“Politeness [is] a sign of dignity, not subservience.”
We are constantly telling our children that manners are one of the most important aspects of someone’s character. Our children have always learnt about the normal things such as saying, ‘please,’ ‘thank you,’ ‘pardon me,’ etc, etc. We teach them about table manners, conversational manners, and just general everyday manners.
My husband bought some American manners DVD’s quite a while back, when my daughter was still very young. One of them is the old American etiquette lessons that were often used in schoolrooms to teach children basic manners in a variety of different situations.
When children or any person for that matter, has exceptional manners, you remember them for that. There are too many people nowadays that have lost this sense of ‘respect’ and it is disheartening to see that sometimes people ‘expect’ or think it is ‘normal’ for people not to display common courtesy.
At my previous school, I began showing the children the DVDs during whole school assemblies. I thought it was necessary for the children to understand how to show respect in a wide variety of everyday situations. I expected exceptional manners from every one of them. Two colleagues of mine, then took this to another level. Having noticed the lack of table manners during lunchtimes, they decided that the children needed some lessons in sitting and eating around a table. Very few children experience the ‘dinner table’ routine in the evenings and have not learnt how to have a discussion while eating and using their utensils in the correct way. So, we set up lessons across the school for children to learn how to sit at a dinner table. They learnt how to use their knife and fork correctly, using slices of bread to practice on. They also learnt how to set a table correctly as well as how to greet and serve their guests during a dinner party.
Soon the children were all demonstrating their finest dining manners during lunchtimes to gain a coveted place at the ‘Golden Table.’ Each week the lunchtime supervisors would award about six children, who modelled excellent etiquette skills, a ‘Golden Table Ticket.’ Then on Monday during lunch, they would get to sit at a literally ‘golden table,’ decorated with a candelabra and all! These children would then get chosen at the end of the term to help cook, prepare, decorate and serve their parents with a special ‘themed’ dinner event, to celebrate their achievements.
I have not yet begun my ‘manners mission’ at my new school. Though, I definitely have not forgotten about it. Manners sit very comfortably with our new school values, so I am thinking of a way to approach it with a creative twist. I will keep you updated as to how I go about teaching manners in a new context.
Manners matter……we have somehow entered a world where women are offended when a man opens the car door, or holds the door open for them when they enter a building……a world where we are too rushed and busy for manners. However, it is the ones who overtly demonstrate their good manners, who, for me, are the most well-respected and remembered……