PM on July 24, 2007 [2 favorites]

er, recognizition is a typo, fo shizzle
posted by davejay at 4:02 PM on July 24, 2007

*Concedes complete outclassing at the hands of davejay's superior expounding technique & initiative. Calls it a day.*
posted by progosk at 4:08 PM on July 24, 2007

The teachers at a preschool my son used to attend were once given spiffy tote bags with their names embroidered on them, which they seemed to appreciate a lot.

I like jamaro's ideas of upgrading an everyday thing, like bringing gourmet coffee.
posted by not that girl at 4:50 PM on July 24, 2007

When I taught I always appreciated gift certificates to Target, restaurants, bookstores, etc. I often used my presents from parents to fund birthday and holiday presents for my friends and family. Teachers make squat.

Oh, and add my vote for "don't bring in sweets." Fat teachers aren't happy teachers. If anything, bring in fruit or a veggie tray. Or stock the fridge with yogurt or pre-made caesar salads or other such healthy food.
posted by orangemiles at 4:52 PM on July 24, 2007

When I was younger I worked as a preschool teacher for several years, and I really fell in love with those kids. I think a card with a group photo of the kids would have been fantastic. Another nice idea would be a snazzy thermos for juice or coffee (both of which were provided by the center throughout the day)
posted by Sufi at 6:59 PM on July 24, 2007

Bring in sweets. Skinny teachers aren't happy teachers. Don't torture them with health food.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:21 PM on July 24, 2007

For my son's second grade teacher I helped him make a birdfeeder out of a pinecone. You slather the pinecone in peanut butter, then roll it in bird seed. We used a pipe cleaner for the hook.

The teacher really loved it, she said gifts that the children made themselves were so special to her. The birdfeeder was hung outside of the classroom window. All the children enjoyed seeing and identifying the different birds that would visit the feeder.
posted by JujuB at 10:22 PM on July 24, 2007

My wife's a preschool teacher (2-3 year olds). Every gift is appreciated, but the gifts she has probably enjoyed the most are ones where the kids obviously helped a little bit, but that's not really possible with your age range I guess.

Gift cards are pretty common during teacher appreciation week. Target and bookstore giftcards are often spent on new books or toys for the classroom, which is doubly nice because the classroom is improved, and she usually pays for those items anyway, so the gift card is benefiting her too.
posted by chndrcks at 7:18 AM on July 25, 2007

Response by poster: Thank you all for taking my request seriously and providing some very thoughtful answers.

I'm going to bring in a mix of the healthy and the bad as well as gift cards. Long term, I think the best thing I can do is to take davejay's advice (I'm rather shy) and be more engaging personally on a daily basis.

To misha's request - I have 3 kids and I work, therefore whatever hobbies I've had are now conveniently gathering dust. If I bake, I'll get distracted by whoever is screaming/bleeding/eating dog food until I smell something burning.

Again, thanks all...
posted by lostinsupermarket at 8:35 AM on July 25, 2007

How about a donation in the teachers' names to a local child/education related charity (maybe a donation to the day care itself, if it is a non-profit)? An annual mambership to a museum or professional group? A subscription to an education magazine?
posted by Rock Steady at 9:43 PM on July 25, 2007

Thanks for the mambership, ma'am. Yeesh.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:44 PM on July 25, 2007

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