By Jane Morris

It’s always a gamble come the holidays or the end of the year when it comes to what (if any) gifts admin will give the teachers. While many schools are generous during Teacher Appreciation Week with massages, delicious lunches, and more, some admin opt for crappy puns and useless junk. After polling other teachers on social media, these are officially the worst teacher gifts from administration ever.

Worst Teacher Gifts

Teachers don’t expect gifts from administration at all. They don’t owe us anything for doing our jobs. However, if they are going to put something in our mailbox during Teacher Appreciation Week or the holidays, we’d rather it not be something condescending and obnoxious. A handwritten note would be nice. But a pen that was taken from the supply closet with a printed piece of paper that says, “You’re an INKcredible teacher!” No thanks.

Something about getting a crappy gift from admin feels like a slap in the face, especially since they make so much more money than us, and often make our jobs much more difficult than they have to be.

Awful Teacher Gifts from Admin

Here are some of the worst gifts teachers have received from their administration, ranked from not so bad to the absolute worst. And yes, these are all real gifts given to real teachers. (As always, my snarky teacher commentary is provided in italics.)

Sucker covered in bugs with an attached note that says - Teacher Appreciation. Keep on Blowing. Keep on Popping.

Painful Puns

Recently, cheesy puns attached to lame snacks or office supplies have been all the rage in schools. If you want to give me some Cheez-its, that’s fine, as long as they’re not expired. But when you attach a cheesy pun that says, “We think you’re grate!” there’s something so annoying about it that it makes me want to smash the crackers with a tight fist to relieve stress.

Why do people in a position of power think that teachers love puns? It just shows how view us as children.

The Mint Puns: This is the hottest Christmas gift for admins to give. They take one peppermint or a candy cane and attach a tag that says some garbage about commitMINT, encouragMINT, involvMINT, or investMINT and feel like geniuses. Sometimes they get creative and say it’s for your enjoyMINT or tell you that you were MINT to be a teacher. (And that’s when I spend all afternoon sucking that candy cane into a very sharp point and fantasizing about using it to show them how I feel about their gift.)

Then there’s the Chapstick with “Chappy New Year!” or the even more embarrassing “You’re the balm!” Ugh. Puns.

Punny Gifts From Admin

When I asked teachers to submit their worst teacher gifts, puns were on a majority of the gifts. Here are some of the most painfully “punny” teacher gifts from administration.

  • A nail file with the message “We’d file you under awesome every day! Mani thanks for all you do!” At least this is useful!

  • A two-inch-long piece of rope that says, “Hold the rope! Pull together! Thanks for all you do!” For real, what does this even mean? I can’t actually use this little rope piece for anything so what is the point? You just thought you were being clever, huh? You should stick to your day job.

  • A small container of Play-Doh with the words, “Doh-not forget how special you are!” Cool. I’ll give it to my toddler because that is who actually likes getting Play-Doh as a gift.

  • A sample-sized packet of honey with a note saying, “Thanks for BEEING here!” Thanks. I think I might accidentally squeeze this onto your chair at our next faculty meeting.

  • A tiny potted cactus with the message, “We’re so happy to have to you at our school that we wet our plants!” Actually, I kind of like this one because I’m extremely immature and a plant is a cool gift that I will kill within a week.
  • A box of spaghetti with a label that says, “Thanks for being PASTA-tively wonderful!” Whomp.

  • A succulent plant with a note that says, “Succ it up, you got this!” during COVID. While this is extremely obnoxious, I friggin’ love squeezing the crap out of those succulent leaves.

  • “You are an egg-cellent teacher!” written on a plastic Easter egg with nothing in it. I mean, if you’re going to give me one stinkin’ Easter egg, at least pop a few dollar store jelly beans in there!

  • Bag of popcorn that says, “This may sound corny, but we just wanted to pop by and say you’re appreciated!” Yes, it’s extremely corny. Leave the snack and eff off.

  • “Couldn’t mask for a better teacher!” attached to, you guessed it, a free surgical mask! You shouldn’t have! No. Seriously. YOU SHOULDN’T HAVE.

