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The Etiquette of Teacher Group Gifts & Thank Yous

The Etiquette of Teacher Group Gifts & Thank Yous

By Amalah

Dear Amy,

Hello! I hope this question isn’t too boring. I know it is very much a first-world problem. I thought it would be worth a shot to ask you anyway; I love the fact that someone still cares about good old-fashioned manners. (I mean, c’mon, who really puts registry details on an invitation, amirite? And don’t get me started on asking guests to address their own thank-you envelopes at a baby shower, dear God I weep for this generation!) It’s an issue I’m guessing you and many of your readers have experience with from the other side.

As a teacher, I often receive a very generous group gift from my students’ parents around the holidays. I still don’t know the proper way to thank a group of people. I teach a few different classes, so up to 50 or 60 different families get together to chip in. (I know, I feel so blessed and am very grateful. Definitely a huge perk of the job!) In years past the card accompanying the gift has never included names, just, “Happy Holidays from your class!”

Do I send a Xerox of the same typed thank-you note to each family? Buy and hand-write 60 personal cards, even if I don’t know who contributed? Email a cute e-card to everyone? As a parent, what would you expect?

Thanks so much in advance!

Spoiled Teacher

Not boring! I love this topic, and I imagine the comments will be especially enlightening/helpful for both teachers and parents.

In my opinion, a large group gift that arrives without individual names of contributors can be thanked via a single email. I’d skip the e-card option and instead write something heartfelt in your own words. “Dear Parents, thank you so much for your support and generosity, I am so genuinely enjoying this school year, getting to know you and your children, blah blah blah” Something that acknowledges the gift but is also a general “thanks for being great parents/happy holidays” note so anyone who didn’t contribute to the gift doesn’t feel super weird. Be sure to BCC the recipients so you don’t expose email addresses or accidentally set off an annoying Reply All fiasco.

I’d PERSONALLY prefer an email over a copied piece of paper, mostly because we parents deal with waaaaay too much paper already. Your note will get glanced at and then added to our towering recycling pile. And to me (commenters feel free to disagree), an email in my inbox actually feels more personal than getting a Xeroxed typed note. That’s what I get from my kids’ schools about fundraisers and afterschool clubs. The emails I get from their teachers are the communications I view as the most personalized and important.

(Look at me, guys! I will never ever be down with registry info on shower invites but I am admitting a preference for an emailed thank-you note!!! Welcome to this century, Amy!!)

When I contribute to a group gift, I don’t typically expect to get a personalized handwritten note, especially when I know how many families were probably involved. If the class is like, 10 kids in a tiny preschool and you got a card signed by each family who contributed, sure, knock yourself out with the paper notes. But mostly the group gift is supposed to make everybody’s lives easier, including (and especially) the recipients! So if we’re talking 50-60 families…oy. No way. And if I opted NOT to contribute for some reason (i.e. I forgot, missed the deadline), getting a handwritten note would make me feel really bad/guilty because you took all that time to thank the wrong person.

The only time I…well, not EXPECT, but appreciate a handwritten thank-you note from a teacher is when I send in an individual gift. Mostly because I want to make sure my kid actually gave it to you!! Usually I get the notes the very same day — smart teachers keep a stack of blank notes on hand to quickly dash off an acknowledgement that goes immediately into the folder/backpack. Again, the last thing I want my gift to do is create extra work for you…I just don’t necessarily trust my kids to remember the gift card I put in their folder with a million reminders that it’s to be hand-delivered to you.

Okay, maybe I lied a tiny bit about not really needing the note for anything other than delivery confirmation. One year I opted for Amazon gift cards, delivered via email so I could cut out the child-sized middlemen. (That was also a year that I had six different teachers to get gifts for and zero classrooms were organized enough to put a group option together.)  I used photos of each kid posing with each teacher and included a note and frankly, a pretty generous dollar amount. Amazon lets you see that your e-gift was successfully delivered, opened and accepted by the recipient (so you can resend in case you suspect it got caught in spam). Out of six teachers, I received either a thank you email or card from three. That did kinda bug me.

This doesn’t apply to YOU, OP, since not acknowledging the gift in some way is obviously not even on your radar. Some kind of acknowledgement of gifts from parents is appreciated. No need to go overboard, though. Just pick the simplest and most direct form of communication at your disposal and say thanks.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Holly

    November 20, 2015 at 4:10 pm

    Isn’t this a thank you gift for the teacher?  So do we really need to get thank you’s for our thank you?

    • Rebecca

      November 21, 2015 at 6:47 pm

      Thanks for your thoughtful post on this topic!  I’m a high school teacher, and I have two follow-up questions.

