Friday, June 28, 2013

Tipping the Teacher



I have a love/hate relationship with tipping. As someone who has worked as a waitress, a barrista, a babysitter and a camp counselor, I fully recognize that tipping is hugely important to those who work for (or around) minimum wage. I didn’t bust my butt at those jobs JUST BECAUSE I knew it would result in good tips, but counting up my bonus at the end of the day, or at the end of the summer, was definitely THE thrilling highlight of those careers.

But BECAUSE I have worked many jobs that were hugely impacted by tips, I am now a very generous, very guilt-ridden tipper. Every time we eat out, I leave the restaurant wondering if we were generous enough with our tip – after all, the poor waitress had to deal with our chaotic entourage, and our two kids always manage to leave a treasure trove of straw wrappers, spilled salt, and bread crusts under our table. In my mind, tipping our server is a way of making sure that if we are to return to the same restaurant, we won’t see our photo on a “MOST WANTED” sign posted on the establishment’s door.

So if I am THAT laden with guilt when it comes to tipping for food service, you can only imagine the anxiety I experience when my daughter’s school year comes to an end, and it is time to tip her teachers.

On the one hand, tipping teachers doesn’t quite make sense to me. I FULLY acknowledge that teachers are underpaid and overworked, and I think that totally SUCKS. I think teachers (especially early childhood teachers) should be paid like rock stars, because seriously, they ARE rock stars.

But just because the world is totally effed up, and teachers (especially early childhood teachers) are paid in peanut shells, should the parents feel the need to make up for it with our holiday and end-of-year tipping? We already pay OUT THE NOSE for daycare for our child. If we weren’t paying for daycare, we could afford to buy a new car EVERY TWO YEARS. So in a way, feeling obligated to ALSO tip the teachers is like pouring salt on a very open, very festering wound.

But on the other hand? My daughter’s teachers are demigods. Every day, when I drop Em off at school, I look around the room at all of the crazy, sniffly, cranky, rambunctious kids, and I just think “how in the WORLD do they DO it?” And I mean, I KNOW how hard it is to watch my daughter for nine hours a day. Her attention span is exactly three seconds long. She has the patience of a crack addict. Yet, somehow, her teachers have managed to wrangle her energy and keep her from killing herself for the past 365 days. For that, I feel like I owe them ALL of my money. ALL of it.

So of course we end up tipping the daycare teachers, twice a year. But again, the minute I hand them the envelope, I am wracked with guilt. Did we give them enough? Will they open the envelope and laugh at our “gift”? If I am walking down the street with my two kids, years from now, will they try to run me over with their car because I didn’t give them enough? What is ENOUGH, when it comes to tipping a teacher?

I am glad that yesterday was Em’s last day at daycare, and that we will be starting life as a stay-at-home family next week, for a multitude of reasons. One of those reasons? I won’t have to deal with “tip-the-teacher” guilt for at least a few more years.


How do you deal with tipping the teacher? I’d love to hear from you!

8 comments:

  1. Actually, check with the center's rules. As a not for profit, their boards and employess likely have to abide by a code of ethics which often includes a note about "gifts" being token and no more than $75. Public schools also fall under this rule and some lower it.

    This link seems reasonable. http://childcare.about.com/od/costofchildcare/a/tip.htm (Not the weekly cost though! That seems a bit much.)

    Can you ask other parents what they are doing?

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    1. I feel like asking other parents in the classroom is kind of taboo... I didn't exceed the level dictated by the code of ethics, though :) Thanks for the insight!!
      Love you,
      d

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  2. Voice of Reason (ALB Edition)June 28, 2013 at 9:38 AM

    To be honest, this is the first I've heard of tipping the teacher. Don't get me wrong, we do our best to make sure our Little One gives a thoughtful gift for thank you on Teacher Appreciation Day or a Christmas gift. I am starting to think of ideas for her to give to her teachers when she leaves to start Kindegarten in the fall. However, I never thought to tip them... have we been doing it wrong?

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    1. I think a lot of parents do as you do, and give a gift rather than a "tip." But even in gift-giving, you kind of have to decide how much you are going to spend on the gift, or the materials to make the gift, right?
      I think we just send Emmy to the "lazy parents school," where tipping is easier than making a picture frame, so that's just what they do. :)
      Great. Now I have guilt about not MAKING a gift for Emmy's teachers, and giving them something so common and unimaginative. ;)

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  3. I have taught for 28 years and have never, ever heard of "tipping the teacher". The things that have meant the most to me were the parents who took the time to write a nice note in a card. I have kept them all over the years to cheer me on the days I start thinking that I should have changed my major all those years ago.

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    1. Well, I assure you that I DID write a nice note card to go with the gratuity. It seems like my daughter's daycare may be an exception to the rule when it comes to tipping. I'm glad to hear it, because it means a lot less parents are stressing out about this issue than I thought might be!
      Thank you for taking the time to read and respond,
      d

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  4. I have been teaching early childcare for about 10 years and have never receieved any cash. Having worked in several areas of the country, I know for a fact that the type and frequency of gifts depend on both the region you are in as well as the average income of the region.

    That being said, the best gifts I have ever gotten are things that are usefull, but that I wouldn't buy for myself. A super cute Rachel Ray lunchbox, a fancy note pad and pens, expensive chocolates... Ok that last one is a little less usefull :-) But think of things you know your teacher does and what would be cool for her to have for those things (aka... One student knew I packed lunch every day). Also once a family delivered a HUGE basket of treats and snacks from a local bake shop that all of us teachers shared over break and that was really, really nice.

    As you can imagine, little cards and drawing always go a long, long way as well. The things that stick out most in my memory are the things that the kids themselves put time and effort into making for me.

    No matter what you give or how much you spend, know that even just by saying "thank you" you are touching our hearts and make us remember why we do what we do, even with poop on our hands and barf on our shoes.

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    1. thank you thank you for this incredibly thoughtful and insightful response. as a parent, i've always worried that a more personalized gift to a teacher might come off as awkward, but reading your response makes me realize that's probably not true. i am definitely taking your words to heart, and will think of your answer when planning future gifts for teachers.
      and a HUGE thank you from us parents, for dealing with the constant barrage of poop and puke. teachers are AMAZING.
      d

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