We all know that a teacher’s job extends far beyond the classroom. They form bonds with their students and what to see them succeed in all areas of life. In the classroom, teachers need to be creative with how they motivate their students. At a certain age, candy bars and pizza parties tend to lose their appeal and students may want something else, like cash. Teachers may also see students who are struggling in academics or life in general and want to help out by giving the student some extra money to buy lunch or school supplies. The intentions are lovely, but are they legal? Could this act of kindness cost a teacher their job? Before handing over the cash, we need to find out, can a teacher give students money?
Yes, legally teachers are allowed to give students money. There are currently no laws preventing this at a state or federal level. A teacher’s reason for doing so may be anything from helping a student pay for their class field trip to rewarding a student for getting a high score on a test. Giving students money is certainly not required by any teacher, but it is a gesture that may change the trajectory of a student’s life.
Why Would a Teacher Give Their Students Money?
There are many reasons a teacher would decide to give money to students. One of the most obvious reasons is that money is a great incentive! A teacher could promise to give the student with the highest grade on an upcoming test $20 either in the form of cash or a gift card. Imagine how hard those kids would study before that test! That $20 would benefit the entire class since it would create new interest in class and more students would make sure they were able to understand the material.
Maybe a student with a lot of potential but little motivation needs some more reason to do their homework beyond earning a good grade. Offering a few dollars to that student if they were able to complete all of their homework each week could make a huge difference in their behavior. Those few dollars offered as an incentive may motivate the student to create new study skills that could become lifelong habits and set the student up for a lifetime of success.
It is certainly no secret that teachers have hearts of gold, so maybe a teacher would want to give a student money because that kid really needs it. It is estimated that 16 million kids in the United States go without food each day, so a teacher could notice one of their own students struggling and offer to pay for their lunch or send money home so they can buy dinner for themselves too. Students have a more difficult time concentrating when they’re hungry so making sure their students are well fed could also increase test scores and classroom participation – it’s a win, win!
Another reason a teacher could give students money would be to help them out with a fundraiser for an extracurricular activity like sports or dance. This one puts teachers in a tricky spot because if they buy a candy bar from one student raising money for the marching band, will they have to buy candy bars from all of their other students in marching band? That is a lot of candy bars! Be sure to set boundaries on making contributions in areas like this because it could get really expensive really fast.
Whatever reason you decide to give your students money is completely legal and most likely extremely appreciated by your students.
How Much Money Can a Teacher Give to a Student?
Since there is no law about giving a student money, there is also no limit to how much a teacher is able to give.
Teachers on Reddit.com shared amazing stories of their generosity over the years. Many teachers commented about giving students in need money for a hot lunch. Another teacher said he spends nearly $200 per year buying things like football raffle tickets or donations to the student’s drama club fundraisers. Teachers have also gone above and beyond by buying the rather expensive cap and gown set for a student who could not afford it. Had she not done so, that student would not have been able to participate in the graduation ceremony after all of those years of hard work.
The most amazing story told by a reddit user was from a teacher who learned about a seventeen-year-old student who was kicked out of her home by her parents and was homeless. She would stay with friends when she was able to, but more often than not, she was without shelter or food. This teacher graciously gave the student a significant, but undisclosed amount of money to help get her on her feet and also helped her find her first job. Thankfully, there were no laws preventing a teacher from giving a student money because for some students their teacher is the only adult in their life who is able to help them. The influence a teacher has on their students is incredible.
Reading through these stories of generosity is heartwarming, but keep in mind there is absolutely no obligation to give anything of monetary value to your students, cash, gift cards or otherwise. According to USA Today, the average teacher’s salary in the United States is $61,730. First year teachers in many states are making closer to $40,000 per year. Many teachers are struggling to get by and do not have the means to give their students money, so please, do not feel like you obligated to do so. Your students will still learn and still love you even if you are not able to hand out cash prizes as an incentive to learn.
Can You Lend Money to a Student?
There are no laws against lending money to a student, just like there are not any laws preventing a teacher from generously giving money to a student. However, legally, anyone under the age of eighteen is considered a minor and therefore not held responsible in a contract. This means if you lend a fifteen-year-old student money, have him sign a contract saying he will repay you and then he does not do so, you have no recourse.
So, if you want to try to teach a student about how loans work while lending your own money, do so with caution because there is no way to ensure that you will be paid back. It is one thing if you lend a student $5 for lunch one day, but something else entirely if you are lending large amounts of money. Make sure you do not let your huge teacher heart get taken advantage of and know that there is no way to guarantee repayment from a student.
Are there any consequences of giving money to a student?
While we have already determined that giving money to students is legal, there could still be some ramifications. The sad reality of the society we live in today is that while the teacher may have good intentions when giving a student money, it is best to do so privately in order to keep gossip at bay. Other students could possibly become jealous and spread rumors of nefarious motives or some sort of illegal relationship.
Parents may become angry that their own child was not the recipient of a teacher’s kindness and complain to administration. Hopefully you work for an administrator who would have your back in a situation like that, but it is a silly predicament to be in to begin with.
If you gave money to s student in need to buy socks or hygiene products, other students could catch on and begin picking on the student. You may have helped to solve one of your student’s problems, but opened up an entire jar of other problems for them to deal with. Remember that being a kid is hard.
So, while it is legal and so generous to give money to a student, try to think about how the gesture would look to those on the outside. The last thing you need is an act of kindness to make you the target of an investigation due to people making up stories.
Whether you decide to give your students money or not is completely up to you. Some teachers have had great results from doing so, other teachers say they would never and were just as successful. However, just know that if you decide to give a student money there will be no legal consequences and it is not something that would put you at danger of losing your job.