I really do want to emphasize the need for good manners. For the last few years, I have stressed the importance of maturity in my classroom. We practice using solid eye contact, responding with yes, sir or no, ma'am, and saying those old-timey "magic" words (You know the ones: thank you, you're welcome, please, excuse me, and I'm sorry.) Those simple things have also led us into conversations about behavior in public places like museums, movie theaters, and restaurants.
Yesterday morning, the fourth grade teachers introduced students to some basic cafeteria etiquette - starting with placing a napkin in your lap. We even discussed the choice of picking up food with a spoon or using your fingers.
It's nice to see that Joplin Schools are have, within our new Success Indicators, the social skills of greeting others, following instructions, getting along, and participation. Students across the city, hopefully, will start developing the types of skills that will set them apart from others. They will have an advantage in our society and in the workforce.
Thankfully, we also emphasize the importance of showing your appreciation to people in the service industries. At school, that means we recognize and appreciate our bus drivers, custodians, and cooks.
Our class made some cards to be presented to our bus drivers at an appreciation breakfast, today. After some talk about the special training and immense responsibilities of bus drivers, I hope my students understand just how difficult the job really is.
I've never been one to make a big deal about my birthday. Even when I was a kid, I don't think I give it much thought. I don't particularly like the birthday song, and I really don't understand the concept of birthday spankings. Still, when kids showered me with Diet Dr. Peppers, chocolates, cupcakes, and cards, yesterday, I have to admit it felt pretty good. Sometimes a little respect and appreciation goes a long way.
Look for your child to use manners away from school, as well. I hope you find him/her saying yes, sir and no ma'am at appropriate times, answering questions with eye contact, offering firm handshakes, placing a napkin in his/her lap at meals, conducting mature conversations, and expressing communication where it is due.
Finally, don't worry. I'm not trying to undo your parenting, and I'm not trying to soften up your kids. Even the toughest, stoutest kids can benefit from learning good manners and respectful behavior.
At the very least, we are preparing students for the workforce and for society at large. Treating others with respect will result in a return of respect. These are skills we can all get behind.