Tips for waiters, tips for teachers?

August 2, 2010 at 01:05 AM ·

Etiquette for lessons--is one expected to give a tip to a teacher?  Ever, or only at certain times?  I want to do the right thing when I start lessons, hopefully soon.

Replies (22)

August 2, 2010 at 02:30 AM ·

If tipping is customary, my teachers must hate me.  I've never tipped any of my teachers.  And I don't tip my son's teacher either.  The whole notion of tipping is silly anyway. 


August 2, 2010 at 02:47 AM ·

 As a teacher myself, I say definitely not. While the sentiment of course is appreciated, the relationship between teacher and student is a really special one that a tip can certainly spoil. To show gratitude to your teacher, a thank-you card/note on your "anniversaries" (after 6 months or something) would be absolutely appropriate and almost certainly appreciated. My favorite things are just when a student thanks me after a lesson or remarks (honestly, of course!) that they're having fun with lessons and that they're learning a lot. Worth more than any monetary tip!

August 2, 2010 at 05:30 AM ·


definitely not.  One of the most important things that can  make or break a teacher student (parent) relationship is clarity of contract.  Before one gets down to the playing side everone must be absolutely clear about what they are getting,  preferably in writing.   It is only through this business like approach that mutula trust can be created.  The problems will start the moment the rules start bending even with the bets possible intentions.

Small gifts within reason are fine but thta is not tipping and only for special ocassions (Tuesdays ,  for example).



August 2, 2010 at 05:58 AM · I like to surprise my teacher with an occasional random gift - this gets the message across better than a tip, I think.

August 2, 2010 at 07:08 AM ·

"The whole notion of tipping is silly anyway."

As long as you're ONLY talking about the context of music lessons then I agree.  I've never tipped a teacher in my life but I have occasionally brought him cucumbers from my garden.  


August 2, 2010 at 11:27 AM ·

Have never considered tipping my music teacher...or any other kind of teacher for that matter....But I always give a gift at Christmas...and my children always gave their teachers a gift at Christmas time...

August 2, 2010 at 11:39 AM ·

So, I'm a voice in the wilderness here, but yes I do tip and yes it is appreciated. 

Why?  I also take dance lessons and those are typically 60 to 80% more expensive for the same hour of work.  And the professions are very similar in terms of training and costs.  Why should my violin teacher make so much less? 

I think the main issue is the reason you are giving them, and whether you make that clear.  A tip does not have to be a symbol of servility - which is assumed above - but (if you do it right) can be simply a symbol of appreciation and respect. 

The point for me is that I make a lot more money in my profession and the lesson is worth a lot more to me than the price.  I seem to have the choice of either paying the requested amount and avoid the issue of tipping (no one will know) and possible implicatipons (as outlined above) but in essence under pay for something I value or 'tip' (I don't like the word in this context) run the danger of offending but pay what I think the lesson is worth and (generally) in the process help someone who really could use the money for what I think is a very valuable outcome.

To avoid the 'tip' connotation I simply told my teacher that I would be paying $x per lessons - so that if we went over a few minutes it would not matter.  She seems cool with that. A tip is still a tip - but I think this helps avoid the negative connotations discussed.

August 2, 2010 at 12:27 PM ·

Thanks, everyone.  That really helps clarify things.  Wishing you the best of students/ teachers in the coming school year.

August 2, 2010 at 03:01 PM ·

I'd feel awfully awkward offering a tip.  I just began lessons in June, so when Christmas rolls around, I intend to give my teacher a gift.  I'm already searching for something "perfect".

August 2, 2010 at 04:00 PM ·

Another problem with tipping, it seems to me, is if you've got in the habit of rewarding your teacher with regular tips, and then you stop tipping for a while, your teacher might think that they've done something wrong! 

Another approach (and this happened to me many years ago) is to tell the teacher that you feel that your lessons are worth more than what the teacher is charging. Often the teacher will set their prices at the outset according to what they believe the local population can afford, or be willing to pay, and in line with competition from other violin teachers in the area. They may not necessarily set their fee at what they think they are worth.


August 2, 2010 at 04:34 PM ·

 I tip my teacher by preparing in the best possible way for the lesson. That is the only tip a real teacher would want. If he wants more money he can raise his fees and I can either accept or decline it. That is the way democracy works.

