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Teachers work hard. They deserve better than your tacky novelty mug


Most of the time, teachers don’t want token presents. Not because they don’t value the thought or effort, but because they don’t expect them. Mostly, they’d prefer you save your time, money and energy on pretty much anything else, especially this year when we’re in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis.

This isn’t because they are unappreciative, but because like everybody else, they prefer presents that are meaningful.

Some of the best Christmas presents I’ve seen former colleagues receive over the years were thoughtful or funny notes written by their students; drawings; framed photos from a school camp or excursion; arts or crafts their students made; and in one case, a personalised ornament that they could hang on the class tree. In other words, items that represent the student and teacher, and their individual learning journey together.

And in a profession that is often subjected to criticism, excessive workloads, stress and burnout, refilling a teacher’s cup with an appreciative note acknowledging their contribution can make for a much greater gift than a relaxation bath pack or box of Ferrero Rocher ever could. What’s more, they don’t cost a thing.

For me, the sentimental items are the ones I have tucked away and that I still value above my expansive mug collection. They’re the ones that still make me smile to this day.

If you’re reading this post-mug purchase, don’t despair. We’ve all done it. Despite my insight into the world of teacher Christmas gift-giving, I too have gone down the path of poor present choices for my daughters’ educators.


One notable facepalm moment was giving their teacher a stress ball that looked like a pug dog. The teacher adored pugs, so I thought this was a surefire win. Unfortunately, I discovered days later during a parent-teacher interview that she already had three identical stress balls sitting on her desk, also gifted to her by well-meaning parents.

While I’m sure this teacher didn’t need (or even appreciate) multiple squishy pugs, at least it showed I had been on the money in terms of what she liked, which made it a far better gift than a half-empty bottle of perfume, out-of-date chocolates or pre-lit candles – all of which I received from students.

Over those, I’d take a pug stress-ball or handwritten note any day.

Shona Hendley is a freelance writer living in Victoria.

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