It’s that time of year when many students want to show their appreciation to their music teachers with a holiday gift. Need some ideas? I spoke with my fellow teachers and compiled a list of their favorite gifts. Special thanks to my colleagues for allowing me to pump them for information.
When I asked my colleagues what type of gift they most like to receive, the number one answer was gift cards. Here are some suggestions:
- Bookstores/CD stores – A gift card to a store like Amazon.com, Borders or Barnes & Noble suits just about any taste. Most teachers have a list of books they want to read, and music teachers especially love to shop for CDs.
- Department stores/big box stores – This is another gift which is appropriate for just about anyone. Several of my colleagues mentioned that they love to get gift cards to stores like Target or Macy’s because they can pick out whatever they want.
- Restaurants – One valuable bit of advice I received is to give a gift card for a restaurant near the teacher’s home. A colleague mentioned that she had been given gift cards for a restaurant on the other side of the city, and she never ended up using it.
- Coffee shops – A card to a place like Starbuck’s or Caribou Coffee is a wonderful gift if you know that your teacher enjoys coffee or tea.
- Spas – If you know that your teacher likes to be pampered, this is a great idea. One of my colleagues took her spa gift card and used it for a massage. She was a very happy camper.
It’s not necessary to give extravagant presents. All teachers love getting a card with messages scrawled by their students. We also love getting holiday pictures of students so we can decorate our classrooms or refrigerators.
You might want to discreetly check their bookshelves to determine their taste and make sure that you’re not getting a duplicate. The same goes for CDs. A colleague mentioned that she enjoyed getting CD box sets – i.e. the complete Beethoven symphonies, or Chopin piano works.
I would recommend getting clothing or jewelry only if you know your teacher’s taste extremely well. One teacher mentioned that she does not like to receive clothing because she is petite, and she ends up returning most of the gifts. Another teacher collects jewelry and barrettes as a hobby, so she loves to get them as gifts. If you choose to go this route, please be sure to provide a gift receipt.
It might seem unimaginative, but most teachers find it a meaningful gift. If you feel uncomfortable just giving your teacher cash or a check, you can combine it with another small gift.
If your teacher has a green thumb, giving a plant is a great idea. One of my colleagues gardens as a hobby, and she loves getting seeds for vegetable plants. A flowery centerpiece is also a nice gift if you know that your teacher is staying in town for the holidays.
This is a nice gift for an adult student to present to his teacher. As a side note, I found out about an interesting British gifting tradition which involves soaking a wheel of Stilton cheese in port.
Several veteran teachers told me that although they appreciate their students’ generosity over the years, they would rather see gifts given to those in need. They encourage families to donate to a charitable organization.
This can be risky for several reasons. First, fragrances are an extremely individual taste. Second, many teachers avoid scents because of either their own allergies or those of their students. Third, there are only so many scented soaps and lotions that one person can use. Many families give fragranced items as gifts, and teachers end up with a stockpile in their closet. I would only recommend getting these types of items if you know that your teacher likes a specific fragrance or enjoys getting them as a gift.
Although many teachers love candy and cookies, some prefer not to receive goodies because they are watching their weight. Others may have food allergies, such as nuts, dairy, or chocolate. Moreover, because holiday treats are such a common gift, teachers often end up with more than they can handle. I remember one Christmas where I was given so much chocolate that I was literally eating it all year long. If you do choose to give goodies, I would recommend giving a small portion in conjunction with another gift.
This is another gift idea to treat with caution. Unless your teacher is new to the field, chances are that he has been given a plethora of music-themed collectible items over the years. Several piano teachers mentioned to me that they would rather not receive any more scarves or ties decorated with piano keyboards.
Some families like to go all out when it comes to holiday presents. Here are some of the more lavish items my fellow teachers have received:
- Swarovski crystal figurines/jewelry
- Fur coat (as long as your teacher is not against fur. I personally would not want to receive one)
- Leather teaching bag. One of my colleagues told me that a family had given her an extremely expensive leather bag. They had noticed that she was carrying lots of different bags, and they wanted to help her out by giving her one giant, really nice bag.
- Jason Alderman: Avoid Holiday Spending Hangover (huffingtonpost.com)
- Lisa Mirza Grotts: Re-Gift Without Fear (huffingtonpost.com)
- The most [choose your adjective] time of the year (symbolandsubstance.wordpress.com)
- Gadgetwise: From Bucks: The More Convenient Gift Card (gadgetwise.blogs.nytimes.com)