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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 [email protected].

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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