Hi all! It’s that time of year when we ask ourselves, “What can we give to our music teacher to show our appreciation without breaking the bank or giving them something that they may not like?” I have not taught as long as some teachers, but having taught in public school and private lessons, I have a reasonably good idea of what gifts I find useful and nice. Some of my favorites have been the unique ones, or the ones that showed a student knew me well. Here are some ideas and tips!
- Teachers love to know they are making a difference, so always include a handwritten note if you can!
- Price range: some public school teachers feel uncomfortable accepting larger gifts, so $50 or under is recommended (though sometimes you can give things that the teacher has no idea how much they are).
- Student created gifts are great.
- Gifts that show you know the teacher’s likes and interests are a plus.
- Gifts from a student’s travels are also neat.
If your teacher is a young teacher, chances are they do not have a lot of music-themed wearables. Some good ideas for a female teacher: music jewelry (more on that in a bit), a musical scarf (I have one from HotTopic.com), music wallet, other quirky clothing items like shoes or a skirt (be sure you know they would wear such a thing). If getting clothing and unsure of the size, be sure to get a gift receipt and it’s always better to get a size too small than too big. Regarding jewelry, take note of what color she typically wears (silver or gold), what types she usually wears (I rarely wear bracelets), and if she already has a bunch of jewelry with music. I got my first treble clef necklace from my aunt when I was in college, for my junior recital. I now have about 5 silver treble clef necklaces, all of them different. I have also heard of musical jewelry made out of piano wire or violin/cello strings. This is unique and interesting without being overtly musical. (Check Etsy for these) Ideas for a male teacher: musical ties (be sure they wear them), socks (these are fun because they can hide them if they like), a phone/tabletcase with music or their favorite thing on it. If you know their favorite sports team or if they are particularly into something (like Marvel, for example) that may be a good place to start.
My favorite wearables I have received: cello dangle earrings from a craft fair, treble clef earrings (these were simple metal, no gems) that matched a necklace I already had (I only have one pair of TC earrings), jewelry with my first initial, and a tiny little heart necklace I got from one of my quiet theatre/orchestra boys. I also received a beautiful bracelet made of carnelian and other stones that a piano student brought back from Wales. I love that one because it is unique and thoughtful (and I love Celtic anything). The same student brought me a Doctor Who shirt from one of his travels with his family. (They have family in the UK.)
Many teachers are watching what they eat these days, so while candies are always appreciated, sometimes they are not eaten. I’ve seen some really adorable presentations of goodies that I enjoyed: a sparkly wine glass filled with hershey’s kisses and some decorative stuffing, or candies made to look like a sleigh, kisses made into rose buds, etc. If you go the candy route, I suggest the creative displays, or a small amount of really GOOD chocolate. If you travel, bringing back something from somewhere unique is also nice. Many holiday candies have added sugar, and most teachers would prefer a $10 box with 5 chocolates in it than a $10 box with 50 that are overly sweet. What’s even more precious is the homemade goodies, either made by kid or mom. I’ve had a student bring me a cupcake she made, another student brought one she bought. Both were lovely and appreciated. Once I had a student bring me a coolatta (the frap from Dunkin, whatever it’s called!) because she had gone to get one for a friend’s birthday and thought of me. That made my day! If you know what the teacher likes or dislikes (or is allergic to) that’s a plus, but it will be appreciated even if they aren’t able to eat it. (I share mine with my husband sometimes!)
Consumables can also include candles, lotion, scented hand soaps, or perfume. It is nice to have something that you can use and use up that won’t clutter up the house. Over the years I have received all of these things and they are used and appreciated. Be careful with perfumes or very powerful scents though, because something that is overly strong may not be useful. When in doubt, go with something mild like vanilla, or cinnamon. I once had a student give candles to myself and the adjunct who worked with me. The adjunct was a classy lady who was in her 70s, she was given a floral scented candle with a floral holder. I was told, “I got something spicy for Miss ——“and received a spiced candle (which I prefer!) with a zebra print metal candle holder. It fit me, and also the student too.
Decorations are great, but can be tricky because you don’t want something that is just clutter and won’t be displayed. It helps if you know things your teacher likes, what theme they have in their house or classroom, or favorite colors. Christmas ornaments are great ideas. One of my favorites was from a student who knew I liked birds, she gave me an ornament with three parrots on it wearing Christmas hats and scarves. (This was the same girl with the frap and the TC earrings. Very thoughtful!) Handmade ornaments are also cute, and musical ones as well. I have also received some cute holiday decorations that I use in my house and studio. A piano student gave me a candle holder that was snowmen around a campfire, and another time gave me a snowflake candle holder, along with some little candles. One is at my house, the other at my studio.
Even better is something a student made that the teacher can display. Any time a student drew something for me, I hung it up in my office. I appreciated their thoughtfulness, time, and effort, and they loved that I hung it up and kept it there. At my work studio I have a picture of the pigeon (don’t let him drive the bus!) that a 5 year old made, and it is cute and gets many compliments. Last year I had a very talented viola student who was a 6th grader, she would draw beautiful things with great detail and shading. I suggested she draw a viola, and at the end of the year she gave me a wonderful colored pencil drawing that hangs in my studio area at home. Other students marvel at it daily.
I have some students who travel, and I have received a little decorative elephant from India, jewelry from Wales, and other things kids have gotten from their adventures. It’s very touching to know you were thought of.
This can be difficult at times without breaking the “not too expensive” rule. Generally expensive sports tickets might be nice, if you know the sport they like (if any) and know there aren’t any guidelines against taking expensive gifts. Something better might be tickets to a performance, especially one that you might know they will enjoy. If I received tickets from a student I think I would like tickets to see Josh Groban, an opera, or an orchestra concert (Video Games Live is a good one). Other experiences might include gifts to a spa, or to get a massage, etc. Think of things the teacher may like but might not be able to justify spending the money on.
I have received personalized mugs from students in the past, which is great for taking to work, especially if you don’t have one you can travel with (I don’t take my ceramic tumbler to work). One student of mine had a parent who worked for a hair company. I have long hair and the student gave me a wet brush (it is magical) and some hair product. This was very nice and an excellent product too! Other ideas: letter opener, bookends, mouse pad, magnets, umbrella, etc.
You can’t really go wrong with a Starbucks gift card, unless the person really hates coffee AND tea. I also enjoy Barnes and Noble gift cards, because rarely do I spend money on a new book (you can also get other things there, if your teacher is not much of a reader). Some other ideas: Target, Wal-Mart, movie theatres, restaurants, online music stores (they can pick their own music themed thing), Michaels crafts, or home goods stores (better for women). Chocomize.com sells a gift certificate you can print/email and the teacher can design their own chocolate bar. iTunes cards are good too, but be sure you know that the teacher uses iTunes (I did not, but now I do, so I have a collection of cards to use.) If your teacher is into something special like technology or a particular hobby, gift cards to Best Buy or a hobby shop are great. If you feel like you don’t want to get a gift card because you can’t spend a lot of money, even a $5 gift card to Starbucks is nice because that will buy a drink or two and shows you are thinking of your teacher.
Whatever gift you give, no matter whether it is their “thing” or if it is used, it will be appreciated because it came from the heart of a student they care about. 🙂