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Your School Meeting Baking Guide

Your School Meeting Baking Guide

By Mir Kamin

You know how fine dining guides and cookbooks will give you tips on wine pairings? I’m terrible at that; my feeling about wine is “it’s good and you should drink the kind you like regardless of what you’re eating,” so I’m the wrong person to query about the proper vintage to go with your risotto. On the other hand, I am absolutely the right person to ask about what to bake for school meetings.

See, there’s usually one of two reactions when I tell people I never go to a meeting at school without a basket of home-baked goodies: People either think I’m a genius, or they think I’m being “too nice.” Here’s a little secret I’ve learned after a decade of special education meetings with a wide variety of teachers and school administrators: There’s no such thing as “too nice.” Most of the time I’m meeting with folks who have a vested interest in helping my children and who are amazing and well-meaning. Those people deserve treats! Some of the time I’m meeting with folks who are rude and/or unhelpful. Those people also deserve treats, because I’m setting a tone of kindness and cooperation… and even if I’m offering those treats through gritted teeth, I try to remember that people who are making my life more difficult probably aren’t all that happy, themselves. With that in mind, here’s a handy….

School Meeting Baking Chart:

Early morning non-emergency meeting. (This would include plan renewals or other routine sorts of check-ins.) Go with a muffin that’s hearty and healthy; you want something yummy, but not overly sweet. You’re going for “I’m a responsible human who enjoys a balanced diet but still wants to bring you baked goods.”
Best selections: Raisin oat bran, morning glory, anything with rolled oats.

Early morning kind-of-an-emergency meeting. (Called because there is An Issue you’d like the school to address.) These meetings call for a lighter and sweeter muffin. Citrus will make the room smell good and kind of brighten everyone’s outlook, which is a subtle way to make things more pleasant. You’re going for “I realize this is a difficult conversation but I think we could all use a little treat.”
Best selections: Orange cranberry, lemon poppy, anything with berries.

Early morning sorry-my-kid-is-such-a-butthead meeting. (Called because there is An Issue for which your child is culpable.) If you must stick with muffins, now is the time to pull out all the stops: go with a streusel or icing topping (or both, if things are really bad). Even better: make scones. Scones are impressive. You’re going for “I am totally pretending not to grovel with my baking but I am totally groveling with my baking.”
Best selections: Apple fritter muffin, cinnamon streusel muffin, any flavor scone.
(Note: In the case of A True Crisis, I Am Going To Kill That Child, from-scratch cinnamon rolls—preferably utilizing a Cinnabon copycat recipe—may be warranted. Proceed with caution and bring extra napkins.)

Midday or after-school non-emergency meeting. Again, your message is one of moderation but taste. This is a good time for the kinds of cookies your children like to insist aren’t really cookies because where’s the chocolate, Mom?? Don’t make anything so healthy that it’s no longer a treat, though. (Any cookie recipe which uses whole wheat flour doesn’t count.)
Best selections: Oatmeal raisin cookies, homemade granola bars, macaroons, mini-meringues.

Midday or after-school kind-of-an-emergency meeting. This is a great time to bust out any “family favorite” cookie recipe. When in doubt, use chocolate chips. You have a wide field of discretion, here, in that you’re going for sweet treats that won’t lead to a sugar coma but cannot be mistaken for health food.
Best selections: Chocolate chip cookies, gooey bars, lace cookies, any cookie that’s made someone spontaneously declare, “I need this recipe.”

Midday or after-school sorry-my-kid-is-such-a-butthead meeting. Go for the sugar coma. Make it clear that you’ve spent a significant amount of time in the kitchen wishing things had turned out differently. Your goal is a treat so delicious, your child’s sins may be forgiven in a haze of diabetic ecstasy.
Best selections: Cake (with frosting), homemade versions of whoopie pies or Oreos, truffles.


Christmas is coming! Here’s your bonus recommendations:

Winter break teacher gifts, no active crises. This is the perfect time to hand out entire buckets of assorted baked goods, assuming that you’ve already had enough interaction with these teachers to know that they tend to appreciate your offerings. If they like everything and nothing difficult is happening, bake an assortment, pack it up in something pretty, and wish ’em happy holidays.
Best selections: I like to go with at least four options—one traditional holiday (I do old-fashioned molasses), one “broad-appeal” (like chocolate chip), one that’s simply pretty (generally a shaped and/or frosted sugar or mint cookie), and one slightly more decadent offering (fudge or bark).