      1) At my school, students give gifts as a thank you, not for the holidays, and the gifts are not group gifts, but individual ones. I’ve been teaching there for ten years, and our faculty is pretty divided on the issue of thank you notes.  Some teachers suggest that all gifts deserve thank you notes, while others wonder why we would write thank you notes for thank you gifts… any thoughts?

      2) These gifts are given to us by high school students, so if we should write thank you cards, should they be sent to the parents or the students?  With elementary students, I’d address the card to the parents… but with high school students it’s not always so clear cut.  I mean, it might actually have been the student who made that plate of brownies.  


  • Ashley

    November 20, 2015 at 6:41 pm

    I’m not sure if it’s a product of where I live or what, but until my high school graduation I never sent or received a single thank you note for any gift. Every time I read one of these advice smackdowns about etiquette for thank you notes I wonder if I’ve been unintentionally offending people my entire life by not sending thank you notes for anything. I suppose all I can do now is change my ways and write them for all future presents.

    • Lisa

      December 9, 2015 at 12:43 am

      This is totally me! First time I felt that thank you notes were required was starting with wedding showers. I hope we haven’t been making people mad!

  • Jelourai

    November 21, 2015 at 6:56 am

    I agree with Amy! This happens in my office – when all 60 of us chip in a few bucks for a gift for the director, she thanks us via mass email with a nice note, and everyone’s happy! And yeah, less paper = good.

  • OP

    November 21, 2015 at 3:10 pm

    Thanks so much for taking time to answer my question, Amy! Great advice. Thanks to the commenters, too!

  • EG1972

    November 22, 2015 at 7:29 am

    Agree with Amy – I don’t need a fancy card or individual response, but do like to know gift was received/appreciated.

  • Jeanne

    November 22, 2015 at 1:28 pm

    i teach older students so it’s a bit different, but I generally thank the student directly unless it is signed only by the parent. It hadn’t really occurred to me to do a thank you note for a thank you gift. (And they generally come at my super busy times too.).

  • slydegirll

    November 23, 2015 at 11:24 am

    To answer some of the commenters questions – I was taught by my stickler and old-school grandmother that you send a thank-you note for any gift, any time, for any reason. Even a gift that is in itself a thank you. In a way, it’s a nice way to acknowledge the appreciation you’ve been shown. 

  • Felicity Marie

    November 23, 2015 at 1:19 pm

    When I give a thank you gift, I do not expect a thank you note. Because I am already saying thank you for something! But – this is from the perspective of a mom of a preschooler. I hand the gift directly to the teacher and I know that he or she has received it. So, grain of salt, etc.

  • Amanda

    November 23, 2015 at 1:36 pm

    I have also struggled with this issue as an elementary teacher! I don’t have anywhere near the number of students, but I have received gifts from groups of about 15 students–signed just “From your class”. In that case, I write an individual note to each family, mentioning something specifically I’ve enjoyed about working with that student, looking forward to the rest of the year, and thanking the student for their hard work and the parents for their support. That way, if they were in on the gift, it is covered, and if they weren’t, it’s not awkward. I write the notes over Christmas break and either mail or give to the students when we come back (because I know they would be lost in the shuffle if I sent them home on the day before break, and I’d rather take a few minutes to write a real note than trying to jot one in the chaos of that crazy day!)

    I actually do the same thing when I receive individual gifts, and always write one to all my students–usually there are just a couple who do not bring a gift (which I know is a wonderful thing, and not at all expected!), but they are often the ones who could most benefit from getting their own thank you note…

  • Bethany

    November 23, 2015 at 11:09 pm

    Will someone please explain to me why having people address their own thank you card envelopes is rude? The alternative – at least, when I got married and had a baby in the past 4 years – was a month of emails and texts trying to find addresses, plus a significant number being returned due to misprinted or outdated information.

  • Anna

    November 24, 2015 at 11:29 pm

    If you’ve invited someone to your wedding or baby shower you should have their address. Once you have their address, enter it in an old school address book or in a spreadsheet. Update as you receive mail from these people / hear that they have moved.

    Having people address their own envelopes saves YOU time, and is frankly one or two steps short of using a form thank you note.

    • Bethany

      December 10, 2015 at 11:11 pm

      Except that my wedding shower was given by ladies from my church, and the way they do it, a blanket invitation is passed around in all the adult classes. I never had their addresses to start with. Same with the wedding – our pastor read an invitation in church the Sunday before the wedding.

  • Polly

    January 31, 2016 at 4:22 pm

    I was always taught that you do not write a thank you for a thank you (and teachers gifts are always thank you’s!) I am a teacher and do not write notes for the gifts I receive – anything from a box of chocolates to a generous gift card. And I certainly do not expect thank you notes from my (elementary age) daughter’s teachers for the holiday and end of year gifts we send in. That parents would expect a thank you for their gift of thanks is outrageous to me.