Thanks to Good Manners!
R-E-S-P-E-C-T– Aretha Franklin sings for it. Rodney Dangerfield never gets any. Educators who teach good manners find it every day in student behavior. Could mastering manners make a difference in your classroom? Included: Web resources for teaching respect and good manners through stories, poems, songs, games, biographies, lesson plans, and activities.
Recently, my seventh graders found it entertaining to mimic manners from the Beaver Cleaver era. “Gee whiz, ma’am,” gushed Tanner. “This was a swell class.” I expressed appreciation for his etiquette revival and informed the class that students in some states are required to address teachers as “ma’am” and “sir.” “We did that in Alabama,” said Casey. “When we moved to Connecticut, my fifth-grade teacher asked me to stop. She said it made her feel old.”
Though the fine points of acceptable manners may vary slightly from decade to decade and from one state to another, experts agree, behavior based on respect is still the ultimate goal.
Unfortunately, American adults are exhibiting less civility toward one another, and children are following suit with teachers and peers in the classroom.
In 1999, 73 percent of Americans in an ABC NEWS /World News Tonight poll thought manners were worse than 20 or 30 years ago. Respondents primarily placed the blame on inadequate parenting. They also cited movies and television shows that encouraged children to be less respectful of others. Under those circumstances, it’s no surprise that manners illiteracy is rampant in classrooms from coast to coast.
WHY SPEND TIME ON MANNERS?
Although character education is a hot topic in schools across the nation, education in manners generally receives scant attention. With growing demands on teaching time, etiquette is rarely a
priority. But it might be a mistake to ignore the adage that actions speak louder than words.
In Teaching Children Manners (from the Better Homes and Gardens Guide to Parenting),psychologist John Rosemond declares that manners and respect are inseparable. He believes children can never learn to respect themselves unless they learn respect for others– beginning with adults. His suggestions that can help teach manners are as follows:
Work on one skill at a time. Give immediate positive feedback for manners success. Be tolerant of children’s mistakes, but do not overlook them. Give a noncritical prompt when children forget social rituals. Set a good example– manners are not a one-way street. Etiquette author Letitia Baldrige shares a strong opinion on the value of manners training. Manners for the Modern Child reports her admonition to teach good manners to children to help them develop self-esteem and self-confidence. She links manners with kindness and good human relations. Much of her advice promotes taking advantage of teachable moments, including the following instructions: Advise children of behavioral expectations ahead of time. Point out to children observed acts of kindness and manners. Admit your mistake if a child catches you using bad manners; discuss other ways you could have handled the situation.
According to the National Association of Elementary School Principals, lack of good manners is a growing problem in classrooms and playgrounds. It addresses the widespread problem of disrespect in a Good Manners report to parents. Tips for improving social behavior direct adults to do the following:
- Stress to children the importance of treating others the same way they like to be treated.
- Help children understand the harm caused by thoughtless, unkind words and actions.
- Role-play difficult situations for children in order to demonstrate appropriate responses.
- Establish a politeness policy for basic manners.
- Teach children the importance of thinking of others; write thank-you notes.
STUDENTS ‘BUY IN’ TO MANNERS
At Paxtonia Elementary School in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the Good Manners Committee launched a program to decrease teaching time lost to unmannerly behavior. The PTA helped in
designing the three-part program, providing parent volunteers and financial support. For the Good Manners Reading Time program, teachers chose manners books and volunteers read
them to every class. Subsequent book discussions helped children reflect on their own behaviors.
The Good Manners Money component of the program rewarded random acts of good manners observed throughout the school year by “mystery manners persons.” Recognized students received 25-cent coupons for the school store, as well as acknowledgments in morning announcements and in the PTA newsletter.
The Mr. or Mrs. Manners Weekly Q + A part of the program enticed fifth-grade sleuths to investigate the intricacies of etiquette by answering weekly questions submitted by other classes.
Questions and answers were shared with the entire school.
Individual teachers also expanded the program into their own subject areas. The music teacher taught good manners songs to students. Children in art classes drew posters of good manners for the school hallways. Every student in one class even remembered to send thank-you notes to the PTA.
BRINGING MANNERS TO THE TABLE
Any doubts that manners are facing extinction can be dispelled with a peek into school cafeterias. The fast-paced drive-through eating habits of many families can leave children hungry for mealtime etiquette. To fill the order, some teachers are serving up dining skills with a special menu of respect.
Students Pass the Manners, Please spotlights manners put to the test in an elegant hotel restaurant. Guided by a parent volunteer, the middle school class at Seattle’s Alternative School No. 1 mastered etiquette training to prepare for the formal dinner. They learned to remove hats, hold doors, and make eye contact when speaking. Many held forks and knives the proper way for the first time. “Please” and “thank you” liberally seasoned the polite conversation at the table.
Third- and fourth-grade students at Village School in Campbell, California, were the talk of the town in Mother May I? as they practiced their manners at a candlelit luncheon. Mothers prepared and served the meal after students spent weeks reading books on manners, setting tables, and even rehearsing toasts. Wearing their best clothes on the big day, the students sat politely and made sure to eat with their mouths closed.
FILL YOUR PLATE WITH MANNERS RESOURCES FROM THE WEB
Not every teacher has the help of the PTA, classroom volunteers, or a food budget to motivate manners in students. Most Web ideas for promoting respectful behavior require none of those resources. Good Manners Are Fun! persuades students in grades 2 through 4 to practice manners through computer activities spanning a unit or a yearlong theme. Nineteen suggestions for integrating manners and technology into the curriculum are provided. Some of the examples call for students to write and publish original books on good manners, create manner problem stories for the rest of the class to read and role-play, design HyperCard stacks on the proper use of eating utensils, combine sound and graphics to demonstrate making introductions, take digital pictures of children using good manners, add text, and publish them as posters.
– Education World Website