In that, while I may speak of being ladies and gentlemen, what I really talking about is being respectful and respectable citizens. And the greatest part of it is that everyone can develop these skills; the skills themselves are not dependent on a child being a particular race, gender, religion, or ability. The success of developing proper manners is one we will all feel when the plan comes together.
That's why I want to expand what we have started in the past three years. We are very good at shaking hands and maintaining eye contact, but we want more. That's where posture comes into play. This year, we will develop specific posture skills in three areas: sitting, standing, and walking, but not the rigid posture of which you may be thinking; in each of these areas, I want my students to think about where their feet, eyes, and hands are.
A discipline specialist once told me that a person's attention is really not on the item their face is facing, but on where their feet are pointing. I find this to be true. A student is really committed to paying attention only to the things and people at whom their feet are pointing. They turn temporarily to face someone else, but they always return to the focus of their feet. Therefore, if a student is to be participating in our class, his/her feet must be pointed toward the action. It is disrespectful for him/her to only commit temporary attention to their group, a partner, or the source of direct instruction.
At the same time, eyes, while they may be the "window to the soul", are also very important. If a person is having a conversation with you, your eyes should be committed to that person. Wandering eyes, for whatever reason, only send the message to this person that you really aren't listening to anything s/he is saying. Again, that's disrespectful. I have difficulty with this myself, and I could have benefitted by some direct instruction and practice in this area. Those eyes need to track the action, the instruction, the conversation in the classroom.
Finally, it's hard to know what to do with the hands, isn't it? Sometimes hands need to stop altogether in order to focus your attention on the other person in the conversation. In social situations, talking with food or drink in your hands is an art to itself. To assist the other person in focusing on your own message, these things need to be held below the waist. Holding them higher puts those items between you and your acquaintance and, again, sends the wrong message. Then there is the concept of public speaking. If you intend to keep an audience's attention or express passion about a topic, you need to gesture above the waist. This will animate you and excite your audience.
Notice I didn't speak to the idea that your back should be rigid and straight. That's not what I mean by posture in our school. In fact the whole straight back thing makes us appear to be fake and pretentious in social and casual. Our goal is not to make other people feel uncomfortable or to express our superiority, but to show and to receive mutual respect. Our goal will be for people to leave our classroom with the idea that something was different in there, that something was clicking in Room 404, that the Hoggatteers have their act together. Together, perhaps we achieve a new Golden Age!