August 2, 2010 at 05:02 PM ·

I've never tipped any of my teachers. Actually I've never even considered it necessary. I do give gifts occasionally, and something a little extra nice around the holidays. Never money though. It seems to me really impersonal... like something you give to the postman or the super because you don't really know them well enough to give a "real" gift.

August 2, 2010 at 05:33 PM ·

In good old Europe we learn that a man (yes!) may tip a servant. Never a tip for the owner or a boss.

August 2, 2010 at 07:00 PM ·

Are you really speaking for Europe or more specifically for your own country?  I never heard that in England...

Besides, if women can not tip (and I assure you they can - least I've never had one refused :p ) then maybe all the other rules have changed too?

August 2, 2010 at 08:05 PM ·

 Well the servant/master relationship is what makes tipping feel inappropriate for music lessons and that is why I wouldn't feel comfortable with it.  I've been a bartender/server a lot so I mention that from the point of view of someone who works for tips.  When I receive a tip from a customer it is because I served them well.  I don't call myself a servant and I don't call my customers masters, but that is the origin of this transaction.  In a music lesson I definitely consider my teacher the master.  I prepare as well as I can for my lesson because he was gracious and generous enough to accept me into his studio.  I don't mean to make this sound like feudal times or anything, but I think it would make my teacher a little uncomfortable if I tipped him.  He would feel like he was being treated like he was serving me.  In my lessons it's quite the other way around, most assuredly.  I'm not telling you what to do Elise, I'm just explaining why I think this isn't the norm.

August 3, 2010 at 02:21 PM ·

What I ment was that in the time that things were formerly done, according to the "rules" a woman was not supposed to tip. These days it still depends on who the receiver is. I wouldn't tip the owner of a restaurant, I would tip his/her personnel.

August 3, 2010 at 06:40 PM ·

 First rule of tips:  You don't ask for tips.  Ever.  It negates the definition of the tip.  The letters tip stand for "to insure promptness".  That's somewhat different than the way tips are given these days but you don't ever ask for tips and the tippee doesn't ever question the tipper.  It's a social taboo and most people would consider than indecent.

August 4, 2010 at 03:47 AM ·

No, don't tip your teacher! I've never tipped a teacher, I don't know anyone who accepts tips, and the few times I've been offered tips I've politely but firmly refused. I think tipping in the US is getting ridiculous anyway (tipping for counter service? seriously? next we'll be tipping the vending machine!!) Your teacher won't be offended if you don't offer one because she won't be expecting it.  I don't even believe a gift is necessary, but of course they are wonderful to receive.

August 4, 2010 at 06:21 AM ·

Don't tip the teacher and don't tip an owner of a business even if you are getting directly services from him/her. Although I tend to be a good tipper, I also find tipping deeply degrading. I put myself through undergraduate years by doing odd jobs including waiting tables. I love the food services and the people around I worked with, but tipping was the most annoying feature of the job. I heard people say they work for the tips. Can you imagine what's like to count on this each working day? I never knew how much I was tipped during those years because I refused to know.   I know a lot of people will make much less money if weren't for the tips they get on their job, but I still think a system with decent pay without tipping is a more respectful one.

Giving gifts is not same as tipping in my book.  To show gratitude, I like to give people gifts that are handcrafted by myself instead of money. And yes, my teachers and friends do seem to enjoy this type of giving.

August 4, 2010 at 09:22 AM ·

Perhaps the lesson here is to not tip but to agree on a higher lesson rate?  The difference is that a tip is really incidental - you tip for the quality of service (I tihnk we all agree on that) so a waiter may get a large tip one day and a small one the next.  Increasing the lesson rate is in effect not 'giving' more but 'paying' more - and thats probably totally acceptable to all.

August 4, 2010 at 02:51 PM ·

 I agree with Yixi. Teachers are professionals, not service workers. You would not tip your dentist! But Elise's idea of insisting on a higher lesson rate is a good solution (I did this recently with one of my daughter's teachers, a really excellent teacher who was charging well beneath the rate of our other teachers.)

August 5, 2010 at 07:24 AM ·

I can't imagine tipping my teacher. I think a token of appreciation like moon cake during Mid autumn festival  would be appropriate.

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