I tend to ask teachers what supplies they would like for the classroom and give those in December, and I have given everything from requested books to wooden toys. But I have also given Target gift cards. I don't tend to give Starbucks or other cards, in large part because I have no idea what they like to drink or eat. My point wasn't to say that teachers don't deserve these gifts. I am fully aware that they often use their own money to pay for things and, like I said above, I know how hard they work. I just had no idea that this was something that parents did twice a year.
My larger point, however, was that at some point all this gift giving could be considered Antimustachian for the gift giver. How many times have we seen a gift giving category on someone's budget in a case study and asked - "How the hell do you spend X amount of money per month on gifts?" Well, amortized over the course of the year, you might have one explanation right here - teacher's gifts. I have three kids, one of whom gets special services at the school for speech. So we're not just talking about one gift per kid. This past Christmas we spent $200 on gifts for teachers and daycare workers. I gave this willingly and happily, but if the norm is becoming to give gifts at the end of the year as well, I'm going to have to increase my budget for that category. We don't have debt and can afford it, but not everyone can. I like the idea of giving heartfelt cards, but when someone (who can't really afford it) notices that other parents are giving actual gift cards, it can be hard not to give like everyone else, even if you have to put it on credit.
I can imagine this thought process: "Well, even though we're living hand to mouth, we need to give something, because what if Johnny is treated differently because everyone else but him gave the teacher a gift?" Of course, most teachers are not petty like that, but it has already been expressed above by dragoncar that giving your teachers gifts is smart parenting, because it makes them happy. Even though I know dragoncar doesn't mean it this way, it's not a far leap from that to conclude that gifts are somehow a "bribe" to ensure that your kid is thought of kindly by the teacher.
Or maybe I'm just crazy and reading too much into all this. This is certainly in the realm of possibility, as I like to split hairs.