The Case For Tipping Teachers

I don’t know why Christmas presents for teachers is a ‘hot topic,’ but I’ve seen it in a few groups I belong to where people are up in arms over being asked to kick a few bucks in the kitty for a gift card for the class teacher.

You know the routine. The class parent sends around an email asking everyone to donate what they can so the class can give the teacher a gift at Christmas. It’s politely worded, it’s not mandatory, but if you don’t respond to that first one, you’ll get a second, and maybe a third.

Maybe it’s the repeated requests that get on people’s nerves? Because surely it can’t be about giving the teacher a gift – can it? Because when you think about it – what’s wrong with tipping teachers at Christmas?

You’re going to tip $20 to a waitress for bringing you some beers and burgers on a Saturday night, but you’re angsting up over giving $10 to the person who helps your kid for 150 days a year? The person who wipes your kid’s butt after kindergarten accidents isn’t worth a $10 tip? The person who helps 20+ kids tie their shoes 3 times a day isn’t worth a small token? When you get paid by the hour, you get time and a half for working overtime, what about the person who stays after class to help your kid understand?

Yes, teachers have a strong union that affords them many benefits that most of us could only dream about, but when you think about the job they do, the important roll it plays in our life, isn’t it worth just a small smile and nod and gesture – especially at Christmas?

Tipping culture is out of control, I get it. Especially at this time of year with the etiquette stories on the news telling us who to tip and how much, it can get a little overwhelming.

I wish we were all paid a living wage for what we do and the “bribing” part of the transaction was left off the receipt. I don’t like the guilt I feel clicking past the tip function on the Interac machine when I pick up my Chinese take-out. The meal costs $30, I drove there to pick it up, why do I need to tip again? I hate it.

BUT .. at this time of year, we do reach out and give gifts and thanks to the people who help us out all year long. We will give small tokens of thanks to the mail carrier, and the city crews who pick up our trash each week. Christmas cards are landing in my mailbox from my financial planner, my real estate agent, and from clients I’ve worked with throughout the year. So .. where’s the harm in serving up something and tipping teachers at Christmas?

The teacher gift has always been something in my life. It’s just that now, in our gift card culture, we hand over some cash instead of a useless trinket, box of chocolates, or a bright, shiny apple for their desk. When the entire class chips in $10-$20 each, the same amount you likely would have spent on a useless trinket, the ‘class parent’ can hand over a card with a few hundred dollars. Enough to offset that out-of-pocket expense that teachers often make for classroom supplies. Enough to have a massage, enough to say “thanks.”

But it can’t be too much – at least in Massachusetts where dad blogging friend Aaron Gouveia (The Daddy Files) notes that teachers can’t accept gifts more than $150. 

Yes, tipping is out of control, so dial it back. Tip those who matter. Give gifts to those who truly make an impact in your life. $10 at Christmas to your kids’ teacher is $1 a month. It’s a nickel a day to say “thanks for caring about my kids as much as I do.”

Tipping teachers at Christmas is a small token for someone who makes a big impact, unlike the $20 you just handed to the waitress bringing you beers and burgers at the bar.

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