Winter break teacher gifts, recent or low-level active crises. Have you been paying attention to which teachers like what? Good. Give them their favorite, whatever that is. I have one school person who doesn’t eat sweets at all, so for Christmas I’ll make spiced nuts now that I know what they’d actually like.
Best selections: Whatever you decide to make, make it the prettiest and the most delicious batch of it ever.

Winter break teacher gifts, active and hair-pulling crises. Sometimes baked goods simply aren’t enough. Recognize and honor those times.
Best selections: Money, booze, tears. (Kidding! I’m kidding. No one wants your tears.) (Still just kidding! You could get in trouble for giving booze or money. So, um, don’t ever give money. And I would never recommend booze because that would be wrong. Would you like a cookie…?)

About the Author

Mir Kamin

Mir Kamin began writing about her life online over a decade ago, back when she was a divorced mom trying to raise two regular little kids and figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now ...

Mir Kamin began writing about her life online over a decade ago, back when she was a divorced mom trying to raise two regular little kids and figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now her life looks very different than it did back then: Those little kids turned into anything-but-regular teenagers, she is remarried, and somehow she’s become one of those people who talks to her dogs in a high-pitched baby voice. Along the way she’s continued chronicling the everyday at Woulda Coulda Shoulda, plus she’s bringing you daily bargain therapy at Want Not. The good news is that Mir grew up and became a writer and she still really likes hanging out with her kids; the bad news is that her hair is a lot grayer than it used to be.

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  • Ally

    December 9, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    My daughter is currently in kindergarten, and due to overcrowding a new teacher is starting after Christmas and they are dividing up all the classes. I have a meeting with the principal tomorrow in which I hope to express how much I want my daughter to stay where she is without sounding too pathetic or demanding. What kind of muffins should I bring?

    • Mir Kamin

      December 9, 2014 at 3:53 pm

      Hmmmmm. Too sweet/amazing and you look like you’re bribing. Too healthy and you risk not achieving the proper result.

      Carrot cake with frosting, maybe? (Honestly, this is way harder than wine!) 😉

  • Kate

    December 9, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    Maybe I just worked with a bunch of crazies but when I was working int he school system I saw too many teachers automatically throw out any homemade edible gifts to ever bother baking for a teacher again. Keep in mind that this was because they didn’t trust the parents food prep safety and we worked in an affluent area and the kids all came to school clean and well dressed so there was no logical reason for this suspicion. (I don’t mean to imply that poorer families don’t necessarily keep clean houses but it would be too PC not to acknowledge that they’re more likely to live in situations that make that difficult). 

    • Mir Kamin

      December 9, 2014 at 3:54 pm

      I’ve heard this before, Kate, that teachers throw away homemade stuff. I think we live in a district where not a lot of parents provide food, for one thing, and for another, because I am present with the food items (and a decent baker) the teachers come to learn that 1) I’m not poisoning them and 2) what I bring is pretty good.

      • Kate

        December 10, 2014 at 10:08 am

        Yeah, I was thinking more about the winter gift suggestions. It probably is a lot different when you’re right there, especially since we sometimes develop very close relationships with the staff on our kids special education teams. 

  • Sara

    December 10, 2014 at 3:42 am

    What is your favorite place to find all these fabulous recipes? I’d like to make some treats for the teachers in my kid’s life, but I seem to always choose dud recipes from the internet. Help meh? Plz?

    • Mir Kamin

      December 10, 2014 at 10:17 am

      Sara, some of my favorite recipes are ones shared from friends, but when Googling for recipes I suggest looking at reviews and reading the comments. I have a number of beloved recipes which are modified from the original per commenters’ suggestions, so it takes a bit of patience to figure out what’s yummy.

      I’ve never met a Simply Recipes or Brown Eyed Baker recipe I didn’t like, and this is the cinnamon roll recipe my kids love (it calls for a bread machine, which I don’t have, but you don’t really need one). In general I find that AllRecipes has some gems if you’re willing to take the time to sift through the chaff. 🙂

  • Anne

    December 10, 2014 at 10:40 am

    Gifts are discouraged at our school because there is a state law against it. Essentially, a teacher cannot receive more than $50 a year in gifts, so homemade treats are the only recourse really. I bake but sugar things are a dime a dozen. I do the no- knead dough about once a week so I always have bread on hand. A simple boule with butter for a normal meeting, nutella filled challah for emergencies/ I’m sorry/ please meetings. And chocolate bread with cherry preserves for gifts.
    Honestly, nothing smells or tastes like fresh bread.