  • A Taco seasoning packet or small bag of Doritos that say, “Nacho average teacher.” I feel like there is some kind of hilarious prank I can pull off with the seasoning. Maybe sprinkle it into the principal’s hairbrush so they smell like a taco or something?

  • A can of soda that says, “Pop pop, fizz fizz, what a good teacher you is!” Do I even have to explain how dumb this is, or does it speak for itself?

Garbage, Like, Literally Trash

Quick note to admin: If you’re going to give us anything that looks like trash or is something that has no use and will immediately go in the trash, please don’t even bother.

  • A yellow paper that says, “Keep on blowin’, keep on poppin’,” with a Blow Pop attached that was literally covered in ants under the wrapper. See the image and shudder to think.

  • A broken Pop-Tart that says “Treat Yo Elf.” I don’t even get this. Okay, it’s Christmas-themed, thus the elf reference. But what does an elf have to do with a Pop-Tart?

  • Slippers that are literally made out of maxi pads. If you haven’t seen these, they’re absolutely, shockingly strange. Who thought of his, and why, should be filed away as one of life’s great mysteries!

  • A plastic spoon that says “We appreciate everything you do to lift students up on a regular basis.” So, like, the spoon is a metaphor for all the lifting I do? I don’t get it. Cuz it’s dumb.

  • A plastic solo cup with a tag that says, “Thanks for quenching our students’ thirst for knowledge.” If only we got clean water that didn’t cause dysentery from the school water fountain, I might have a use for this cup.

  • An empty Ziploc bag “full of love.” Please see the image and understand that THIS IS NOT A JOKE.
  • Toddler-sized soup dish and spoon. Great for regifting at a baby shower for a coworker you don’t like?

  • A tiny plastic bucket. Is it for my tears?

  • A broken clock. A perfect metaphor for our education system!

  • An ornament that says, “Merry Christmas 1999,” given in the year 2005. Maybe Christmas was like particularly merry that year though?

  • A seashell. Did someone actually get out there on the beach and collect these? That’s sort of amusing.

  • An actual rock with the words “You Rock!” written on it in Sharpie. Which secretary did you force to sit there and write on rocks all afternoon?

Bag with a pencil eraser, a rubber band, a marble, and two chocolates with an attached note that reads - When things get tough, here's a little something that might help!

Useless Junk

Honestly, I find useless junk and knick-knacks some of the worst teacher gifts ever. It’s not hard to come up with something even remotely useful to give a teacher to show you appreciate their hard work. These are just downright awful.

  • A bracelet that says “Follw You Heart” spelled exactly like that. Follow I shall!

  • A clipboard for use during data collection and forced meetings to discuss data. So you want me to smash this over your head when I completely lose it at the end of the day?

  • A photo of the school. I don’t like seeing it when I arrive in the morning, why would I want to think about it at any other time?

  • Two quarters and a votive candle with no wick. Just a few more quarters and vending machine, here I come! You can also ball up some of that wax and shove it in your ears during the next professional development session!

  • A glow stick with an index card that says, “Thanks for helping our school SHINE!” Cool. I’ll save it for that rave I’m planning to go to when I get in my time machine later…

  • A picture of admin’s faces floating in a snow globe. Great stress relief to smash it in the parking lot.

  • A cartoon drawing of the principal. Just think of all the weird things you could do with this! Tape it to your punching bag or toilet seat! Use it to pick up dog crap! The possibilities are endless!

Supplies We Should Be Entitled to Anyway

Just your friendly reminder that most teachers don’t get any supplies (including basic office supplies) provided to them by the school or district!

  • A ream of paper from the supply closet with a post-it that reads, “GRATITUDE is the reason for the season!” Yeah, I’m grateful for any supplies I didn’t pay for. No, I don’t like it when I’m told to be grateful. So this pack is coming home with me!

  • A coupon for two “free” packs of copy paper. Gee, I’m so moved by you allowing me to use the supplies my students need me to use I almost peed my pants.

  • A pocket pack of tissues. These double as toilet paper, which can be a hot commodity, so I’ll swallow my insult for the moment.

  • A pen that says “Be Humble” on it. A free pen is a free pen. And you can relieve stress by scratching off that obnoxious message.

