Full mom confession here. Even though I encouraged healthy eating in our home, it was not uncommon to catch glimpse of an occasional pop-tart or sugared cereal being consumed. Having said that though, it used to drive me crazy to see all of the candy our daughter’s Bible class teachers sent home with her over the years.
Please don’t put the parents of your students in an awkward position. Even on the official candy holidays, their kids are covered up in candy. Our daughter would get so much candy, we made a rule that the candy remaining from the previous candy holiday had to be tossed before any new candy could be brought into the house. Not to mention that for some kids who have allergies or are diabetic, they may actually find candy more a painful reminder of what they can’t eat than a celebration.
There are great ways to reward your students major accomplishments (I am a firm believer in the idea that rewards for minor accomplishments or for merely obeying do more harm than good.) or celebrate a holiday, without giving candy. They often only cost a few pennies more. Done well, these gifts can also motivate your students to do some of the things you encourage them to do in class.
Here are a few of my favorite gifts for students in a variety of price ranges:
- Pretty Journals – This used to get expensive quickly, but with dollar stores and Target dollar spot, one can find a journal for as little as fifty cents. The one pictured can be found in multi packs in the Target dollar area and the covers change with the seasons. Add a note about how you hope your student will use this to be a Bible or prayer journal, to encourage them to read their Bibles or pray regularly.
- Bible Bookmarks – These can be found online for hardly any money. Just allow enough time for shipping. These are actually very high quality and came in a multi-pack. I have used these bookmarks in a variety of ways and the kids are always excited to get a nice bookmark – especially if they get to choose which one.
- Class Field Trip – This one can be totally free to you depending upon your situation. Parents and/or your ministry may be willing to cover the cost to take your students on a class trip to something that reinforces what you are teaching in class. Our students for years have absolutely loved going to a local museum that houses a lot of items from Bible times and cultures. It’s one the local families and schools rarely visit, but the kids always remember our trips there.
- Time With You Outside of Class – The fiercest bidding I have ever seen at a charity auction was for the privilege of one of the best loved teachers taking a student and his/her friend out for ice cream. You would have thought she was offering the kids a million dollars! Your students love you and want to spend time with an adult who loves and supports them. If you really listen to them when you are with them, it will become a treasured memory as well.
- Book or Music From the Local Christian Bookstore – Of course, a gift card is great if you can afford it. Many of these stores have amazing sales on items and sell things that normally cost fifteen or twenty dollars for five dollars or less to get people into the store. Take advantage of these items and keep a prize/present drawer in your home in which to store them until needed.
- Heartfelt, Hand Printed Note – Students absolutely treasure personal notes from their teachers. Make sure and include the godly qualities you see them exhibit, the gifts you see developing, etc. Long after you are a possibly fuzzy memory, these notes can be pulled out and re-read. You can encourage your students years later as they read what you saw in them and the godly hopes and dreams you had for them. Word of wisdom though. Print clearly and don’t write in cursive (or type). Often wonderful things are lost to children, because they can’t read your handwriting (and typing feels very impersonal).
The holidays are coming. Put away the candy and give your students gifts that will make a meaningful impact on them. It’s worth the extra effort.