    • Mir Kamin

      December 10, 2014 at 11:51 am

      I’m sorry, I stopped listening (and drooled all over my keyboard) once I got to “nutella.” 😉

  • […] me what a horrible person I am for implying that everyone has time to bake)—I put together a handy guide for appropriate school meeting baking for you over at Alpha Mom. You have questions about muffins, and I have answers. (Or, you know, you […]

  • Rebecca

    December 10, 2014 at 12:42 pm

    Bring on the booze and money! Sorry – Visa Gift Card I can spend at wine store . . . 

    As a teacher (and especially as a middle school teacher) I appreciate any gift at all during the year. The gift of a kind and thankful e-mail can be so appreciated when I’m ready to pull my hair out and throw in the towel.

    Its easy to get your child’s teacher a gift when your kiddo is in elementary school and they a) see only one main teacher for the majority of the day and b) are much more willing to tell you about said teacher. But please don’t forget the middle school and high school teachers and the special (gym, art, music, special services)! We love your kids too! 

    • Kate

      December 11, 2014 at 7:33 pm

      Not when your kid has an IEP! This year I only need 4 gifts for my son’s teachers (classroom teacher, special educator, para-professional, and speech pathologist) plus 2 more for the bus driver and her aide. That sounds like a lot but it’s a lot less than the last 2 years where I needed 6 teacher gifts and 4 for bus drivers/aides. 

  • Andrea

    December 10, 2014 at 3:47 pm

    My mother is a teacher and it depended on the child if we’d eat it. Clear evidence the child did not assist in baking helped or non sweets. We get such a sugar coma and love to bake ourselves that cookies weren’t a win for us. Small personal cakes were a favorite one year. I personally give beer bread. Honey for coworkers, rosemary and thyme for family, chedder garlic for friends… Unlimited possibilities and so easy! Love your list!

  • jen

    December 10, 2014 at 9:02 pm

    What??? Booze is a no-no? That’s my go-to teacher’s gift. I try to go with what I know they like, and if jein doubt choose a bottle of wine they can be proud to repurpose as a hostess gift over the holidays if it’s not their preference.

    • Mir Kamin

      December 11, 2014 at 8:09 am

      Depends on your district, Jen, but in ours it’s not allowed. (People still do it, of course, but you have to be careful not to get the teachers in trouble!)

  • Brigitte

    December 10, 2014 at 9:25 pm

    How dare you imply – oh, who am I kidding, I love baking treats.  Mainly because I do double-batches and keep one batch for ourselves.  😉

  • Mel

    December 11, 2014 at 1:41 am

    My aunt teaches at a private school…the gifts ranged from coffee mugs…bc no one can have too many? to sugary treats (she is a healthy eater). I know for sure she appreciates gift cards to teaching supply stores.  One year almost all the teachers asked the school to send out an email to parents asking them to donate to a charity they all knew was trustworthy.  Still they were given gifts they couldn’t use.  Wow this is long…so while food is awesome for gifts knowing your teachers eating habits is definitely a PLUS! 

  • liz

    December 11, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    My family has a tradition of making hand-rolled truffles for the holidays. I think I’ll send some in for my son’s teachers. 

  • traci

    December 13, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    Teacher here. It’s very hard to stay healthy when you teach because it seems everything’s a reason for baked goods. Homemade is great. Try for something at least quasi healthy-chocolate dipped fruit anyone-or savory to balance the mountain of sweet. And you can never go wrong with coffee or coffee cards. A reusable kcup with a bag of fancy coffee would be good since most schools have keurigs in the teachers’ lounge. Tea is also awesome. If you are well off target gift cards have been favorites among those I’ve worked with as well. But really, just a handmade card is the ultimate. We teachers are really big on it’s the thought that counts.

  • AN

    December 15, 2014 at 10:38 am

    I worked for many years as a school speech-language pathologist and it’s a good thing our families never thought to bring baked goods…I’m sure we would have found a “need” for quite a number of meetings with those parents, if they had! Mmm…homemade cinnamon buns!

  • Nancy R

    December 23, 2014 at 10:31 pm

    I go a different way and send a big fruit tray in for the faculty and staff (Vit C to ward off cold and flu season!), and then…give individual teachers a gift card to the local winery (like booze, and re-giftable should they so choose).

    Healthy and boozy!