Pushing itself politely to the head of the line of responses was the subject of manners. Loud and clear, you said it: "We need to teach these kids some manners." Oh, and some civility and ethics, to boot. Sure, behavior and discipline are important issues in any classroom, but should common courtesy become required reading? "Yes!" you cried, in exasperated chorus. Runners-up included money management and creative thinking (or even, as one reader urged with eloquent simplicity, "How to think").
Please Say "Please"
Manners maven Charles Purdy, also known as Mr. Social Grace, wrote an etiquette column for six years in the SF Weekly. (Check out his Web site, Etiquette Advice, and his book, Urban Etiquette.) Here, he answers your burning question:
Dear Mr. Social Grace,
I'm a public school teacher, and I'd enjoy my job far more if it weren't for those holy terrors who don't know a thing about manners! How do I get my students to behave with an ounce of respect and courtesy?
Disrespected and Distressed
Dear Dissed and Dissed,
When it comes to teaching manners to kids, I offer two suggestions. The first: Lead by example. Your challenge is to create an environment in which your own behavior is also above reproach. In my experience, if you treat young people with respect, they will rise to meet your expectations (although the real challenge here, of course, is that this level of respect is not always reinforced in the home).
Second, emphasize the importance of -- and the reasons behind -- good manners. Etiquette isn't just an arbitrary list of rules; it's the language of social behavior. It's there so that you can tell others, "I respect you and mean you no harm." If I were to teach etiquette to a group of students, I might compare the benefits of good manners to the benefits of a good education: Both open doors for you!
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