  • A whiteboard marker with a tag that reads, “You are a MARK above the rest!” Well, at least I didn’t have to beg for this school supply!

  • An index card that says, “Hold onto the good!” with two colorful paperclips attached. Yes, you read that correctly. They actually give us 2 paperclips as a gift.

  • A highlighter with a tag that says, “It would be impossible to highlight all that you do!” Well, why don’t you go ahead and try. I’ll wait…

Self-Care Crap

Teachers rarely get the support, funding, paychecks, or materials they need to be successful in the classroom. Administration loves to put a Band-Aid on this problem by promoting self-care.

News flash: you’re likely part of the problem and forcing self-care on us is not helping.

  • Permission to wear JEANS. Giving me permission to wear certain clothing is NOT a gift, FYI.

  • An email list of suggestions such as “take a bubble bath” or “make a list of things you’re grateful for.” Gee, I never would have thought of those things on my own. Thank goodness I have admin. to make obnoxious suggestions like this!

  • A sheet of bubble wrap that they call “Stress Relief.” Look, I don’t care if you really love popping these. That’s not the point. The point is that THIS IS PACKAGING MATERIAL AND NOT A GIFT PEOPLE!

  • A “coupon for self-care” that suggests getting regular exercise and drinking water. As opposed to giving us an hour to get things done.

  • An email that says “We hope you are feeling loved this week. We’re here to support you” and the number for the National Suicide Hotline. Hello, major red flag for a toxic work environment!

Red plastic Solo cup with a note attached to it that reads - Thank you for quenching our students' thirst for knowledge!

Cheap Teacher Gifts from Administration

If it’s such a pitiful gift that it leaves teachers feeling less more insulted than appreciated, best not to give the gift at all.

  • A loaf of bread and a bottle of syrup. Umm, okay. If you would have included eggs and butter, I could have made French toast. Instead I’m half-insulted and half-bewildered, as usual.

  • Pizza but strictly limited to ONE SLICE. Just enough pizza to make us all want more pizza, that we can’t have.

  • A chocolate bar with a customized wrapper with a picture of all administrators on it. I do enjoy chocolate and I guess after I eat it I can use the wrapper to wipe my butt?

  • One box of chocolate for a staff of 200 to share. They can each chew it, spit it out, and pass it on! What a bonding experience.

  • One paper clip shaped like an apple. You could unfold it and use it as a weapon if needed?

  • One liter of apple juice. My toddler would be psyched!

  • “Snowman soup:” A few mini marshmallows in a baggie. My six-year-old would be psyched!

  • A spatula. Can I hit someone with it?

  • A single can of seltzer. Is it flavored? If so, that’s fancy. If not, my grandma would be psyched.

  • A fortune cookie. Fun to smash!

  • Reusable ice cubes. Great re-gift for someone you don’t give a crap about at all!

  • A Dasani water bottle with “melted snowman” written on it. If my eyes rolled further back I’d see my brain.

  • One Babybel cheese. Were they refrigerated at least? If not, this is definitely one of the worst teacher gifts ever.

  • Ramen noodles. Love me some Ramen noodles but also, I’m not a poor college student… though I’m definitely poor. Thanks for pointing that out!

  • Toenail clippers. This is gross because it makes me think of other people’s feet. It’s also weird. And dumb.

Bad Admin Gifts to Teachers

These were just a sampling of hundreds of messages I received about the worst teacher gifts from administration.

Have you ever received a bag gift from admin? If so, please share your worst teacher gifts with Teacher Misery! You can leave us a comment below, share it anonymously with a Teacher Secret, or find us on social media and join in the ongoing conversation around teaching. Check me out on Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube!

Author Bio

Jane Morris is the pen name of a teacher who would really like to tell you more about herself, but she is afraid she’ll lose her job. Jane has taught English for over 15 years in a major American city. She received her B.A. in English and Secondary Education from a well-known university and her M.A. in writing from an even fancier (more expensive) university. She has a loving family and cares about making people laugh more than anything else.

Leave A Comment

Subscribe to Teacher Misery

Join the Teacher Misery newsletter and never miss a new post, book release, or teacher secret!