The best gifts for English teachers? The answer is wine.
I am—unfortunately—just kidding: most schools have made it against the rules to give teachers any form of alcohol, which is a supreme bummer, since that’s what we really want.
You may know, also, that The Rules have prevented us from receiving other useful gifts, as well. Like money. Which is the thing we want the very, very most. I mean, aside from liberating the minds of youths and helping communication and understanding grow among Generation Z, who have to save us all. Besides that, money.
The trick to buying a gift for your English teacher is very similar to buying a gift for anyone else: pay attention to what they like and what they do. It doesn’t have to be anything super expensive or extravagant to be thoughtful. On Halloween, once, two of my college freshmen showed up with a sack full of candy corn for me and a skull figurine for my desk because they knew “Halloween is your favorite.” They are so right. They LISTENED. (And that gift is two-fold because NOT ONLY DID I LOVE IT AND I’M EATING IT RIGHT NOW, but ALSO, they listened during class!)
So with the two best gifts totally off limits, here’s a list of 25 of the best gifts for English teachers, straight from the source.
The end of the semester is hard for teachers, too. This is when students think they have it the worst because all of their work culminates, but IRL, it’s harder on the teachers. Not only do we have to grade all that work you did, but you likely did it last minute, which means it’s going to be hard to decipher, despite our best efforts. And then we have to double check our math before final grades are posted. And then we have to field emails from students who suddenly decide to care—you obviously don’t fall into this camp, not if you’re buying gifts in advance—and meet with supervisors about grade disputes. It’s all part of the job. This tee is a joke in Latin (from The Handmaid’s Tale). Loosely translated, it says, “Don’t let the bastards grind you down.” The tee shirt is good, but we can’t wear it to work. That’s why it’s number 25.
Even if your English teacher is not familiar with the Dear Sugar article on The Rumpus, they’re guaranteed to be motivated by this mug. (Note: You should know your teacher’s swearing preferences before you buy this mug for them. I love to swear, so it would make my day. In fact, I own this mug both in this traditional form AND travel mug form, because I need consistent reminders to write like a motherfucker, even when I feel like I can’t.)
If your teacher celebrates Christmas and dresses a tree, these ornaments are not only beautiful and elegant, but they’ll also go with any tree’s color scheme. Subtext: it’s not tacky. PLUS, this one has lines from To Kill a Mockingbird as its filling! Other books are also available. I recommend choosing either the book that affected you most as a student, or a book that you know your teacher loves. This one is high on the list of teacher Christmas gifts.
22. Movie Tickets
If you got Money Like That, and you know your teacher or professor doesn’t already have MoviePass or the hookup for movies, you can get them movie tickets. My best friend found this one of the best gifts for high school English teachers, and I know I’ll never forget it because the parents who gave them to her also composed The Thong Song. THAT’S RIGHT. The composer of The Thong Song sent my best friend to the movies.
Well. If you can’t buy us booze, the thing to drink it out of is the next best option. The one pictured is the title page and some lines of The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, a crazy revenge story about wrongful imprisonment and treasure, but there are other novels available, too. Some fun ones would be by Hemingway, Faulkner, Hunter S. Thompson, and various other writers who drank hard liquor heavily.
If your teacher is into plays or playwriting or acting or even just teaching drama, this human skull pen holder is a for sure winner. It’s a tradition for drama teachers to have skulls on their desk—I think it has something to do with the Yorick monologue from Hamlet (which makes this gift the first of several Shakespeare gifts for teachers, kind of!)—but this one is ALSO USEFUL. And GOLD. And anything gold is better than anything that isn’t.
19. Your Teacher’s Favorite Book
One cool thing that a class did for me was buy a copy of my favorite book (I think they all Venmo’d each other so it ended up being like 60 cents per person), and they signed it. Bonus: it was a book that I taught them, and they each underlined their favorite lines and wrote in the margin. This was a super dope awesome thoughtful gift because 1. they listened, 2. it took some planning, and 3. THEY PROVED THAT THEY KNEW HOW TO ANNOTATE. It was, as Michael Scott says, a Win Win Win in the gifts for English professors category.
Not everyone takes baths, granted, but wouldn’t you take more baths if you knew you could bring your book AND your wine with you and not soak them both? This bath tray lets you have that. It even has one of those open-hangy-slit-things that let the stem of your glass hang below the tray so you don’t knock it into your bath water and smell like a boxed Red Blend from Aldi all week.
17. A Keurig
The next best thing to wine is coffee, and because we all know that the coffee in the teacher’s lounge sooo intended to be Fuel that it’s basically Unleaded, a Keurig machine for one’s office—if one has an office—is among the great gifts for English professors. They’re stupid-expensive, though, so this might be a gift better suited for the wallet of a parent of a high school student, too.
If you can’t take treat your teacher to the movies, and you don’t have Money Like That for a Keurig, treat him or her to a cup of coffee. Gift cards or certificates for local coffee places (or Starbucks, if that’s your teacher’s favorite) are great English teacher gifts. And if you want to jazz it up, stick it inside a mug and surround it by your teacher’s favorite candy.
15. Noise-Canceling Headphones
The reality of offices is that many teachers do not have their own. Usually, we have to share. That’s not always bad, but it does prevent concentration when we’re trying to grade or write or plan lessons…or just do any work at all. One of the best purchases I made was noise-canceling headphones. I wear them whenever I don’t want to be bothered. Sometimes I’m not even listening to them. Maybe it’s rude. Maybe we don’t care. The point is, you’ll get papers back faster if you get your teacher these headphones.
