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Hot Gifts for Teacher

Today’s Xmas lesson: Tipping is not a city in China.


As Christmas break nears, parents are struggling with their own tricky homework assignment: what to give their kids’ teachers. Forget shiny red apples. Nowadays, Starbucks gift cards, scarves from Ann Taylor, and Coach bags earn passing grades. One mother distinctly remembers a classmate cutting in on the gift line with an enormous package. “It was,” she says, “Hermès orange.”

True grade grubbers have been known to fork over plain old cash. Not that they’re expecting any kind of quid pro quo . . . right? “Some parents can pay for a teacher’s vacation,” says a mom who favors certificates for manicures. “God only knows what goes on behind the scenes.” “You pay so much in fees already,” moans a West Side mom whose PTA decreed a “voluntary gift” of $100 (teacher’s total: $1,600). “My friend at P.S. 6 says it’s a nightmare there, too.”

Nightingale-Bamford encourages a $10 ceiling. It also suggests gifts be homemade, as does Horace Mann. Calhoun and Heschel on the Upper West Side advise equal amounts to each teacher. At Friends Seminary, parents also write checks to a fund. But then how do teachers know who gave what? “I try not to involve myself with those details,” says one mother. “If I wanted to do that, I’d move to the suburbs.”


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