So, these are dope. They’re alternate book covers for plays, and because they are so stylized, I think they rank among the super cool Shakespeare gifts for teachers. Especially that Othello one. Chilling.
Granted, not everyone loves Harry Potter, but most Millennials do, and now we are among the teaching class. And I know you’re supposed to get your letter on your eleventh birthday, et cetera, but how great would it be if your letter just got lost in the mail?
There is no English teacher who has not seen Dead Poets’ Society; no one who has seen the movie did not wish that Robin Williams had taught them English. So to be compared to him in any way is flattering. This poster in particular is gorgeous because it pulls out the most memorable parts of the film, standing on the desk and reciting the Walt Whitman poem.
BUT NOT JUST ANY PENS. Observe! What does your teacher write with? Which pens does he or she complain about? Don’t buy those! Don’t buy the pink ones just because they’re pink, either! This is a literal conversation I had with one of my English composition students:
Me: Borrowing someone’s pen is like borrowing someone’s toothbrush.
Her: Really? So… what do you say when someone asks to borrow your pen?
In conclusion, pens are a good gift. But bad pens are bad gifts for English teachers. (I recommend ultra fine G6 pens. .38mm, y’all.)
10. Stamps with the Teacher’s Catch Phrase on Them
Does your teacher say something funny on a regular basis? If so, maybe you should go ahead on and make him/her a stamp or a sticker that says it for them. Save them some time. Make them laugh. When I taught gifted high schoolers, I would always find a way to insert words of wisdom (or what I thought were wisdom in regards to existing in the world), and they thought that was hilarious. They were really practical things, like me insisting they use the buddy system over the weekend, or announcing to the empty house “Food’s here!” when a delivery arrives so no one knows you’re home alone. Again, they thought this very basic advice was hilarious, so one of them made me a pin that said, “#MaryKayfreakout.” That was years ago, and I still have it.
I also tend to say “Minus five” when my college students say something I hate, but no one has given me a stamp with that written on it.
9. A Gong
So, this one might seem like a silly thing to get a teacher, but if you are reading this and you are a teacher, how delighted would you be if a parent gave you a gong? The thing about gongs is that they serve many purposes. Not only can you rally the attention of a misbehaving or overexcited classroom—which makes these great gifts for high school English teachers who don’t want to raise their voice or resort to whatever methods they have to use after lunch—but you can reward students for thoughtful input. Did you have an epiphany? Ring the gong. Did you get a 100 on your essay? Ring that gong! Think about how truly satisfying that would be! (Not to mention you could ring it if someone was talking too much. I would never do that, probably. Although, let’s be honest, we’ve all fantasized about having a game show buzzer on call when those special wormhole tangents open up and the whole class piles inside.)
Yes, most people use cookbook holders for holding cookbooks, but they are SO helpful when we’re making lesson plans! They hold the book open to the page that you need it while you type from it, so your hands can be free for other things. These are useful for students, too, and I wish that I had known they existed when I was a student. It would have saved me a lot of frustration!
I don’t know where she found this idea, but my podcast co-host bought a copy of my favorite horror novel, Bram Stoker’s Dracula for me. She insisted that I open it. When I did, it had a cast list. I was Dracula. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was Jonathan Harker. Jack Nicholson was Abraham Van Helsing. Throughout the whole book, our names were changed. It was the most amazing and thoughtful gift.
There’s not a single book or author more fitting to hollow out and fill with a flask and shot glass than Ernest Hemingway. Don’t worry about whether your teacher will bring this to class. S/he won’t. It’ll be the secret stash in the den, for when we’re trapped at a holiday gathering and we don’t want Aunt Clara to know that yes, I am having another drink because it is the holidays and you are stressing me out. What do you mean, Why am I still not married? IT’LL HAPPEN WHEN IT HAPPENS, CLARA. And while we’re pouring one out, we will think about how well you know us, and how grateful we are for your foresight.
Teachers have no control over the climates of their rooms or offices, and since most air conditioners are set at a temperature to make men in three piece suits comfortable, oftentimes we are too, too, very cold. This blanket is beautiful and it also has the Map to Mordor on it. It’s a two-in-one great gift for your English teacher.
I heard a horrible story this week: because of the rain, my friend who teaches fifth grade had to cancel recess for four straight days. FOUR DAYS. She had to instead entertain her students in the classroom. With board games. What board game is both educational and lasts forever? Monopoly, of course. And what’s better than learning? Game of Thrones. Time to put a hotel in Westeros, am I right?
Somehow, the doorstoppers of every classroom I’ve ever taught in eventually disappear. And no doorstopper is better than one that says HODOR. None.
Yeah, yeah. It’s “against the rules,” but you know what? Most of the best books were banned for a while, too. Like, To Kill a Mockingbird. Like, Persepolis. Like, The Bluest Eye. And now they’ve won a ton of awards, and so shall you, if you can figure out a way to palm me that twenty.
Look, man. The whole thing of English is to draw attention to the flaws in any culture, and not being able to give wine to teachers is one of them. Fight the good fight, friendos.
What do you think? What are the best presents you gave your English teachers? And fellow teachers, what were some of the best that you received? Let us know in the comments! (Because remember, you don’t get what you don’t ask for!)